Ted Rheingold is the most inspiring person I have the honor of knowing. I’ve thought about it quite a bit these last 24 hrs, and the superlative is appropriate.
Ted’s power to inspire is his normalcy — he isn’t Elon Musk or Mark Zuckerberg — Ted is just like us in that he hasn’t had that life-changing exit or been catapulted to celebrity status. But unlike many of us, Ted has truly lived his life for others, and it’s brought him a level of love, respect, and admiration that no amount of money could ever buy.
Last year, I got roped into fighting in a charity boxing match shortly after Ted shared his diagnosis. I needed to pick a charity to raise money for and I wanted to dedicate my fight to Ted. So I texted him to explain the situation and ask for what charity he’d like me to raise money. I was expecting an organization doing research that could help treat him, or maybe a fund for the hospital where he was receiving treatment, or maybe the American Cancer Society. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when he responded with a list of organizations helping the homeless in the Bay Area, because it was typical Ted — even in his darkest days, thinking of others first.
He never said it, but I understood from our text conversation that he didn’t want a fundraiser in his name. He and I decided on a great organization called Lava Mae, which provides showers to homeless people. And thanks to Ted’s help promoting the fundraiser and the generosity of some amazing people, we raised $2,825 for them. As always, Ted eschewed the spotlight and did the actual work of helping people.
I have learned so much from Ted and he has been essential to my transition to a purpose-driven career path. I know I’m one of many who have been graced by Ted’s boundless generosity in advice, introductions, and discussions. And I’m sure they agree it’s impossible to overstate the value of Ted’s counsel in work and in life.
When he first got sick, I asked Ted how I could help and he told me to send him photos of pretty flowers. So I started paying more attention as I walked around and Tweeting photos to Ted of flowers that caught my eye. As with everything else, this was as much something for me as it was for Ted. He gave me the gift of opening my eyes to the everyday beauty that surrounds us. And it’s a habit I don’t plan to give up.
I am eternally grateful for everything Ted has given me and to have a constant reminder of Ted and his lessons in my son, Teddy. When I told Ted about our son’s name shortly after he was born last year, I explained that his legal name isn’t actually Ted or Theodore but we just decided to call him Teddy because we like it. To which Ted replied that his name isn’t actually Ted either and his parents did the same thing as us. Elizabeth and I couldn’t imagine a better person to be an unintentional namesake for our son.
I texted Ted 2 weeks ago when I was coming to San Francisco for the day to see if he was up for a visit. He told me it was Mabel’s first day of school and he wasn’t making any other plans that day — that was our last conversation. Ted’s love for Molly and Mabel is infinite, and my heart is so broken for their unimaginable loss. Knowing Ted, I believe leaving them was probably the only thing with which he couldn’t make peace.
May we all strive to be as kind and brave and wonderful as Ted and to live by his example and words:
Per usual, gifts in Ted’s honor are for us all:
And if you want to smile, here are some beautiful pictures of our beautiful friend.
Originally published at jstrauss.