Art, Empathy, and Tech: The Importance of Connection in a Digital World
Last summer, while I was jogging along the Vancouver Seawall toward English Bay, I noticed colorful, whimsical paintings lined up. The bold brushwork and fanciful creatures seemed to leap off the canvas. While it’s not uncommon to spot a few artists displaying and selling their work on the seawall to earn a living, I don’t usually stop. This time, however, I couldn’t resist. I decided to check out the art and speak with the artist.
There was something about the art that made me smile. Each painting seemed to tell a joke or suggest a comical story. I liked the paintings so much that I decided to buy a few items for our new office in downtown Vancouver. I introduced myself, and the artist told me her name: Wendy Greagsbey.
The next obvious step was getting the artist’s contact info. As a tech guy, I immediately requested her email ID. I said I’d shoot an email to my office manager and introduce Wendy to her.
Wendy faltered and said, “I don’t have an email address.”
That was a big surprise for me. Someone not having email in Canada?! I had to ask why.
“I don’t have a laptop,” she shrugged. “I don’t even have internet.”
I was shocked but dug deeper. I had to understand the hows, whys, and whats of it all.
Then something she said really hit me hard.
“I barely make any money,” she said. “So, it’s been hard to save up for a laptop.”
I must have stared for a minute, just processing it.
“One day, I’ll save enough,” she giggled.
Wendy seemed so good-natured about it. But as a tech entrepreneur who helps enterprises connect with their consumers digitally, I felt sad that Wendy couldn’t connect with others online.
We all take that for granted.
But just imagine how your life would change if someone took your computer and internet away from you. Imagine how you’d miss your friends and family. Think of how miserable you might feel.
Top that off with how difficult it would be to access the information and services that you need daily.
I knew immediately that I had to change that for Wendy.
I invited her for lunch with my team. She seemed so happy about that. But what really made her shine was when I asked her to present her work at my office.
Wendy showed up with a few paintings in tow. She displayed them along the walls of our office. It was a lot like seeing her that day at the seawall. Only this time, she had a bigger audience.
Wendy told a short comical story about her favorite paintings. Everyone in the office was smiling and enjoying her stories. Wendy glowed from the attention.
After Wendy finished speaking, my team chose a few of her paintings to brighten our office walls. Wendy seemed so grateful. She might have been thinking that she’d finally buy that laptop she wanted.
But I had a bigger surprise for Wendy — I donated a laptop to her! This way, she’d always be connected and empowered.
Every day, we get a chance to help someone in our community. Sometimes we just need to stop and listen.