04 Aug A Love Letter to Washington DC
A Love Letter to Washington DC
“Home” is something I think about often, as a concept and a construct.
The more I travel, the more I realize that the power of choice, especially when it comes to the places we call home, is a gift.
When I wrote a love letter to Uruguay at the end of 2020, I was writing to a place that felt like it had chosen me, more than I had chosen it. I’m not sure if that’s true. It’s easy to romanticize, even sensationalize, the past. I try to stay honest in the present moment more and more. It’s a practice, a discipline that requires a commitment to the truth of what is here, now.
For the past month, I have been living in our Nation’s Capitol. The epicenter of American politics, the monuments, the history, the base of legislation, intelligence, ambassadors, embassies, and the President. And for the countless people that work for these places, the choice to call DC home is a clear one.
Washington DC is not a foreign land for me.
It is the city I have likely visited as much as any other in the USA, and so the beginning of my letter would go something like this
You are the place my sister calls home.
You are the place I came to put her on a bus to Quantico.
You are where she found the man she loves and has promised the rest of her life to.
You are the place they have set up their first apartment after marriage.
You are the place my brother studied law. He has subsequently used this degree to bring justice to individuals and families who have suffered unimaginable loss.
You are a place my family came to celebrate his graduation on your Georgetown waterfront.
You are the place many of my extended family members were born and raised, and where many of the most influential people in my life have put down roots to grow.
You are the place that led me to New York City as a searching 22-year-old young man.
You are the place I secured some of my first contracts as an entrepreneur.
You are the place I have attended a number of annual Rashid family reunions.
You are the place I used to visit every six weeks to support someone I loved through something hard.
You are a place that has power, polarity, complexity, something to offer those that come here seeking whatever they are seeking. And I’ve found that the line between the familiar and the unfamiliar is subtle and bendable. One minute you are a stranger, the next you are found with a bite of Injera, or a warm summer breeze biking down Pennsylvania Avenue, or the rocks in your creeks.
“It’s people not places, that’s what life is all about,” a wise man once told me.
So for the last month, while in this place, I have immersed myself in your people. The ones that are carving out a different kind of creative culture. The alternative universe who have chosen DC for the less obvious career paths than the big buildings and existing power structures. The ones that are living on the roads less traveled and trying to pave their own version of the American dream.
It’s the Dryy Cleaner who has built a wildly successful business by lifting up his community. Who found himself, his love, his success, his team, and his place here in this place. Who has shown me that bandwidth is brave, that speed is sacred, and that time takes time.
His name is Ken Sandy, and I met him a few years ago in Baltimore, Maryland. I was speaking at a conference for the National Dry Cleaning Association. There is always one person at every conference that just “gets it.” Ken was that person on that day. We shared a few thoughts and a brief conversation, but I could clearly sense that feeling. “This guy is a winner,” I said to myself.
Years went by and we found ourselves in loose and infrequent communication. But I was watching him from the distance. I watched him shine his bright light on his communities around the District of Columbia, and beyond. I watched him inject optimism and spirit into the ecosystems that were in his lane, and even those where he had to stretch a bit to reach. I watched him smile through the sacrifice. I watched him grow through the growing pains. I watched him effort through the initial advancements. And years later, I watched him “arrive.”
Or so I thought.
The wild part of the world wide web is one never fully comprehends what is behind the curtain.
“Don’t meet your heroes, they will disappoint you,” I heard once. What a sad thought, I thought.
Ken and I shared a mutual respect and admiration for each other, so when we decided to partner on bringing “Love Letters to DC,” I was curious what life would be like up close and personal with what I perceived as pervasive power.
Sometimes life gives you the gift of things being even better than you imagined. That in-person, they are even kinder, more charismatic, and more human than you hoped.
For the last month, I have witnessed this man, this everyday hero, a force of nature, and a quintessential example of all that is good. A pioneer, a changemaker, and a visionary that has somehow turned his small business into a beacon of service for his local community. And in this community, there are people who have changed Ken’s life, just as much as he has changed theirs.
The founder of a kid’s camp who wanted to create a place for children of all socioeconomic statuses to come together to learn together, grow together, and build together. A woman who was in an 8-year-long suicidal depression who pulled herself out of the depths of the darkness through the power of finding her own voice, and using that voice to help others find theirs. An artist who has experienced unimaginable grief and loss and still finds the strength to use art to heal trauma in the very neighborhoods that caused pain. A man who believes that the starving artist narrative needs to end, and has found a way to connect his connections. From musicians that are ready to take a chance on taking a chance on themselves, their truth, and an outward expression of the music that lives in the life force of their soul.
For the past month, I’ve broken bread with these exceptional human beings. I have walked through the houses of dreams they have built. I have hugged them. I have held their hands. I have watched them cry. I have met their children. I have seen their art. I have touched their walls. I have wiped their sweat and tears. I have asked them questions about their health and their hearts. I have asked for their trust. I have invited their vulnerability. I have created with them. I have loved them. I have filmed their stories. I have distilled their message. I have shared their shares.
For the past month, I have written them love letters. In my mind and on paper, through film, and in the written word. I have embarked on an obsessive pursuit of an honest story that inspires, just because it is inspiring. Not because it has been romanticized or sensationalized. Not because it was of the past to be forgotten in the future. Not because I have been here before and want to safely tell the stories I know. But rather because I have never been here before and want to truthfully tell the stories you show.
Over the years, I’ve toured your White House, I’ve been in meetings with members of Congress, and I have seen the sides you show on mainstream media. But never have I felt more honored to be home, in this capital, than I have for this last month, with these people. We may not have been up on the hill, but you have made me feel like I could move mountains.
For the past month, I have set out to write a Love Letter to you, DC.
But turns out, you wrote one, to me….
With faces and spaces, I can never unsee.
Thank you, Ken Sandy, and your rich community.
For a different look at your people and their bravery,
A new vision for this land, this land of the free.
Meet our partner to “Love Letters to Washington DC,” Ken Sandy
Thanks for reading!
This letter is a part of Brian Rashid’s “Love Letters to the World,” a global initiative bringing stories of hope, humanity, and connection to our world.
A huge thanks to Ken Sandy, the sponsor of this series called, “Love Letters to Washington DC.” Ken is the owner of Dryy Garment Care and a community builder.
If you’re a reader and would like to support my work on a one time or ongoing basis, please visit BrianRashidGlobal.com/postage.
If you’d like to partner and collaborate on a series of love letters in your organization, city or country, please write to me: firstname.lastname@example.org
As always, you can follow the journey on all social media platforms @BrianRashidGlobal and read the full collection of love letters at BrianRashidGlobal.com/LoveLetters
Thank you so much for being here on what is literally my dream coming true.
Oh so true!