Sunday, February 28, 2010

Red Letter Day

15 Jan 2009
I came into the Project Management Community of Practice workshop here in Sacramento, sat down and started to fill out the name plate as we were instructed to do. All across the room were people from different districts of the Corps of Engineers - from Huntsville Alabama, to the Alaska guys from Anchorage. To my left sat a guy from Walla Walla District, to my right was a guy from the Far East Division - he was representing the Korean District.
 
They had provided four markers for the entire class, so we were sharing back and forth. Ted, the PM from Korea, smiled and said "You know, in Korea, you never write your name with a red pen. You only do that for people who are dead."
 
Even now as I write this, three days later, I have no idea what the proper response is (other than to slowly put down the red pen). He chuckled about it, and said, "Just something to be aware of if you are ever in Korea - it is a very strong custom."
 
It got me to thinking about how many things would be easier if they simply color coded different elements in your life. I dated the wrong girl for a very unhappy period of my life. My parents had a difficult line to walk - they could express their displeasure with my choice and risk alienating me, or they could be as accepting as possible and be there to pick up the pieces. And work very hard not to let me know the mistake I was making.
 
Color code those days black, and I'd have known.
 
I found out tonight that a dear friend died this week. Gilberto, my friend from Antigua, the guy who took care of me and watched over me while I was in Guatemala, fell from the ladder and died while picking an avocado. He was a gentle, quiet man who laughed kindly at my silly jokes, who tended the flowers in the garden, and who has been my friend since I first visited Antigua in 1995. I miss his laughter, and his easy smile.
 
Once, when I was leaving to run some errands, I told him that I'd be back in about 15 minutes. Two hours later, I showed up. From that point on, every time I left, he'd joke about me being back in "15 minutes". The joke never got old, and he'd laugh with me every time. I loved him, and I miss him.
 
His name is engraved in red on my soul.

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