Last night my friend Martha Tessmer appeared on the national NBC Nightly news. Five years ago, Martha would not have imagined herself as a national figure. She was happy living as an educator, wife and mother to two children.
Now, Martha saves lives by sharing her son Donovan’s story for Impact Teen Drivers. Donovan died in a distracted driving accident in Madera, California the summer before his senior year in high school. For the last three years, I have been photographing Martha and the support group she founded. More recently, I have followed her with the Impact Teen Drivers and the National Safety Council.
Martha and her support group, Mother of an Angels Friendship Network, have impacted my life more than I have affected their lives. Even if I could measure my impact, I would feel uncomfortable claiming any success. Parents have lost children and I have documented how the community supports each other. Regarding the photo above, I wrote how ties symbolize connections on my old TypePad blog. While some people measure their self-worth by the strength of their LinkedIn connections, this group has taught me to value connections differently.
Not everything can be measured. Some connections have more value than other connections and tragedy connects humans by a social web that is often invisible to social media professionals.
Tragedy can also bring unanticipated gifts. Since today is my birthday I remembered the second photo in the slideshow when I woke up this morning. I have received more than I have giving Martha and her extended group. I appreciate my own children and friends more, because I remember that I could lose them any moment. Every day is a blessing… a gift.
Why do some people suffer, even though they have so much? How can Martha continue to give? I suspect that most people do not give enough. Instead of giving until it hurts, we must give until we realize we have enough. Thank you to all who have giving to me. May I continue to give until I realize I have more than enough.
Watch the two NBC Nightly News clips about Teen Impact Drivers