The most difficult debts to repay are those which you cannot quantify.
The best people I've met in my life are those who have done favors for me without expecting anything in return. That is a notion that has been reinforced constantly throughout my adult life. Unfortunately, the most important principles I've learned in life stem from my experience with and connection to the events that occurred on September 11, 2001.
My father, Bob Parks, worked for Cantor Fitzgerald and died in the World Trade Center attacks. There is never a convenient or easy time to talk about such a life-altering event. My personal story is particularly unique and for years, I was uncomfortable and insecure about the proper way to approach that topic. To omit such an important component of my personal life would render any relationship I have unfulfilled.
There are people I've met and relationships I've developed in the last twelve years that have empowered me and made me realize that you can do more for yourself by doing more for other people. Sharing a difficult personal story will never be easy, but at a certain point it becomes essential if you want someone to understand who you are and what is important to you. The most difficult circumstances -- for better or worse -- will give rise to the most meaningful life lessons and, evidently, the strongest personal relationships.
I first reached out to Tuesday's Children in 2009. I don't know what took me so long, but I have spent the last several years trying to make up for lost time. The organization was founded in 2001 and while its mission and activities over the years have evolved, it is one of the few remaining charities dedicated to providing programs and services for families and individuals affected by the September 11th terrorist attacks. I had no grand vision for how I would be involved or add value, but I decided to make a habit of not saying "NO" to anything the charity requested of me (i.e. wearing a Santa costume at a holiday party and writing an op-ed for a well-respected publication).
My friends and family have been overwhelmingly supportive of anything and everything I've done on the charity's behalf. They now associate me with Tuesday's Children, something I am proud and grateful of, especially since they are well aware it is that time of year when I solicit donations for my NYC Marathon fundraising campaign. In the last three years, I have raised more than $40,000 in aggregate; this year I'd like to raise $20,000, so, tell your friends.
Tuesday's Children has empowered me personally and professionally and there is really no price tag to put on that. The least I could do to repay my debt is anything I'm asked to do. It would be nearly impossible to give back to the charity what I feel like it has given me, but there is no harm in trying.