Monday, August 14, 2017

Dear White People - In Response to Charlottesville

Dear White People,

I need our help.  I’ve been reading our responses to Charlottesville……and I don’t know how to talk to us.

When did we become so fragile? What was the actual point in our shared lives where I had to start expending copious amounts of energy picking just the right sequence of words so as to avoid hurting our feelings when I speak about basic human rights? When was the exact moment that logic shifted, and I suddenly had to start worrying about putting us on the defensive when asking why we’re no longer adhering to common human decency in everyday life?

I mean. I get it. At least once a day I still find myself tip-toeing along the eggshell edge of my privilege.
              “Enough already!”
              “Take a freaking moment to celebrate that baby step. Don’t burn bridges. You won!.....ish…..”
              “You can’t be talking about me. Don’t you see I’m one of the good ones? I’m fighting for YOU!”

Because it’s uncomfortable. Because sometimes it’s hard to hear their message over my screams of how hard I had to work, and how much I had to sacrifice just to lead this life I'm living. Because part of me is writing this now because I’m a flawed human being who still wants to get some credit for being a good white dude, even though I know its asinine to feel like credit is due. Because our books correctly filled our heads with the great accomplishments of white men in American history. Because it's heartbreaking to discover those books also left out the part where so many of our white heroes were also inhumane monsters who proactively created systems to keep people of color as less than human - that’s not a sexy, pride-inducing story.
I’m guilty of it far more frequently than I want to be. But when I hear these thoughts sneaking up into my consciousness, I stop talking. I start listening. Ahhhhhh yes…….I’m going to get educated today! Because part of accepting that privilege is real, and not a dirty word, also requires acknowledging that my privilege-awareness does not absolve me from perpetuating the social dynamics that brought us to this contentious state to begin with. 

But good LORD, we are wearing me out. I’m physically drained. People of color don’t get enough credit for their stamina. They must be exhausted.

Our response to Charlottesville needs to be better. Stronger. More emphatically in agreement that white supremacy is evil, and people who wave that flag proudly are piss poor Americans at best – horrible people, more likely. But instead our response is "there was violence on both sides"? My people! LET OUR EGO GO!

I’ve never been a fan of violence. I’ve been small my whole life – violence was never on my side. But generally speaking, white people love it. In particular, white Americans love it. We love violence more than any other subset of people in the world. We love it so much that we made violence the most profitable industry in the history of the world. I blame John Wayne and Rocky Marciano. They made it so damn cool.

I point out our love for violence to ask this question.  Dear white America – when, in our love of all things American Machismo, did it stop being okay to punch a Nazi? Our love for violence was practically built on Hollywood’s ability to tap into our collective joy at watching Americans punching Nazis. For the sake of consistency, what the hell just happened?

Have we become SO fragile in our egocentric state that we now have to defend Nazis, on American soil, after an act of domestic terrorism because Anti-FA got violent too?

Help me. Help me understand how to talk to us. Because we’re just not getting it, and I’m tired.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

He Was a Prisoner of Hope

My dad always takes a moment during his annual Thanksgiving Blessing to welcome his guests, acknowledge all the year has provided for which he is thankful, and then offer a token of wisdom for the younger generations. The kind of wisdom that can only come through the experience of living a few quarter centuries of life.  This year his toast was especially poignant, calling to mind our beloved grandfather – who passed away 15 years ago this month – and his eternal optimism. 

“A prisoner of hope,” my dad called him.  Pop Pop was a champion of ‘what is possible’, and never beholden to simply ‘what is.’  Sure, life brought its setbacks and disappointments. But even in his darkest times, Pop Pop remained firm in his belief that goodness was always just around the corner, and reaching that corner required taking that next first step. There was no time to dwell on what was already behind him.

“A prisoner of hope.” I’ve been a prisoner of that term for 5 days. There’s just so much to unpack from that term that needs to be understood in this moment of our existence. The last few months have been painful for a lot of people. It seems every day we are forced to bear witness to some new shade of tragedy. The tragic death of a young friend(s). Watching someone we care about fall into the throes of addiction. The worldwide devastation and vitriol brought on by an unfathomable and murderous evil.

But every day we are given a choice. It is not an easy choice, but it is our choice. We can choose to focus on our fears and struggles – and there are days when it’s just so damn easy. Or we can choose to remain hopeful that tomorrow will be better, and start taking steps that might make it so.

Helen Keller brilliantly suggested that “no pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit.”

But hope. Our brightest future exists in hope, and it’s painted by our ability to dream. Hope is where we will awaken our creative genius. It’s where we will find the strength we need to stand tall when the world tries with all its might to knock us down.  

Sometimes it will be hard, but today I choose to be a champion of what could be. I want to be a prisoner of hope. I will strive to not let ‘what is’ get in the way of my brightest future. I choose hope.

And I will work my ass off.  Pop Pop would want you to know you have to work your ass off.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

30 Life Lessons from a Soon-to-be 30-year-old


1.  Fulfillment can't be found in a career.  It won't be discovered in a relationship.  It's not the result of a good deed.  It is the sum of all parts.  Fulfillment is a lifestyle.
2.  All my favorite life memories involve mistakes.

3.  Work to improve your weaknesses, but build a life and career around your strengths.  Otherwise, you will never be the best possible version of yourself.

4.  Never cling to dignity at the expense of a worthwhile laugh.

5.  It is better to say "I love you" too early, rather than too late.

6.  Embrace the weird.  It's just more fun.

7.  It's true - things happen.  It's up to us to determine the reason why.

8.  Within each of us is the power to inspire, but that power is never so strong as during childhood.

9.  We can either choose to be noticed or choose to fit in.  No one ever made a difference by trying to fit in.

10. Any good plan for the future requires embracing every moment as it comes.

11.  If kids made the rules, we'd all pick our noses and fart in public without judgment.  And we'd all be really happy.

12.  No one person can change the world.  But one person can inspire 100 people to action.  And 100 inspired people working together towards a common goal can do anything.

13.  The things that get us picked on in junior high and high school often become the things that make us cool when we're adults.

14.  We give words far too much power.  Don't allow yourself to be easily offended.  It gets in the way of progress.

15.  Words are really powerful.  Use them wisely and sensitively.

16.  There is no such thing as altruism.  And that's ok.

17.  Holding back is normal.  Honesty is good.  Authenticity is better.

18.  Every hero has the ability to break our hearts.  We are best served to live as the hero we wish to look up to.

19.  Hard times suck, but they always come to an end.  When they do, I'll either be a better person or I'll be dead and won't care.

20.  The lack of a solution should never get in the way of doing things a better way.

21.  Doing things a better way should never be confused with being the solution.

22.  The 2nd most important people in the world are teachers.

23.  The most important people in the world are their students.

24.  Sometimes it's just as important to learn what we DON'T want in life.

25.  Take chances.  Try new things.  Put pineapple on your pizza.

26.  Love cliches are true.  And they're awesome.

27.  The most important things we learn in school rarely come from a book.

28.  Sometimes lost causes are the causes most worth fighting for.

29.  Among the many balances required for life, it is important to balance every moment as a learning opportunity with equal knowledge that every moment is an opportunity to teach.

30.  Sometimes it's okay to leap before you look.

And one to grow:  31.  Life is thoroughly entertaining.

Now it's your turn.  What advice do you have for my next 30 years?

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Make a very special woman's 90th birthday as special as she is

A few years ago, while working at a children's charity in Boston, I answered a call requesting a home visit to pick up donations. That wasn't something we typically did, but it was only 3 miles down the road, and it was an 87 year old Italian woman who crocheted a few dozen baby hats and mittens for Christmas. I ended up talking to her for two hours. Over the next few years, every couple of months - especially at Christmas time - she'd call me up to donate some goodies she and her sister had put together, along with a homemade dinner. She always referred to herself as my surrogate great-grandmother. She treated me like family when I was 400 miles from home.

Mary Valentino never had children of her own.  She doesn't have any money.  But what little she has, she gives to others.  She's spent thousands of hours over her lifetime using her hands to make blankets for Father Bill's in Quincy, MA.  With the little money she has, she tries to help as many charities as she can.  $5 here.  $10 there.  With the help of her sister, Nelda, she shops the local consignment shops for the best deals on children's clothing which she donates to Cradles to Crayons.

A few months after I moved to Philadelphia I was going through some challenging times.  One day I came home from work and there was a note from her waiting for me on the table when I got home from work. She had handwritten her favorite prayer and told me she's been saying it for me for months.

I said a prayer for you today
and know God must have heard.
I felt the answer in my heart
although He spoke no word.
I didn't ask for wealth or fame.
I knew you wouldn't mind.
I asked Him to send treasures
of a far more lasting kind.

I asked that He be near you
at the start of every day.
To grant you health and blessing
and friends to share your way.
I asked for happiness for you
in all things great and small.
But it was for his loving care
I prayed the most of all.

On January 9th Mary turns 90 years old.  My real grandmother passed away this last October.  The out-flowing of love I saw for her was a gift everyone should be so lucky to experience.  I want Mary to be so lucky.  She deserves it.  Please join me in celebrating 90 years of a beautiful person.  Let's show Mary that she has not only touched the lives of every person she's met, and every person who has ever benefited from her generosity, but that her generosity has inspired hundreds of people she's never met.

Options to send Mary a birthday card:
A. Drop off your card at Nespoli Jewelers or Fuel Fitness in Berwick PA by December 29th

B. Mail the card addressed to Mary Valentino to me at 513 Queen Street, Philadelphia PA 19147 by January 2nd.  I will hand deliver them to Mary that weekend.  I will FedEx all of the cards I receive after that to Mary's sister who will hand deliver them to Mary on her birthday.

C.  Make a donation in her name to Cradles to Crayons at  

D.  Share this with anyone you know.  Or share the Facebook event page.

Thank you for your kindness

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Real Nespo's Guide to Not Being An Asshole

  1. If you’re about to do something that you’d call someone else an asshole for doing to you, whatever you’re about to do will make you an asshole.  Stop.  Do something else.  Buy them a cookie.
  2. If you make generalizations about someone in association with stereotypes regarding race, gender, sexual preference, ethnicity or age, the following happens:
    1. Your statement immediately becomes inaccurate.
    2. You, as a person, look and sound ignorant.
    3. Everyone within ear shot who has any sense of reasoning or humanity will think you’re an asshole.
    4. They will be right.
  3. When you don't agree with something someone says, if you call that person an idiot and attack them personally instead of providing a substantial counter-point to the argument, chances are good that you're an asshole.  Or in over your head, in which case you should abstain from speaking.  Personal attacks are not conducive to conversation or solutions - just more asshole behavior in retaliation to your personal attacks.
  4. Act only in good faith, with good intentions.  But understand we’re all ignorant to some degree.  Acting with good intentions alone does not guarantee we do the right thing.  Further, we can’t guarantee our actions are perceived the way we intend them.  Which brings me to guideline 5.
  5. If you find yourself being an asshole by accident, you are still being an asshole.  Own up to it, apologize, and – when possible – make up for it.
  6. Doing something in the name of faith, country, or some other “altruistic” reason, does not make an asshole action acceptable.  It makes you a hypocritical douche.  Don’t be a hypocritical douche, asshole.
  7. Revenge is not a synonym for justice, but integrity is. 
  8. Don’t act or speak in anger.  Everyone is an asshole when they’re mad. 
  9. Learn tact.  "I'm just being honest" is not a free pass to say hateful, hurtful things.
  10. "Get a job" is not an acceptable response when someone living on the street asks you for change.  Instead, look that person in the eye and say "sorry ma'am (or sir), not today."  
  11. If you begin a statement with the phrase "Does it make me an asshole if...," the answer is yes.  Add whatever follows that phrase to the list of things you shouldn't say or do.
  12. If anything on this list makes you feel defensive, that should be a sign.  It means you're probably, on some level, an asshole.  Review guidelines 1-11 and try to be a better human being.

Am I missing an important guideline?  Email me: JoshNespoli at

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Real Nespo: Sports Fan

I attended my first Celtics game on Friday, April 23, 1993. I was 9 years old. Want to talk about a dream? Original Boston Garden. 2nd row. Courtside. Yeah…I know….

I was so close I actually reached out and touched Chief. I didn’t wash my hand for a month. Yeah….I know….

It was Kevin McHale’s last regular season home game before he retired. He was unbelievable, finishing the game with 17 pts and 11 rebounds in a 107-99 winning effort against the 54 win Cleveland Cavaliers and their wiley guard Mark Price. Good enough to earn him him Player of the Game honors (sponsored by Budweiser?).

I’m from a little hick town in of 10,000 people in Pennsylvania. It was during that game that I decided I was going to move 400 miles to live in Boston and root for the greatest sports team ever – the Boston Celtics.

15 years, 10 losing seasons, one Reggie Lewis death, one “he who shall not be named” (hint: rhymes with Dick Shitino) and a heavily Celtics-influenced decision to attend Babson College (Wellesley, MA) later, I finally made it to Boston – just in time for the first banner season in 22 years.

And it was worth it.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Haiti needs our help. So does the United States.

I've got a lot of mixed emotions on our nation's unbelievably inspiring response to the crisis taking place in Haiti.

On one hand, I am extremely proud of the individuals responsible for our response to the devastation that took place in Haiti. I recognize that the United States has the ability to help....we as individuals often have the ability to help....and I feel that gives us, as human beings, the obligation to do what we're capable of.

On the other hand, I'm deeply saddened that it takes a tragedy of this level to bring people together and inspire those with means to contribute. The truth is, this outflow of generosity and giving needs to happen EVERY day. ... See More

There are over 80,000 kids under the age of 12 in MASSACHUSETTTS who are homeless. To me, with the resources we have in this country going unused, is unacceptable. What our country has done for Haiti is phenomenal. It's necessary. Anyone who denounces it should be ashamed of themselves. But why does it have to begin and end with tragedy? Why can't these same people who are stepping up now recognize the problems we have here at home and do something about it?