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December 17 2012

Tis the season for friends and family

It's the holiday season (in case you have not heard) and it's around this time that we really start to reflect on ourselves and those who are close to us.

Things have not always been so awesome for my family and I. For many years, we struggled as a young family trying to scrape by every month wondering where the next job will come from to pay the rent. Thankfully, I had a few people along the way who went out of their way, without being asked, to help. And looking back, I can see the profound change it had on our lives.

One person in particular really stands out and gave me the experience that I needed to help generate new leads. Very early in my career I received a phone call with an offer of lunch in exchange for hearing through an idea for a website. I had not met this person before (we'll call him Dean for this article) however, he came on referral of a good friend of mine, so I didn't think much about it.

Over the course of the next few weeks I met with Dean and we worked on a project of his and although the work was not always perfect, Dean was very patient and understanding. He often gave some sharp criticism, some deadlines I felt were unreasonable and held my proverbial feet to the fire. He was simultaneously the best and worst client I had ever had.

Eventually the project reached the point where Dean was pleased with it and it was ready to go live; however it never did. At our final project meeting Dean brought me a check for the agreed upon amount and a rather solid plot twist. You see, the project was not a real project, though I was none the wiser. Dean had been asked to see this project through by my friend who had referred him as a way of getting me the experience I needed. He knew that without a project or two under my belt it would be difficult to find new work. As well, with no real experience, I had no idea what to expect going into these projects I was liable to sink myself with the first project I undertook without a reference point of what to expect when bidding on new projects.

Dean's only stipulation was that I find a charitable organization who could benefit from the website I created for him and to donate it to them so they could put it to good use.

I recall very well that coffee and chocolate chip shortbread cookie that I ate as I sat dumbfounded alone at my table. In my hand I held enough money to cover a couple months rent, a sense of relief and a humble understanding that we are all in this together.

Over the next few days I researched all of the charitable organizations in the area who I felt would benefit from the website and found there were many who could. Eventually I settled on one and they were beyond ecstatic to receive it.

I now had a live website in my portfolio and an understanding of what is needed to get a project there, all thanks to a friend and his friend who truly cared. With that portfolio I was able to secure full time work at a local web development shop and, well, the rest is history as they say.

As I look back at where we are, I cannot help but think of all the ways that hand up profoundly changed my family's life. We went from struggling, to getting by, to knowing that our children can do the things that they love, like play hockey and go to the water slides, without choosing between that or shelter. I also know that there are many charities around the world that would benefit from a couple hours of our work, many without an advertising budget of the bigger more well known charities.

Every one of us knows someone who is starting out, trying to make a name for themselves and feed their families. Lets take some time this year to find a way to help them. We can all use our name's and company's connections to open some doors to get them off the ground. Often we find ourselves turning down charitable work due to current workloads, lets make some things happen for these charities and those just starting out.

If you know someone who is just starting out and trying to feed their family I'd like to help them out. Email me (lee@pan...) your name, some backstory and throw an hour or so of your professional time (really, it's huge for them value wise) to a charity you believe in and I'll gift you a license you can pass on. It will help them get paid, save them some cash every month and put on a more professional front ... and that charity you choose really gets a boost from you.

Here's to looking after each other,