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There are no strangers: Why TEDActive is about the people

By Ibrahim Mursal Warsame

It’s Thursday evening and I am in line for the gondola lift to the “Top of Whistler Mountain” party …

I am already on the verge of passing out from a combination of low blood sugar, cold weather and fatigue. Standing on the side, waiting for my turn to join a cabin, a woman asks me if am willing to ride with them. I say yes and run inside the gondola to sit down. I surely don’t want to be remembered as the ‘guy who passed out before the party.’

The 25-minute-long ride starts, and the three people with me sense I am not feeling ok. The woman asks me if am sick. When I say yes, they immediately stand up. Clearly alarmed, she takes out two blankets given to the whole group, wraps me in them and starts asking me questions. The two men join her and sit next to me to warm me up.

My biggest fear is about to be realized, ruining someone’s evening …

I try to play it cool and tell them it’s ok and that I am fine. One of them looks me in the eyes and says the following sentence that I will always remember:

“Listen, we’re going to take care of you. Whether you like it or not”

And that’s what they do for the next 20 minutes. They take care of a complete stranger whose name they don’t even know.

We reach the party, and I am still not feeling physically well , although I am on an emotional high from gratitude. I enter the place and what happens next is something I’ll never forget …

Everyone I come across starts to take action to make me feel better, from bringing me food, giving me their jackets, to making sure I am talking and laughing to stay alert. And 30 minutes later I am in the best physical and mental shape possible.

Now the reason I just made you read this long story is to tell you this:

TEDActive is many great things, but the greatest thing about it is simply: the people.

No words can describe the atmosphere created by the world’s brightest souls brought together to listen to it’s brightest minds.

To me, TEDActive is that kind of conference (the only one ?!) where you – on a normal Tuesday, for example – can casually play a game of pool with a NASA manager who offers you help with a cube Satellite project you’re interested in back home.

Then, you meet Stefan Sagmeister who offers you an internship in his firm after a quick chat that starts with: “I have the same shirt you are wearing!”

TEDActive is that kind of conference, where a group of complete strangers gather in a room at 1 AM for a spontaneous TEDxSalon, sharing intimate stories of personal and professional struggle to make the world a better place.

It’s the kind of conference where you constantly wonder late at night, how that great soul that you just shared a heart-to-heart conversation followed by a 10-second hug with, was a complete stranger two hours ago!

It’s the kind of conference where you see human potential in full effect.

Where Arab and Israeli attendees spontaneously take selfies together after a lip-sync battle late at night.

Where conservatives learn how to dance from an openly gay man and share intimate hugs afterwards, agreeing to keep their differences to themselves and focus on mutual respect.

To me, TEDActive is the people. It’s Will, Mark, Michelle, Sabeen, Asghar, Douglas, John Bates, Ally, Ashfin, Sami, Mazin, Mohamed, Javier, Ash, Ibrahim, Kara, Grace, Tim, Ruta, Panagiotis, Sheryl, Amir, A.J.Jacobs … and so many more.

TEDActive is not ‘what’ … it’s ‘who.’

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