The Nationwide Insurance commercial during SB 49 really had people talking, Tweeting, and Face-Booking. I found that most people reacted negatively to the commercial.
I missed the commercial. I was catching up on the sleep I missed the night before and had to have a quick nap during the game! Katie and Drew saw it and she watched as Drew stared at the TV. “Ok.” That is it………”ok”. I don’t think Katie and I can comprehend what goes through Drew’s mind, mostly because he is smarter than the two of us combined. Another part of it is that he doesn’t share those thoughts with us. Not for a lack of trying…….he just doesn’t open that part of himself to us yet. “Ok.” and he was back to the game. I am sure that a million thoughts ran through his mind at that moment. Maybe someday we will know.
On the night that Nate died, Katie and I entered the bedroom where Drew had been huddled for some time. His mind distracted by relatives, movies, and video games. I remember sitting with Drew on the bed and telling him that we needed to talk with him. We knew that this was not going to be easy but I also know that this type of news is not a time when suggestive words will do. “Passed away” “No longer with us” and “In a better place” are things we say to tiptoe around death. They leave people with hope that the ending to the story may not be final. We knew that Drew was smart enough to know what was happening during the previous few hours and knew that this was something that needed to be done. We told him that we needed to talk and that we needed him to listen. Drew stared at us and we told him that Nathan died. That 7 year old boy looked back at us and said “So Nate is dead?” Yeah buddy…….Nate died. His response……”Ok”. That was it. It was almost as if he clicked the switch and went into emotional protective mode. I’m not sure what we expected from a 7 year old. I believe that kids only process as much as their minds will let them. In time they begin to process it more and more. I have worried since that time that Drew may have fears of the “What if”. What if something happens to me? What if something happens to Dad and Mom? What if? The hard part is that we can’t honestly promise him that something won’t. I had previously made that promise to Drew and Nate and I can’t do that again.
I recently had a talk with Drew about death and the “what if?” I explained to him that things in life happen but what happened to Nate is not typical. I told him that typically – Parents live a long life and eventually die. I told him that kids typically live longer than their parents and get old before they die. Sounds kind of deep for a 9 year old to digest but Drew has been through a lot and thinks about everything. I want to put his mind at ease without promising him that tragedy won’t ever happen again.
After talking with Katie about the Nationwide commercial and hearing others talk about it………..I decided to watch it myself. We can debate a lot of things about the commercial. Timing – was it appropriate for the SB? Intent – was the intent to bring awareness to household accidents or sell insurance? Effectiveness – did it have the effect that Nationwide expected? I have a few thoughts on those topics but I want to talk about the commercial first. A boy (5 years old or so) doesn’t get to fulfill the things in life that every kid should because his life is cut short by a household accident. I struggled with these very thoughts after Nathan died. I remember thinking – I never took him to Disney. I never took him on a plane. The list was longer than I can even begin to imagine but I remember struggling with the things that Nate never got to do because of this tragedy. So those – “Things he will never get to do.” Those are real. I also know that what happened to Nate was a horrible tragedy. One that I would do anything in this world to change. No doubt, we would give up this great foundation and all the work that it has done. No doubt, I would trade places with him if given the option. Obviously those aren’t options. I also know that what happened to Nathan was totally preventable. That is hard. Really, really hard.
In 2013, I attended some leadership training for work. Sometime during this training we were broken into small groups (6-8 people) and given a scenario. The instructor told us that each group would be given a title and have to respond to the scenario as if they were part of that specific group. I don’t remember specifically what the groups were but they were something like this (Fire Department, Park Service, Police Department, Health Department, Media). I was in the media group with several other counterparts. One of the members of my group happens to work with me on a daily basis. I had never met the other people in the group prior to this training. The instructor then provided us with the scenario – A family arrives at a local park and walks to the area near a waterfall. The area where the family is located is at the top of the falls and the overlook is marked by only a sign alerting people to the threat of the waterfall. The family approaches the waterfall and the 3 year old child walks over and falls over the edge and drowns. The instructor then gives us several minutes to talk among our group at how the “media” would respond to this. I immediately felt the others in the room that I work with on a daily basis looking in my direction. I could see the horror on their faces. I could tell that they wanted to see how I would react and how this would affect me. I knew that they probably just wanted to ask me if I was ok or ask the instructor for a different scenario. The guy in my group that I work with looked over at me and whispered – “You ok?” I nodded and sat quietly. I listened as others in the group discussed the scenario. I listened as some in the group criticized the parents for allowing such a horrible tragedy to occur. I sat there with a Go Out. Be Great polo on and pondered how or if I should respond. I wondered if any of them had previously noticed my shirt and Googled the NCB Foundation. In the end – I decided to sit quietly.
I thought about this scenario all night and how I responded or my lack there of. Should I have said something to those insensitive few that were spewing hate for those parents? In essence – that hate was aimed at me. I tell myself often that people don’t know your story. They haven’t been in my shoes. Fortunately! I can’t hold this against them. I can’t criticize them for not knowing my situation. Had I told them my story – I am sure that none of them would have responded they way they did. In all honesty, most would have offered their condolences and had a bit of compassion for me – at least to my face.
I have read that Nationwide had high level discussions on this commercial prior to deciding to move forward with it. I am not sure any of the folks in that room have lost a child but I can’t judge their intent without knowing their story. I don’t believe that Nationwide was trying to sell insurance. No amount of money would repair the pain that comes with the loss of your son or daughter. Nationwide knows this. Besides – childhood death doesn’t sell insurance. If anything – the commercial turned more people away than it drew in. Was the timing appropriate? I am not sure that there is ever a good time to talk about the death of a child. Do I wish my son didn’t have to see it? Sure…….unfortunately – death is a part of life. It is the only thing that is a sure thing in our lives.
Estimates have 112 million people watching the SB on Sunday night. No other broadcast is more watched. Even if half of those that watched the SB saw the Nationwide commercial – that is a big number. So if there is no good time to talk about the death of a child……..why not now? Why not with such a large audience? The CDC reports “Unintentional Deaths” which encompass car accidents, drownings, and other related child deaths through age 14. The CDC reported 1,156 Unintentional Deaths in 2013. Even if one person saw the commercial and took one step to prevent a death…….that is a statistic that we cannot quantify. One child saved is one family that would not have to endure the horror of losing a child. One child saved is a brother or sister that doesn’t have to imagine life without their sibling. A brother or sister that doesn’t have to contemplate the “What ifs” of this world. Totally worth it!
We live in an unpredictable world. A world shown to us through the media as filled with tragedy and grief. In reality, we live in a world where most people have great compassion for others. A world full of people ready to do anything for others. I know this first hand – I have experienced it. When I hear people say “Why do bad things always happen to good people?” I think to myself – bad things happen to all people. There are just more good ones than bad. The odds are against us.
I don’t fault Nationwide for running this commercial. Death is just a part of life that no ones likes to think about, but we will all one day be forced to face. Just live it! Live it to the fullest!
“I am not afraid of tomorrow, for I have seen yesterday and I love today.” – William Allen White
Go Out. Be Great,