humanWhich moments in time are forever etched in your mind? 

Can you recall exactly where you were, what you were wearing, how you felt, how it changed your life in perhaps some infinitesimal but incredibly impactful way?

Here are some of mine:

1. The day Princess Di died (she was buried two decades ago yesterday). I was at a play rehearsal, a pall of gloom over us all. How could such an incredible spirit that touched SO many people all over the world be gone??

I don’t know about you, but I was in love with Princess Di. Made a scrapbook of the Royal Wedding and all.

An older, wiser Shonali knows she was not exactly Goldilocks, but look at the power of connection she had. It was almost magical.

2. 9/11. Watching the AM news before heading into work (SF), befuddled that a plane could accidentally crash into the World Trade Center… and then the horror when I (and everyone else) realized it was no accident.

That was the day I decided to become a U.S. citizen. I was trembling with anger and even used the “F” word to my mom (who’d called frantically once she heard).

I was damned if I was going to stand by and let those motherchuckers bring us down. 

3. The day the Taliban destroyed two ancient Buddhist statues.

I literally cannot comprehend the kind of anger and hate one must have to be able to do something like this. It still makes me sick.

4. Katrina. I was working at Ruder Finn and everything came to a standstill as we watched, horrified, what was happening in Nawlins.


Btw, please head to this (public) status update on my Facebook profile and save/share these emergency preparedness tips, especially if you are/know someone in Irma’s path.

My friends are adding to it IRL and it’s really good info to have.

I could go on and on, but my point is this:

There’s a lot of crap that happens every day. Most of it is inconsequential. 

But then, there are those events so universal in their impact that they touch large swathes of us, despite the differences of who we are, where we are, when we are, and why we are.

They don’t touch us all; that’s impossible.

And there are plenty of heinous events taking place around the world that don’t even pervade our consciousness because we – or the media we consume, which is how we learn about these events – are just too far-removed.

Does that make us bad people, for not reacting in real time to every single thing that’s happening around the world.


It simply makes us human, with human capacities to feel, and experience, and respond.

When an especially heinous event takes place – an act of terror, or a massive natural disaster, for instance – I think there’s a tendency to get a little judgy of those who don’t immediately express “hopes and prayers” on Facebook.

As is a tendency to give the stink eye, even metaphorically speaking, to anyone who dares to post about something completely unrelated, maybe even trivial, to their social networks.

Like a few weeks ago, when a professional contact gave me a hard time about posting #toeselfies because I put a stop to him posting inflammatory political content on my own Facebook page. 

Oh, the audacity of reclaiming my OWN FB thread!

If you don’t remember my note about it, there’s a reason I post stuff like #toeselfies on socnets, and it’s not because I’m enamored of those 10 digits (I have corns on four of ’em, so…).

It’s because when there is so much hurt and pain and anger in the world, it’s my way of balancing things out.

And it’s also because even something as trivial as a #toeselfie could make someone smile.

If I’ve made them smile, I’ve connected with them in a very human way, which is really important in general, and particularly important to me living my values.

Maybe at some point in the future they’ll want to work with me as a consultant, or 1:1, or maybe they won’t.

Doesn’t matter. What matters is being, and responding, to each other as humans.

That’s what Princess Di, Katrina, 9/11 and so on brought out in all of us.

We dropped our shields, our barriers, our walls, and allowed each other to see us as humans.

And that’s what we need to remember about marketing, PR, social and Comms in general.

The ONLY way to do business “right” is to do so as humans, with humans.

Every now and then we connect over the big stuff.

But more often than not, we connect over the little stuff. The stuff that makes us human.

Today I give you permission to be human.

Image: Comovnhuting, Princess Diana’s signature [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons