There are people who impact your life in ways that are impossible to even convey with words. There are people who make a decision to do something decades before your birth, who decide to do something small that ripples so far into the future and helps so many.
Hugh O'Brian changed my life.
I am certain that there are thousands of other adults, college kids and high school students who could say the same.
It is not hyperbole. Hugh O'Brian changed my life. It is because Dr. Albert Schweitzer changed his life. But Hugh O'Brian left Africa and founded HOBY, setting off a tsunami of change that changed my life. You can read more about HOBY's story here.
The idea was to teach leadership skills to high school sophomores because they would learn and take their skills back to their high schools and their communities and do something with them before they left for college.
I was one of those sophomores in the spring of 2001. I was ambitious and enthusiatic but had no idea what the world beyond my friends and classmates looked like. I was elected by the faculty of my high school to attend a three-day leadership seminar with other South Florida sophomores. I was terrified. My mom put me on a bus on a Thursday night that took me to Palm Beach Atlantic University.
We spent the weekend cheering and learning and asking questions. More importantly, I was surrounded by other teenagers who gave a damn. Who thought it was really exciting to ace a leadership drill or ask a good question at a panel. THESE WERE MY PEOPLE.
I no longer felt like a weirdo, well, at least for that weekend. Do you remember being a teenager? That shit is hard. You barely feel good in your own skin. HOBY changed that for me.
My HOBY experience did not end there. I helped execute WLC from the opps room and then facilitated 2 WLCs.
Hands down, the people who participate in HOBY are gold. They are the funniest, most creative and passionate people I know. I refuse to even single any of them out because honest to God, they all inspire me. In fact, I know if I needed help from any of them, they would pull through for me.
And that is just the HOBY people I know in person. There are times when I become friends with someone and later find out that they, too, are HOBY alums and always makes sense.
The lessons I learned from HOBY could fill volumes. The gratitude I have for the crazy dude pictured above is bottomless. He was a little nutty but he loved his HOBY kids with all his heart. They were his pride and joy.
I am so sorry to hear of Hugh's passing. It is amazing to me that a person who could have lived his life happily just on his work as Wyatt Earp and died on the glory of that alone, decided to take his name and his wealth and direct it at young adults of our world. Yes, world. HOBY is many countries around the globe, including Iraq.
Thank you, Hugh O'Brian for rekindling the spark inside so many of us. Thank you for the lessons learned on panels and in our small group rooms. Thank you most of all for the OUTSTANDING people you have brought into my life.
May your name be a blessing and the memories comfort your loved ones.