Reflection

Take a Little Time to Be Selfish…Go Help Somebody

COO Art delaCruz weighs in after his first deployment with Team Rubicon

We all carry the burdens of life and sometimes it tends to get pretty heavy. We run out of time; we pile up things to do at an unrelenting pace; we have to say no to things we want to do because of things we have to do; and we sometimes don’t have time to take care of number one. You deserve to treat yourself.

Take a Little Time to Be Selfish…Go Help Somebody

For a few days, I was lucky enough to join a group of about 60 people who answered a calling to help the communities of Houston recently affected by severe flooding and horrendous winds. The group, with people rotating in and out, will be around for nearly a month, helping families whose carpets and tile floors became the bottom of an unnatural pool, and whose wet walls became the future feed for mold farms if we didn’t make them go away. The team will help people whose homes and yards became the resting places for giant pines and maples. The team will help people whose worlds were changed by Mother Nature. The team will help people who were force-fed a whole lotta “suck,” as in “this really sucks.” The kind of “suck” that fills their eyes with tears and leaves them with expressions of shock as they struggle to sort through their destroyed belongings. The kind of “suck” that tests them in a new way, and from what I saw, one they’ll overcome with a little help. These were their worst days. And strangely for me, and I believe most of the folks who were part of our team, Team Rubicon, some of our best.

Take a Little Time to Be Selfish…Go Help Somebody

Have you ever spent a whole day bent over, stripping the bottom few feet of a house down to its frame in the heat and humidity, hauling wet drywall and carpet to a curb, all while breathing through a mask designed to keep mold, dirt, and dust from entering your lungs? You sweat your ass off and it sucks — and it’s awesome. Have you ever stared at a piece of a tree that weighs a couple of hundred pounds and joined a person or two to roll and drag the damn thing 50 yards so it can be hauled off? It sucks — and it’s awesome.

Why? Because there is no better medicine than being reminded that it could be worse and then doing something to make it better with your own blood, sweat, and tears. It’s therapeutic and a reminder that we, as humans, are wired to be a part of a team. We are drawn to moving a greater good forward. And we get gratification from helping our own. That doesn’t suck — it’s awesome.

Take a Little Time to Be Selfish……Go Help Somebody

I spent my military career in US Navy carrier fighter aircraft. F-14s and FA-18s… Iceman… Maverick… Goose… Pawnshop… Humble…. Oedipus…. Abdul…. Libby… My 23 years in squadrons fostered a habit of looking at people and giving them call signs — it helped me to remember things about people. Over the past few days, I added some to my list:

“Clyde” (who later became Sweet Cheeks) — think Budweiser Clydesdales. Every time I saw this guy (who was well into his 60s and had successfully raised seven kids) he was dragging a hundred pounds behind him en route to the disposal pile. Never tired, always smiling. Ever inspiring.

“Hulk” — tearing down drywall can be a major pain. In this particular case, it was amazingly stubborn. He didn’t stop — cussing and cursing — and he didn’t stop finding ways to get it down. I thought he was going to turn green… really. Reminded me that nobody likes a quitter, but everyone loves a winner.

“Double B” — this is actually two people; two big Mo Fo’s. Imposing and present but if their ability to lead were in the shape of a person and sized by their impact, we’d all look like fleas. Huge people, giant and gifted leaders. Take care of your people and they’ll take care of you.

“H.D.K.” (Hot Dog King) — ever entertain yourself and about a hundred others by buying 50 hot dogs at an Astros game and making a game of handing them out to to folks you know and also a random bunch of strangers? Every dog became a home run and we cheered our asses off. Game wasn’t even close. Shitty times zero, “H.D.K” fifty.

“Yoda” — some people are wired to see the world in ways most can’t. They feel every emotion, empathy pouring from their skin. They teach you by sharing what they observe and by how much they feel and sense, like a crazy-capable radar nothing can escape. It’s a gift. Yoda reminded me and the people around me that if you don’t take care of everybody on your team, you’re only hurting the team. The Force is strong in this kid from San Diego.

“Sherpa” — never judge a book by its cover. They look tiny and meek, or soft and maternal. They look like they definitely need help with that big lift. Proved me completely wrong. This person carried a bunch of us up the mountain.

“Doc” and “Flea” and “Horse” and “Bossman” — some jobs just aren’t glamorous, like a colonoscopy or trying to please a mob or trying to herd a bunch of cats, but they have to be done. And they do it so the magic can happen. Volunteers take a lot of work — to find the work and to enable them to volunteer. And they don’t get thanked a lot, but they do it — they get shit done.

And finally “Chainsaw” — we all slept dormitory-style on cots in open spaces. This person snored and sounded like a chainsaw that backfired a lot. And then they’d stop just long enough to give you hope that maybe it will stop — but it didn’t…. ever. Until you had to get up. That wasn’t awesome — it just sucked.

Take a Little Time to Be Selfish……Go Help Somebody

  • Find a way to say “we” instead of “me.”
  • Find a way to say “us” instead of “them.”
  • Find a way to say “I can if” instead of “I can’t because.”
  • Find a way to bust your ass and finish the day by hugging somebody so incredibly grateful for strangers who put their lives on hold to help.
  • Find a way to pat yourself on the back for a hard day’s work.
  • Find a way to treat yourself to the privilege of finishing a day and say “I made a huge difference.”

You’ll be glad you did!

How can you help? Start here:

Sign up to volunteer with Team Rubicon

Get involved with your local TRibe to learn how we can do more good in our communities

Make a donation to enable more veterans and first responders to support those affected by disasters

Art delaCruz

A retired U.S. Naval Officer, Art delaCruz is Team Rubicon's President and Chief Operating Officer and is responsible for Programs and Operations, Volunteers, Technology, Marketing and Communications, and developing and executing Team Rubicon’s strategy. Art served honorably in the U.S. Navy for more than 22 years, during which time he commanded a Navy strike-fighter squadron, served as a Topgun instructor, and made six combat deployments. After retiring, he spent two and a half years in the aerospace and defense sector in the roles of business development and strategy and planning, and one year with McKinsey & Co. as a Secretary of Defense Corporate Fellow.