Will Simmons is one of the most wonderful people I’ve ever known and I am immensely privileged to call him cousin. Although he’s a full-grown man and only thirteen months my junior, I still think of him as “Baby Will” because he remains as kind, sweet, and gentle as he was on those hot summer days we spent playing in our grandparents’ backyard in small town Mississippi. Will has criss-crossed the globe (he’s currently living on Oahu), but his goodness and groundedness never change with his address. His short life holds an extensive library of experiences and wisdom. We have lots to learn from his beautiful words.
I am from Mississippi and I love it because it is complex, only to be understood with firsthand experience.
My current phase of life looks like silence—learning to listen and listening to learn.
My physical or philosophical trademark is cracking my knuckles and being skeptical.
I want to be present.
I am inspired by those who have the confidence to subvert systems, defy established norms, and ignore societal expectations for the good of those who can never repay them.
I love the key of Db major.
I hate when someone says “bless you” prematurely, thwarting even the boldest of sneezes.
Toy Story 3 makes me cry. Don’t tell me you didn’t!
Marcel the Shell with Shoes On makes me laugh.
The words I live by are Mohala i ka wai kamaka o ka pua. “Unfurled by the water are the faces of the flowers.” Life accompanies abundance—how might we bring this to those who have not?
I am most influenced by how my actions might influence others.
I admire confidence, wittiness, and brevity in other people.
I escape by cooking.
To me, perfection is a well-timed octave jump in a musical score or song. Chills—every time.
My fondest memory is making pancakes with my now-fiancée via FaceTime on our three-year dating anniversary. We had spent the past year thousands of miles apart, and we couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate than to cook a meal with each other.
I wish I could have dinner with myself, but ten years younger/older. Can’t decide which.
My favorite meal is my mother’s shrimp and grits—see section on Mississippi above. She’s an incredible chef and the source of my love for food.
Your favorite songs of all time are “Fires” by David Ramirez, “Concerning the UFO Sighting near Highland, Illinois” by Sufjan Stevens, “Untitled 3” by Sigur Ros, and “Grown Ocean” by Fleet Foxes.
The films I could watch on replay are The Social Network, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Little Miss Sunshine, The Truman Show.
The books that have influenced me most are Henri Nouwen’s Return of the Prodigal Son, David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, J.D. Salinger’s Nine Stories, Tracy Kidder’s Mountains Beyond Mountains, Paul Farmer’s Pathologies of Power.
My wildest dream is fairness for all.
My childhood ambition was nonexistent?! I’ve thought about this for years—I think I was just depressingly realistic as a child…
My favorite color is yellow because as a child, most of my GameBoys were yellow.
My celebrity crush is probably Ewan McGregor. Man-crush.
If I could get on a plane right now, I would travel back to Japan. It was here that, in remaining still, I learned more.
My most recent purchase was a 4AM breakfast from Burger King in the Guam airport. Yikes.
My morning routine is to cook breakfast—usually more elaborate than it needs to be. Read.
My pet peeves are… I’m too much of a people-pleaser to publicly admit these.
My bucket list includes: learn to play piano. Skydive (maybe). Open a café and brewery.
My guilty pleasure is that one Justin Bieber song. You know the one.
Something few people know about me is that I always have a song playing in my head. Right now it’s Sufjan Stevens’ “Oh God, Where Are You Now?”
I am a learner.
Will, you belong to a special breed of people who believe a better world is possible, a breed of people who are doing the exhausting work to make better become real. Your curiosity in this planet – it’s problems, people, and possibilities – is inexhaustible. Instead of wasting the enormous talents you’ve been given on chasing the American Dream, you are investing your intellect and superhuman compassion in those who can never repay you. I hold onto the hope that I share that piece of Simmons DNA that makes you so kind, open-minded, motivated, and concerned. Your twenty-three years have been a gift to me, to our family, and to this world. I am absolutely thrilled to see which trails you and Carissa choose to blaze next. Keep fighting the good fight, brilliant boy!