In the 1990 movie “Joe Versus the Volcano”, Tom Hanks’ character, Joe Banks, works in a rather dehumanizing job and is diagnosed with an incurable disease and given 6 months to live. Joe accepts an offer from a greedy industrialist to live his remaining days “like a king.” All Joe has to do is throw himself into a volcano to help appease a local tribe’s need for a sacrifice to their fire god so the crooked businessman can get access to the valuable minerals on the small volcanic island.
Marketed as “a story of love, lava and burning desire,” the romantic-comedy is really an allegory for Joe’s search for the meaning of his life and his place in the world. It is symbolic of the struggles most of us go through at some point in our lives. Why am I here? What is my purpose in life? Am I meant to make an impact on the world?
Under the category of “God incidence,” I got a phone call in mid-August from a former Junior Penguin hockey player and retired Lt. Colonel, John DeBlasio, who I had coached 34 years ago. We have remained friends with John and his family ever since. His mother Janet is like a second mom for me and was the general manager of the Junior Penguins. She still does our taxes 34 years after we first met. Her husband Pat was the Mayor of Bridgeville, Pa., for several terms and they instilled a strong sense of family, community and philanthropy in their kids.
So John’s initial purpose for calling was that he was dropping off his son Jack at Penn State. Jack is a freshman majoring in engineering and also plays for the Nittany Lion rugby team. We got together with our families to relive some old stories, talk about the future, and to help make Jack feel like “family” was closer than his Chicago home.
As we discussed careers and the twists and turns that life throws our way, an interesting opportunity presented itself. John had sold his very successful business that helped with post-war reconstruction in Iraq. In his effort to make a difference he accepted the Gates-Buffet “Giving Pledge” challenge and established the Global Peace and Development Charitable Trust (GPD).