I went to a meeting today with a new client for a new project. These are always interesting to me - what brilliance we are developing here in Israel, I often think to myself! It's an interesting product line, nice people, creative team forming to develop the company's website. Towards the middle of the meeting, the CEO's son came in and sat down with a cup of coffee and his phone. He listened for a while but mostly did something on his phone. I wasn't sure why he was there but I figured maybe the CEO wanted to get him involved in the business. He was quiet, respectful and not really involved, though there were times he listened attentively to the discussions.
At one point, we interrupted the meeting and some of the people from the company gave us a tour of the facilities. The CEO and his son stayed behind - which makes sense considering that they must see the production side of the place many dozen times a day. While on the tour, we entered a room where they package the products - this final stage done by hand to verify quality before shipping. We'd seen the printing, the production, the fast machines processing.
They took the time to explain and there was pride in the showing. Then we climbed up the stairs to the area above the production space and found a large room. It was air conditioned, comfortable, spacious. This wasn't an assembly line, but a nice place to work. There were large work areas, people seated along the way. Comfortable, relaxed, I thought to myself - it was obviously a good place to work, a good job, again, a good team.
In one room, I'd seen an Ethiopian woman working; in this room, I heard many of the women speaking Russian as their busy hands kept moving, their eyes focused on their task. As we gathered around for part of the tour, an elderly gentleman came close to listen. He leaned over and kissed one of the young women in our group. One of the people introduced him as the father of the CEO, and so it became clear that this young woman, who also worked there - was the CEO's daughter, the older man's granddaughter. Business was business, but he was not going to give up a chance to give her a hug and a kiss. Family, it dawned on me. This massive business, already with international clients and growing, with sales in the millions of dollars, was a family business.
Later, I was told the elderly man was 89 years old and comes to work every day. He founded the company more than 40 years ago - three generations working to maintain and expand what he started. Three generations, it became clear - the elderly father, the CEO, and the young woman who has finished her education and has now joined the company. Three generations, but not the son as I'd first thought.
As our meeting ended, the young man came forward and though I had thought the meeting was over, he started explaining that he has a craft, a talent. His father wanted to show us how talented his son was, but his son wanted to discuss whether we as a group could help him and his future business.
I'm the copywriter - I get to write the text of this company's website in the coming weeks. There was someone who focused on business development and another group of web designers. Later I asked the young man who his target audience was - Hebrew, Israel he responded and so there really is little that I can do for him. To be honest, the web designers were very enthusiastic about the company's product line and the site they would build. They were less enthusiastic about the son's business concept of song production and sales.
Very few artists really reach the top and it can be hard to know whether encouraging someone is going to help them or hurt them in the future. The web designers weren't being cold or uninterested - even without knowing what I was to learn, they were being professionally honest. The same company that will be used by a multi-million dollar company with customers around the world is not the same company that will help launch an unknown artist - even knowing his story...which they did not.
And yet, there was something in the boy ... not really a boy at all - that was the mother in me. There was something in the man that called out to a part of me ... that touched deep - he is frustrated, I thought, trying to find a way to bring his talent to the attention of others. He wants to succeed and doesn't know the path. So after the web designing trio left to go to another meeting, I stayed to explain the value of building a website, joining it with Facebook promotion and YouTube. I didn't know the path when I started this blog - how to reach others with a message that perhaps I didn't even know I wanted to spread.
The path came first; recognition of how it could be used came second. Using this blog as an example and the twitter account I maintain, I explained that he could post videos of his songs on YouTube, write about them on a blog, and direct traffic using Twitter. I can explain the how and the why to him, but if it has to be done in Hebrew, I'm just not the person for it.
And then I used the "joke" I have used so many times - if you want to get your blog well known and have thousands of visitors a month (more even), all you really have to do is send your son to war. It was said as a joke and yet...
The CEO, the father this time, turned to me and there was something in his eyes, in his face - less CEO and more father. His son had been in a terrorist attack several years ago, he explained, naming the date, the place, the casualty count. I remember the attack. It was a very bad one. There are no good ones, but this one was bad. They were all so young (8 out of 10 were 20 or below), waiting at a bus stop, when a suicide bomber blew himself up. Ten people were killed in the attack, the father told me and his son was injured.
They always name the dead - who they were, who they left behind. They rarely name the wounded; they are left to their privacy and so we never hear about the operations to remove shrapnel, the frantic attempts to rebuild, the psychological traumas endured and defeated. We don't hear about the rehabilitation and the lasting effects. They walk among us and carry their wounds internally and externally and often, we never know.
With those words, the explanation of what had happened to his son, it was clear that he understood my comment about sending a son to war. I didn't really send my son to war - the government and the army sent him and he went willingly. This man didn't send his son to be injured in a war we have been fighting for a long time - a war of terror. I didn't ask how badly; I didn't ask what happened.
There are stories people have, histories they use to personalize who they are, what they have been through. Yes, there are many people who want to break into the world of music, but how many were victims of a terrorist attack? The young man didn't really seem comfortable telling the story as part of a way to set himself apart as a musician. He didn't want that moment in time and whatever it took to get himself back to where he is now, to be part of what he wanted to build. I can understand that; I can respect that; and I can mourn that he even has that memory as part of how he got to where he is now.
If he had wanted the site in English, I'd have done all I could to help him - I can't write effectively in Hebrew; I can't take the words and make them sing. I left wishing I could do more. Each time I thought about the company's website in the hours that followed, I thought about that young man.
"Don't get me started," I had said to the CEO at one point, but my mind was already forming the pictures. I thought about the call his parents must have gotten, of the mad dash to get to their injured son. Of time waiting in the hospital to see him, to hear, to learn. I could almost see it happening, feel what it must have been like. I've known the panic, the sheer terror...even without, so thankfully, my sons being injured.
And somewhere in the thoughts of his son and their family business, another thought came to mind. Today I had a typical Israeli meeting, with dates discussed, deadlines and goals explained. The outside part of the meeting - where we talked about generating text for a website for an amazing company, and the inside part - of a young man who has succeeded in rebuilding, in healing, in channeling his talent - the talent that an Arab terrorist failed to take from him. Whatever successes he achieves in his life, one of his greatest successes will always be that he chose life, that he lived, and with each song he sings, he brings beauty to the world.
Yes, an Israeli meeting.