On the day I started OneThirtySeven, Stephen Hackett wrote one of the most touching articles in memory. Reflecting upon his parenthood, his son, and the struggles he and his wife have both faced, he wrote a letter addressed to his children and published it, importantly, on his technology-centric weblog.
For some, I suspect the notion of posting such an intimate, personal, and revealing piece of prose on such a public and well-read forum would be daunting. Perhaps even ill-fitting. Stephen shared the deepest of his fears — as he has done innumerable times both before and after this specific day — and he offered himself up for your collective thoughts.
Stephen found accountability in displaying himself to, what some might call, his audience. He derived the drive and personal responsibility — values he has founded his adulthood upon — from what might be perceived as an anonymous conglomerate of page views.
The distinctive error in this line of thinking, however, is that Stephen’s website is not read by an “audience.” His thoughtful witticisms, insights, and reflections are not consumed vapidly or inconsequentially. Stephen’s website — this very one I have the rare honor of writing upon — is a part of a generous, supportive, and touching community. Not an amorphous “audience.”
Returning to that day in November, 2011, I will never forget writing a brief email of support to Stephen. He didn’t know me, but I felt I knew him. I felt some semblance of camaraderie with him. Judging by his interactions on Twitter, and, indeed, the emails Stephen occasionally mentions humbly in passing, it’s clear that I was not alone in this sentiment.
Perhaps we’re brought together by a foundational love of design or genuinely good products — often embodied by Apple — but I believe we remain, regardless of evolving opinions, because of a visceral sense of community. We care about Stephen’s well-being. We care about Federico Viticci’s health. We care about jobs lost during acquisitions. And we care about independent developers and their respective livelihoods.
Earlier this week, we witnessed Myke Hurley writing on 512 Pixels. If we were to lack any contextual awareness, this might strike us as inconsequential. We might presume that it was reflexive for Myke to write in such a manner. In reality, however, it’s well-known that Myke Hurley writes, at best, infrequently. And when he does write — whether you’re aware of it or not — it’s an alien experience for him.
In spite of these feelings, however, Myke discarded any such reticence. When Stephen needed help, Myke came instinctively running. He performed a duty of friendship, care, and responsibility for the sake of Stephen having a restful and meaningful trip.
An act of which is borne out this community. An act of which, I believe, many of you would perform without batting an eyelash.
As Stephen and his family enjoy a well-deserved and heart-warming visit to Disney World — care of the inimitable Make-a-Wish Foundation — 512 Pixels and the 512 Podcast have continued unabated. Although Stephen’s audience would’ve returned just the same if he left his site fallow for a week, the tiny gesture of sustenance and care for his beloved outlets meant that he might enjoy time with his family that much more.
Stephen shares so much of his life and his struggles because we — the community — care. Myke and Shawn leapt to help Stephen — without Stephen asking — because they genuinely care. And we read, link, joke, and support each other online — regardless of readership or Twitter follower counts — because this is a community built organically upon compassion and shared beliefs.
Watching the 512 brand continue this week — as if all were normal — has summarized the wealth of support inherent within this community. If it passed you by, I tend to think that’s the very best that could’ve happened.
Recognizing a natural reflex is one of the most unremarkable things in the moment, but, in retrospect, it can be truly astounding.