Meet John Lawson
Position at HOJ: Community Partnerships Director
What could you not live without?
Air! Haha. I suppose if I had to give a slightly-less-literal answer, I would have to say my motorcycle. There is something deeply liberating and inherently free about hopping on my Harley and hitting the road with no destination and no objective. It is a joy I will always refuse to surrender.
What is the scariest thing you’ve ever done?
My adventures in the Marines have taken me to many places and put me in a wide variety of situations, so rather than answer, I will share a favorite quotation on the subject of fear: “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.” –Mark Twain
Where is the most exciting place you’ve ever been?
Travel and adventure are both key components to my personality, so I always try to visit as many exciting places as possible. Rather than calling one more exciting than the next, I will just share one of the many places special to me: Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico. As a youth scouting was a substantial part of my life, and contributed greatly to the sense of service and adventure I carry with me today. One summer while I was in high school I had the opportunity to spend two weeks backpacking and trekking the mountainous trails of scouting’s paramount base, and the sights and experiences were unlike any I had previously experienced. I very distinctly remember making camp near Crater Lake in the southern portion of the reservation and looking up to the sky at night. It was impossible to locate even the most basic of constellations because of how clear the sky was and how many stars were visible so far from civilization.
Who is your hero, and why?
The world is full of heroes, the majority of them unsung. I can only highlight one here, so I choose to highlight United States Marine Corps Cpl. William Salazar. He was my barracks roommate for a period of time while I was stationed at Ft. Meade (about halfway between Baltimore and Washington D.C.). Salazar was a mentor and a good friend who helped me through a difficult transitional period in my life. He was a combat photographer and videographer and was killed in action on October 15, 2004 in Al Anbar, Iraq.
What is your philosophy on life?
Life is nothing more than a collection of experiences and relationships. To live more is to experience more new things and to create new relationships or strengthen existing ones. Once you stop looking for adventure, you stop living and begin dying.
What is your all time favorite joke?
My true all-time favorite joke is not HR-appropriate. Sorry. Instead, I will share this one: A man walks in to a dentist office and says “I think I’m a moth!” The dentist looks at him and says “You shouldn’t be here; you should be seeing a psychiatrist.” The man replies “I am.” The dentist asks “So what are you doing here?” to which the man replies “Your light was on.”
What song would be included on the soundtrack to your life?
I am a very musical person, so my soundtrack would be intricate with a lot of variety. Songs would probably include Pink Floyd – Comfortably Numb, Clint Mansell and the Kronos Quartet – Summer Overture, Rise Against – Give It All, Temple of the Dog – Hunger Strike, Rancid – Old Friend, and Avenged Sevenfold – Warmness on the Soul, to name a few of the many, many songs I would have to include.
What did you want to be growing up?
When I was a child I always wanted to grow up to work with animals. Initially, I wanted to be a trainer at Sea World, and that evolved in to becoming a zoo keeper and eventually a veterinarian at a zoological park. While my actual path in life turned out to be a far cry from my childhood dreams, I am still deeply connected to those dreams and am a frequent volunteer at the local zoo, an avid environmental conservationist, and have fostered or rescued a wide variety of animals in the past.
What inspires you to work at HOJ?
The people. I have been humbled, inspired, and in awe of the people I encounter at HandsOn Jacksonville – the staff, volunteers and partner agencies. On a recent trip I observed a stark contrast in the characters of various people: I was riding the subway alone one evening and a woman in her mid-twenties boarded the same car and sat in the seat occupying the wheelchair area – one of many available seats. A few stops later, a man in wheelchair boards the train, and is awkwardly forced to block the door because this woman refuses to move to another vacant seat and allow him access to the wheelchair space, as she was too self-centered to exert her energy for the benefit of someone else. The day before this observation, I went to dinner with some coworkers. At the completion of our meal, my coworkers boxed up their untouched leftovers despite having no means of storing them (again, we were traveling at the time) and having no intention of consuming them. My coworkers then proceeded to go out of their way to find a homeless person on the streets of downtown Chicago who would want the food. That is the type of person you encounter at HandsOn Jacksonville.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about yourself?
Trivia fact: I once visited Qatar, a small monarchy in the Persian Gulf with the highest GDP per capita in the world (source: the World Bank). During this same trip I rode camels and went dune boarding. Unrelated: I once punched Superman!