I recently had the distinct pleasure of meeting -- and giving two big hugs to -- Diana Nyad at a fundraiser for Creative Visions Foundation. Creative Visions supports "creative activists" -- artist, musicians, and filmmakers who create awareness of global issues through their art. Nyad's nephew Timothy Wheeler is a creative activist who also happens to be the director of the documentary "The Other Shore," which chronicles his aunt's attempts to complete her record-breaking dream swim from Cuba to Florida.
Nyad is clearly a champion out of the water too. She looks you in the eye. She gives a good honest hug. And, she has a knack for genuinely acknowledging people who deserve it. I have never heard her omit a mention of her team. At this event, she also didn't fail to acknowledge that Wheeler's chronicle of her journey was a feat unto itself. It took something. It took something for everyone involved in this adventure to make their piece of her dream come true. She gestured to her team as she gave them this compliment: "It's not what we did. It's who we are and who we became."
Hearing these words in a room burgeoning with creative activists, their supporting communities, and perhaps most daunting of all, the Creative Visions Foundation founders, Kathy Eldon and Amy Eldon Turtletaub, was humbling to say the least. Kathy lost her son and Amy lost her brother, Dan Eldon in 1993 when he was tragically killed at age 22 in Somalia. He was there as the youngest Reuters journalist, covering the famine. When a United Nations attack killed innocent Somali citizens instead of the intended rebel leader, Dan was just one of many international journalists to pay the price that day when the retaliatory swell began.
Who Kathy and Amy became out of that tragedy is breathtaking. Creative Visions has touched more than 90 million people since it started in 1998. Who Nyad became as a result of her quest, after not swimming for decades, is awe-inspiring.
The entire evening was one big wake-up all. I pondered who I am becoming. Can I be proud of where I am headed? I know I need to play a much bigger game, staying on top of who I am becoming every day: how I treat people, how I can most powerfully chart my course, and how long I can push myself to stay in the water.
Nyad mentioned this Theodore Roosevelt quote when she spoke, reminding us to jump in the waters even if we are certain to meet sharks and jellyfish along the way: "Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure ... than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat."
Nyad is no stranger to creative activism. Clearly she is on a mission to awaken us all, to push us into the pool so we can "find a way" to become people who make dreams come true.