These two feelings, this knowledge of a world so awful, this sense of a life so extraordinary – how am I to resolve them? – Richard Flanagan

When I was still using Facebook, I used to post quotes rather than personalized statuses about the great sandwich I ate or awesome run I went on. It became something I was known for. What I think a lot of people didn’t realize is that the quotes I would post often were things I needed to hear/read first and wanted to post just in case someone else did as well. This quote above is something I needed to read today. It puts to words how I feel hearing about the recent news in Indiana while living just blocks from the Castro district in San Francisco, one of the first gay neighborhoods in the US. I can walk around and see rainbows painted in the streets and a giant rainbow flag waving proudly while in other parts of the US there are now laws in place to discriminate against LGBT people. How do I resolve this divide?

I’ve been lucky to work on an event in conjunction with Google and the GGBA to help LGBT nonprofits and small businesses in the Bay Area optimize their online presence. After spending months being critical of social media, the use of technology in our society, and the diversity problem so present in technology I’m finally seeing a side to the tech industry that is simply beautiful. I have coworkers going out of their way to help make this a success. I have the backing of Automattic to host the event. I’m also seeing how powerful of an impact we could have in helping these organizations. Thanks to being involved in this around the time of the recent news, I’m able to see WHY this is so important. I’m able to know that my work will help those like me who are being attacked. More than anything, the goal of this is empowerment. To help those who have made it this far get farther. I truly believe that in a place obsessed with technology, it’s our duty to raise up those around us and provide them with the same tools we work hard to create.

Growing up, I went on volunteer trips to a variety of places in Honduras, Florida, and New Orleans after the hurricane. One of the biggest lessons I learned is that there is work to be done just in the areas where you live. I’ll never forget driving around Orlando with someone I had just gotten back from Honduras with when they drove right past a homeless person without a second thought. Often these shocking news stories and in your face experiences of poverty can blind you to how you can improve what is simply around you. Just because it’s so much worse in another place doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t focus on helping here.

I used to get caught up in the fact that my work with technology wasn’t doing enough good. What I mean by that is that I could spend the time I use to build a website building a house, something real and something that protects. How can I make an impact with the skills I have? My sophomore year of college I was put in touch with the North Carolina Reading Association to build a form for one of their events. Building a form turned into becoming their Web Master. Almost three years later, I’m still volunteering with them and I love it. My work lets them focus on their work and to do what they do best. I’m helping in a way that I never would have dreamed but I am helping. Sometimes I don’t think the tech industry realizes how much we can as a whole help these organizations.

San Francisco throws startups and large companies like Facebook into the spotlight often. It’s those nonprofits and small businesses in between that struggle for their time and place especially with the tech boom. I want to lessen this divide. I want to see us looking at the UI of nonprofits to learn lessons about design. I want to look at small businesses for successful marketing campaigns. I want to be a part of helping make that a reality. One day at a time, right? The only way I know how to resolve these two feelings of awfulness and awe are to act and to dive into the feelings of both. To let the awfulness motivate me to improve and to let the extraordinary pave the way for what’s possible.

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