Lessons Learned from the Death of a Colleague

We all have those glass-half-empty days at work where we feel unaccomplished. Restless. Underappreciated.

The next time that happens to me, I’ll be thinking about Aaron Washington.

I wish I had known Aaron. He worked at KARK and Fox16 as a production assistant running camera and working in the studio, where I just don’t spend much time. We’d exchange hellos in the break room. When we passed each other in the hall, we’d smile. But that was pretty much it.

To be honest, I didn’t know anything about Aaron until he was gone. He died last month at 33.

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After his funeral, Ed Stowell, our director of operations and Aaron’s supervisor, returned to the station clearly moved by the service. A few days later he addressed the department heads to tell us something I haven’t stopped thinking about since.

Aaron grew up in the small South Arkansas town of Dermott. Roughly 75 percent of the 3,000 people who live there are African-American. A third of the population lives below the poverty line. The average income in the town is $18,000.

IMG_4358.jpgThe town of Dermott took great pride in the fact Aaron “got out,” Ed relayed to us. He went to college in Michigan and worked in radio in between classes. He completed internships at KATV in Little Rock and WXVT in Greenville, Mississippi. After college, he landed a job with KARK and Fox16.

People in Dermott adored the fact that Aaron worked his way to Arkansas’ capital city. During his funeral service, a speaker even suggested Aaron should be celebrated in Dermott during Black History Month.

He served as an inspiration for his city.

How special is that?

So what can we learn from Aaron — even those of us who didn’t know him well? In some respect, everyone is an inspiration to someone. Perhaps it’s a parent who didn’t graduate from college and is rooting you on. Maybe it’s our children who will learn from each move and decision we make. Maybe it’s the third grader you took the time to read to during an event, who now sees a new opportunity he had never imagine for himself. Or maybe it’s the high school student you spent a few minutes talking with, even though you really didn’t have the time, who is now motivated to follow in your footsteps.

Not everyone has a town behind them. But we all have someone.

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Each day we have an opportunity to inspire. We have the opportunity to make an impact.

When you think about work with that perspective — keeping Aaron’s story in mind — the small stuff you allow to bring you down becomes a lot smaller. The restless thoughts that can easily control you become much easier to brush off.

A excerpt from the program handed out at Aaron’s service read, “Aaron always looked for the good in everyone and lived life to the fullest. He saw the glass as half full.”

Life is too short for negativity. Keep filling your glass.

Thank you, Aaron.

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14 thoughts on “Lessons Learned from the Death of a Colleague

  1. His pastor said that a part of Aaron will always be with us. He was with me when I came back from his service, then he was with you as you thought and wrote this blog, Now he will be with anyone who reads this and is touched by this story.

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  2. Nice article on Aaron. I talked with him several times. He and I had Detroit/Michigan connections. He would sometimes be in the break room studying between newscasts. He was really a nice guy. I have no doubt he made many people proud.

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  3. Thank you Mr Kellerman for a wonderful write up on my son. Your kind words captured the very essence of who Aaron was. I am very proud that he was able to accomplish most of what he wanted to..he really loved working at Fox 16 and was very serious about perfecting his craft…As I was and continue to be inspired by him I hope that this article will touch others to never give up on your dreams..because as he would say” dreams have no expectation date”.

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    1. Kellie, Lucky to be friends on facebook with KARK and a family connection to Austin brought me to hear of the passion Aaron had to contribute goodness to life in him and outside of him. At 67 introduced and inspired by Aarons story i want to do what i can to keep alive his example of peace. Saturday at a flea msrket an active young boy knocked over a framed pIctured i was sure to sell. I thoight of Aaron in that moment of an unexpected shift of emotion and chose to smile at the embarresed young boy which removed feelings that could have developed into unkindness. Not only did that small conversion of mine take place but strangers from everywhere surrounded me offering to pick up the broken glass. From Irving to McDermott and mom to mom count on me to carry on Asrons legacy when an opportunity comes.. I hope the love your beautiful child left you keeps you strong, protected and comforted

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  4. We never know the impact that our life….or death will have on others. May God rest his sweet soul and may the life he lived continue to inspire and touch those who knew him and those who knew of him. Rest in love, Aaron….until we meet again, your cousin.
    Thank you for this write-up.

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  5. One of the most inspired story that I have read in a long time. He saw the glass as half full, as we live and strive from day to day God is filling our glass as I type, and to Kelly one of my inspiration a Courageous Woman dreams don’t have an expiration date. Love you

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  6. Thank you for this article. Aaron was an amazing young man. A good friend. A good communicator. A great listener. A very humorous and funny guy. Yes, he “made it out,” and accomplished just about everything he wanted to do. He will surely be missed. R.I.P. Aaron. You now have your wings. I miss you 🕊.

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