I have been asked, how can I measure the success of Connect52 and or how do I plan to measure the success of Connect52. The proof that I have to this point that Connect52 is a success is very personal. My surprise visit to see my sister on Halloween is a testament to the success of Connect52.
Connect52 started out as a personal project to see if I could get to know my siblings and parents better, an opportunity to share stories and gain perspectives into each others lives. It wasn’t until months into the “experiment” that I started calling it, Connect52. Due to the fact that I started experiencing a deeper connection to my family and that I had committed to the process for a period of one year, 52 insightful questions, one a week for a year.
Early on the youngest of our family, my sister Melanie took special interest in the effort that was being made to connect the family. One question a week, turned into one phone call a week to discuss the question and possible answers. One phone call a week to discuss Connect52 turned into multiple personal calls a week.
Months into the project Melanie surprised me when she asked to spend her birthday with me in NYC. The questions and answers to the weekly question and our connection over the phone had turned into an incredible friendship. Previously to Connect52 I only made one effort to visit my sister in her 7 years of living in Philadelphia. In the 2 plus years that we have been doing Connect52 Melanie and I have traveled across the country several times to spend quality time together.
For months it has been my desire to demonstrate to my sister the value that she has in my life by visiting her and her family in Pueblo, Colorado. She and her husband Mark visited me last while attending a work conference in Lake Tahoe. As Melanie’s birthday in September came and went I was feeling an increased personal pressure to visit.
Halloween is Melanie’s favorite holiday, more important than her own birthday. Each year she spends countless hours preparing themed costumes for her husband and 3 kids, and an elaborately planned Halloween costume party. Weeks before Halloween I decided that I would surprise my sister by visiting her on her favorite day of the year.
I was inspired to surprise my sister as a year previously my best friends surprised me when they sent me a random text asking where the best place in Tahoe to eat would be? I responded with an inside joke, “Resaurant 205”. 205 is the number of my apartment, not an actual restaurant. Busy at work, I planned to respond to them later that evening with clarification as to what Restaurant 205 meant, assuming they were preparing for a visit in the future. A couple of hours later I received another text, with an image I was familiar with, a restaurant in Tahoe City. It took a few minutes for me to realize that they were not sending me an image of a possible restaurant to attend but that they were actually there.
I was surprised… I was surprised that they drove the 8 hours from Utah to Tahoe. I was surprised by the sacrifice they made to board their children (greyhounds), something they rarely if ever do. I was not surprised however by the love that I had for my friends who have consistently and constantly shown up in my life in the most surprising ways.
On October 31st I boarded my surprise flight at 6:30 am, not having told a soul for fear that they would ruin the surprise. After a brief layover in Salt Lake City I landed in Denver, rented a car and drove the two hours to Pueblo. During the drive I text messaged her, wishing her a Happy Halloween, with no response. I called wanting to verify their plans for the day; no answer.
The weeks leading up to Halloween my sister informed me that she was planning family themed costumes of the Adams Family. My sister and her husband would obviously be Morticia and Gomez, my nieces would be Wednesday and Pugsley and my nephew would be a very small Lurch, leaving me with the perfect surprise of being Uncle Fester. In the end she decided that they would be a family of vampires. So when I arrived in Pueblo, I purchased all the necessary supplies to become part of the blood sucking vampire family. In the Walmart parking lot I painted my face white and applied blood to my fangs.
I ditched the rental car down the street and very secretly slid up to the front door with a loud knock and a scream of, “Trick-Or-Treat!”. After several attempts, the door swung open; “SURPRISE!!!”. She didn’t scream, she didn’t fall over in a state of shock, in fact it took her several long seconds to figure out that the vampire standing before her was truly her brother who was supposed to be dressing up as a vampire in Tahoe. She jumped in my arms surprised to see me.
I spent the next few days being spoiled with love from my nieces, nephew, brother-in-law, and my sister and best friend Melanie. Several days later as she drove me to the airport, with tears running down her face she confessed that the surprise was that I thought enough about her to show up at her home on her favorite day of the year.
It was 3 years ago this Thanksgiving that I first visited my sister in Pueblo, Colorado. I was driving across the country for a new job on the East Coast. Three years ago, previous to Connect52, I was visiting a sister, a sister I loved, a sister I didn’t know very well, a loving sister who shared her Thanksgiving dinner. The difference between that visit and my surprise visit, is the time we have taken to answer questions that have given insight and perspective into each others lives. The hours of connecting over the phone and the sacrifices that have been made to show up in each others lives.
With Thanksgiving approaching I am thankful to Connect52 for the opportunity it has given me to get to know my family, and the special connection that has been formed with my sister Melanie and her family. SURPRISE!!!