Words & Banter

A Boy. A Man. A Wish.

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I have a confession. Although you've been involved with Make-A-Wish for decades and told me countless wish stories, I've never been moved to tears. Until this weekend.

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Why? It is not like you were at Tommy Austin's 80th birthday celebration on Saturday. Almost none of the speakers could get through their comments without crying. As you know, there would be no Make-A-Wish without Tommy, as it all started back in 1980 with him wanting to do something special for Chris Greicius, a 7-year-old boy who was battling leukemia and wanted to be a police officer.

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Those are the facts, yes. But when you invited Sawyer to join you, and emailed us the link to the story that inspired Make-A-Wish video, it sat in my inbox until Saturday afternoon. I was clearing emails and found it, and thought it was a good time to watch it, especially since I knew you were at the party. And that's when the facts of Make-A-Wish became something so much more.

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You may have been watching it at the same time we were, as they used it to open the tribute to Tommy. I have known him for decades, so am very familiar with the story, but it is a powerful reminder of how people came together to grant a young boy his wish, and how that single wish touched so many lives.

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Yes, the ripple effect it created was truly amazing, as it led to the creation of The Make-A-Wish Foundation. But what brought me to tears, and made me go through more tissues than I'd care to admit, were the words of Chris's mother, "This was something I was totally helpless to do" but that Tom was able to pull it off with help from others.

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I cannot imagine the helplessness a parent must feel when their child has a serious illness.

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Trust me, hearing those words made my heart hurt. But I smiled when one of the other founders explained that after Chris had passed, with his wish having been fulfilled beyond his wildest dreams, that everyone involved looked at each other and said, "There are more children out there; let's go find them" and how it snowballed from there. It made me want to cheer and shout, "Yes!"

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"Snowballed" is an understatement. Now, 41 years later, Make-A-Wish has made such a huge difference … granting more than 500,000 wishes, with chapters around the world … and bringing hope and joy to the wish kids and their families.

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I can't begin to imagine how proud Tommy Austin must be to know that his simple desire to make one boy a little happier would lead to so much more.

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The word I would use is "humble," as Tommy believes he is merely the messenger and refuses to take any credit, explaining he was only trying to make Chris' life better. But, there was a room full of people who saw it differently, and told heartwarming stories about Tommy.

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It sounds like it was the best 80th birthday party ever, and he certainly deserved it.

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It was so much more. And, we surprised him by announcing that in honor of his 80th birthday, The Make-A-Wish Texas Gulf Coast & Louisiana had created a "Circle of 80" to kick-off the Tommy Austin Wish Fund.

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That's so perfect. Although I've never met him, from watching the video I think that the best gift one could give Tommy would be to help grant the wish of a Make-A-Wish child. For that matter, it may be one of the greatest gifts any one of us could give …

Whether it's becoming involved with a local Make-A-Wish chapter or simply by making a donation … never underestimate the power of a wish!

Today’s a national holiday … for a reason. And although it may be a day of fun, festivities, and maybe even relaxation, it’s important to stop and think about the true meaning of the day …

We all “celebrate” Memorial Day differently, but we all should remember it’s a day to honor those who gave their lives serving this country.

BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: Memorial Day may be the unofficial start of summer, and Red remembers celebrating over the years with family get-togethers, barbeques, and pool parties; whereas Black “celebrates” most holidays by having a quiet day to work uninterrupted, but it’s important never to forget the significance of the holiday.

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Last year Red “ran away” to New York for Memorial Day weekend, but since she was just in New York for Mother’s Day, she’s looking forward to her “usual” three-day week routine (see below). And Black? Some things never change, including how she celebrates holiday weekends …

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One of the best things about holiday weekends is having an extra “weekend” day, especially as most weekends are spent on personal things I can’t get done during the week, so can be just as exhausting as the week itself. But I always try (but don’t always succeed) to get some “ me time” by escaping to my local AMC movie theatre , even if it’s more for the popcorn than the movie.

This year, since I have some airfare credits that will expire, I’m going to take advantage of the extra day and visit my oldest friend (from 5 th grade!) who lives in New York. It’s strange being an empty-nester and taking a mini-vacation on my own. It seems like only yesterday, when my girls were much younger, that Black would take us (and her stepdaughters) to the Hyatt Hill Country in San Antonio, so I know that holiday weekends can provide lifelong memories!

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I love three-day weekends as instead of having two days when I can work uninterrupted, I have three. Some might think I need to get a life, but I have passion projects that bring me joy, so I am doing what makes me happy. And, I have a standing “appointment” at 3 p.m. every Memorial Day to observe the National Moment of Remembrance.

It is important to remember that Memorial Day weekend is more than just a holiday weekend (and the “unofficial” start to summer). Memorial Day honors the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. A day to put aside politics and think about patriotism, and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

People have told us they're using our sisterly banter to start conversations with others (family, friends, and even in classrooms), so Black created "Conversation Starters".

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I’ll admit that I hate technology and prefer to keep my ostrich head in the sand. But although I’ve slowly gotten better and try not to immediately default into freakout mode, all this talk about Artificial Intelligence (AI) not only confuses me but scares me. It reminds me of the 1968 movie “2001 A Space Odyssey,” the computer named HAL, and the potential of machines to harm vs. help us. (Yes, I’m being a bit dramatic, but then again, maybe not …)

Black and I have talked about how it can be used to help solve some of the world’s most challenging problems, like cancer, but wherever there’s opportunity for good, there can also be bad actors. And it’s all happening so incredibly fast as it seems like there’s some new development almost daily, and I don’t want to have to understand it, let alone learn how to use it.

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It is already impacting society, and although many people play with it like a toy, early adopters see its value as a powerful tool – for good and evil. It does not help that the “Godfather of AI”, as well as one of the creators of ChatGPT (a leading AI system where users can pose questions), are warning us of the potential dangers of the technology and the need to slow things down and have guardrails in place.

It is critical to remember that denial does not change reality.

AI will become increasingly important for businesses that want to stay competitive and will dramatically impact the labor market by automating some tasks. But, it will mean critical thinking skills will be more important than ever. And, as AI becomes more integrated into our personal lives, it will be essential for us to understand the basics – both what it can and cannot do.


  • What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)? How does AI “learn” (get its information)?
  • Does AI scare or excite you? Why?
  • What are the benefits of AI? What are the challenges or risks associated with AI?
  • Do you think AI will impact you personally and/or professionally? If so, how do you plan to be prepared?