Happy Birthday, Cliff.
My mom told me that a person was fortunate if they found one friend in their life that they could depend on and any more than one made them a wealthy person. I am, by these standards, very wealthy. But the wealth isn't about the number of friends, it is about the quality of people who I know and trust as my friends.
I first met Cliff Vaughn fifteen years ago as we were both entering PhD programs at Bowling Green State University together. Our casual conversation between orientation sessions revealed some surprising commonalities: we both wrote screenplays, we came from families with four siblings, we grew up in Baptist Churches and we were both interested in studying culture and communication.
At that point, honestly, I had no idea if I had just found my "tribe" and everyone I met would have this many remarkable connections? or if my meeting with Cliff was as fortuitous as it seemed.
Lucky indeed, Cliff is a one of a kind. Over the next two years we scheduled regular times where we did nothing but sat together and told stories -- the thing we love in common probably more than anything else -- story. All these years later, those moments still seem as sacred as any I've had in my life.
Since then? We've had the great privilege to share road trips, his marriage, our children, great happiness, great disappointment.
Cliff is the kind of friend who is not only a great friend to me, but he's a great human being. He makes documentary films about important justice issues. He gathers, tells and distributes stories about complicated contemporary issues to deeply vested audiences, he teaches classes, he fathers two bright hilarious children. I love this photograph of him from their visit to our home this past summer. I love his casual smile -- his normal way of being. I love that he's reviewing footage on a camera, reflecting both his artistic sensibilities *and* his interest in reflection and attentiveness. I love that he's on my couch, relaxing. Cliff is excellent at being with.
Today is his birthday and all day today, I'm celebrating how much his life has shaped my own story for better. Happy Birthday, Cliff!