I learned a valuable lesson from a friend, Kent Brown. Kent asked me to visit the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History, a not-for-profit institution in Jamestown, N.Y. Kent is a trustee and wanted Young Isaac to offer some low bono marketing consulting. Initially, Kent offered to bring the administrators to Young Isaac for the meeting, “to conserve your time.” I answered, “That’s nice of you, but no, thank you. The Institute is part of the story, so I should visit there to see it. Otherwise, I’ll be guessing about some of the most important tangible aspects.”
In the end, Young Isaac’s David Schirtzinger (a third generation birder) and I scheduled our visit for late July. That’s Dave holding an extinct Carolina parakeet.
But, here’s the odd part…
Kent Brown said, “I’d like to pick you up and drive you there.” This would clearly require Kent to fly to Columbus, rent a car, and drive us the five hours to Jamestown. Or it would require Kent to drive a dozen hours to complete the round-trip.
When pressed, Kent said, “It will give us some time in the car. Sometimes, if you want to know someone, you need to take a trip in the car.”
The lesson: sometimes you have to get up and go, drive a long distance, in order to have a relationship.
During the next two weeks, I took three such trips. I visited an old friend with whom I’d fallen out of touch (and missed some major life transitions of his); I visited a relative and repaired a dysfunctional relationship; and Alisa and I drove together with the primary purpose of spending time together.
Sometimes, Kent taught me, you just need to get in the car and visit in person. That’s the price of a relationship.