A few years ago, a 50-year-old friend of Walter Green’s asked him to become the executor of his estate. He added that he had some money set aside so that Green could throw a party in his memory when the time came.
Green thought about it, then replied, “I’ll be your executor … but I won’t unless we have this party while you’re still here.”
That wasn’t how it worked, protested his good friend, Denny. But Green was persuasive. He convinced Denny to let him invite Denny’s best friends and family to a true celebration of life – in his lifetime – and on his 75th birthday.
“We had a great time. People shared stories and talked about what he meant to them,” says Green.
Tragically, about 18 months later, Denny passed away suddenly from heart disease. As he had promised, Green celebrated life. Many of the same people were invited. “Heartfelt remarks were made, but this time there was a feeling of sadness in the air,” says Green.
It reminded Green, who for 30 years organized executive conferences for a living, of the effectiveness of group tributes and how much of a missed opportunity they are in our society. Why wait until someone is gone to tell them how important he is to us?
This point was brought home when he was invited to another celebration of life. For four hours, people shared a story after a remarkable story about the deceased man, things Green would have liked to know about him when his acquaintance was still alive.
So, for his wife’s birthday, Lola, in January 2020, Green made her party a celebration of both woman and life. He started out by creating videos of various aspects of his life. Friends and family shared memories and paid tribute to his role in their lives. What better gift?
As the pandemic broke out and technological advancements with computer applications such as Zoom, Facebook Messenger Room, Google Hangouts, and Skype became essential communication tools, Green realized how easily group tributes could be delivered without even leaving our homes.
This awareness was the genesis of his “Say It Now” initiative – his mission to change our culture so that we don’t wait until someone is gone to express how important he or she is in our lives.
Over 10 years ago, Green embarked on a mission across the country to visit and thank 44 of the people who had made a difference at different stages of his life – many were unaware of their impact on him. The list included teachers, coaches, mentors, parents, classmates and many more.
It was his personal mission of gratitude, letting people know that they had influenced him in a positive direction and mattered deeply to him. He wrote about his inspiring year-long journey in his book, “This is the Moment!”
His career as CEO and Chairman of the Board of Harrison Conference Services had taught him that the impact of a group is far greater than that of an individual.
He wanted to pursue the idea outside of the business arena. When his family doctor retired, instead of letting him disappear at sunset, Green contacted the doctor’s assistant, described his idea to him, and asked him to help compile the names of 15 patients. for a long time. Then they held a farewell tribute online.
He arranged similar tributes for a father, mother, great philanthropist, entrepreneur and good friend.
His son, Jason, even quickly created one for Green. One Wednesday last year, he asked for the contacts of several people his father had mentored over the years. That Saturday they met, many for the first time, in a Zoom Conference to tell Green how he impacted their lives.
“There was something very powerful about having them all together,” says Walter Green. The experience is life changing. Plus, attendees don’t have to travel, they just need to download Zoom or one of the video conferencing apps, so there’s virtually no expense. “
Several of Green’s mentees copied the idea of honoring the people with their lives. One paid homage to his father on the last Father’s Day. Another, Tim Stiefler, helped design a SayItNow.life website. They presented a practical step-by-step guide. A sample invitation to participate in a living tribute is included, along with a sample letter to the honored person. The sessions are recorded so that the honored person receives a souvenir copy.
Steifler, who runs a marketing agency, recently shared the concept with Facebook, which has a Messenger Room conferencing service.
Shortly before Teacher Appreciation Day, Lauren Cascio, Facebook Product Design Director, announced that Messenger Room is working with Say It Now “to encourage people around the world to create vivid virtual tributes for teachers. who have made a difference in their lives. ”
Suddenly Green was on a satellite media tour. He gave 15 TV interviews that ended up being shown around 1,200 times on various TV channels, reaching over 10 million viewers.
“I don’t create a business,” says Green, “I create awareness.” He says he doesn’t make any income from promoting this idea and in fact has a little cost to pay.
“It’s totally my desire to create a legacy of gratitude… I really value my relationships. I appreciate my family, my profession. His desired legacy is to change the company’s practice of waiting until someone is gone before scheduling a group tribute.
Of course, it can be for a special occasion – a birthday, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, retirement. But, in Green’s mind, it’s for any day. We have two options: Express gratitude to the important people in our life, thus giving a gift to that person, to ourselves and to the group. Or, don’t say anything and regret it when that person dies.
“We don’t know when that day will come. I was 17 when I received a phone call to announce the death of my father … We are not here forever.
He plans to explain his idea soon in a TED talk. “It’s in the universe,” said Green, “and we’ll see where it goes.”