The Ember


A couple times each winter I cross paths with a woman at our local cross-country ski center.  I smile at her and sometimes offer a verbal greeting.  She never outwardly acknowledges my presence.  I assume that we have different agendas during out skiing time (that is the more positive rationalization I have told myself).  This weekend, we ran into each other at the trailhead on the final day of ski season.  With skis coming off and destine for the corner of the garage, she said, ‘knowing that I will see you out here every couple weeks keeps me motived.’  Trying to overcome the seismic paradigm shift challenging my entrenched belief about this woman, I muttered, ‘thank you, always good to see you out skiing.’  

This interaction reminded me of a talk given by the rector of a local Episcopal Church.  He spoke about the interconnectedness of a community of worshipers.  What motivates people to rise on Sunday morning and spend a portion of their day indoors in prayer?  A deep spiritual connection helps but he acknowledged that knowing other members of the church will be present to greet one another and notice our absence (not in judgement) builds a higher certainty of attendance.  By being present we increased the probability of others attending yet not always knowing who.

Some interactions are visible.  Students rise and have a high degree of certainty that their teacher will be in the classroom to greet them every morning.  Others are far more subtle.  What appears peripheral in our daily life may provide the most gentle of breezes that allows another person’s dream to continue to glow or even ignite into flame.  Who’s ember do you allow to glow?  Who keeps the glow of your dreams ready to ignite?  Actions that appears to be pedestrian in our own lives may be the point of ignition for someone we barely know.  Someone is counting on the vortex of your presence today.

Standing Out

Barcelona Bus Turistic (Image)
Barcelona City Tour (Image)

Can you see the difference between these two city tour bus services?  They have the same price structure, run the same routes (in different directions), make the same stops, supply the same audio options, provide the same hop-on-off service, and each has an automatic canopy to cover the top deck when it rains.  Which one would you choose?

I would suggest this is a classic example where people matter.  When I rode one of these lines, the greeter was inattentive about our request for ear buds, the driver stopped twice for a smoke break, and we were all told to disembark at 8:00 PM, apparently closing time.  Maybe both services hire from the exact same group of candidates.  But I would argue that these individuals are clearly fluent in at least four languages and skilled providing customer service (or avoiding it).  In a country where unemployment is reaching 20% a job is not easy to find.  If one of these bus services created a culture of fun, empowerment, and appreciation for its team members it would swamp the other with the limiting factor being the number of seat available.  People matter.  These two bus services have proved that it is easy to copy features but more difficult to foster a community.

Society’s Role in the Fundraising Gala

Catching-up with last week’s Sunday New York Times this morning and came across the Evening Hours page by Bill Cunningham. The column is a series of numbered pictures with captions identifying the individuals pictured and then a brief narrative about the charity being supported. Captured in the synopsis is the date of the event, location, number of guests and amount of money raised.

I interpret the column to be a combination of photo-journalism and society Facebook. I think it is tremendous that Mr. Cunningham provides coverage as there are many worthy causes. I also know that the presence of well know individuals is a way to draw readership for the NY Times and attention for the nonprofit organization.

What I wonder is why do we not see the same column for the people who volunteer? Why not highlight those who have given time, expertise or supported at a lower giving level but a meaningful percentage of their income? The fact that those who met a minimum giving requirement, dressed in appropriate attire, and secured an invitation are captured for visual presentation is a forum for a column. I am skeptical that everyone who attends truly understands the work the cause is addressing. Experience at other gala events would suggest that some guests are just there for the party. The narrative of what happens daily at these tremendous organizations would be a great hyperlink from this column. Use society and social standing to get my attention and then allow me to learn more. Get me to the organization’s website, tap me into the opportunities to support, provide a link for more information.

How are you optimizing media coverage to draw in new supporters?

A Beltway Observation

I have been in DC the past couple of days. Acting as a tourist, seeing the sights, and walking everywhere. It has been a great vacation with the family and now is time to head home. In spending a few days down the street from the White House I have noticed the few unique DC characteristics:

  • Everyone drives like they are in the Presidential motorcade. Lots of fast accelerations, lane switching, and horn honking (public substitution for sirens).
  • Black suburbans and SUVs are the ubiquitous. It appears to be the vehicle of power.
  • Suits and ties are everywhere. Sitting in the airport right now, I see more people dressed in business attire than just about any other airport I have traveled from recently.
  • Power lunches/dinners still exist. Every meal we ate in a restaurant seem to leave us eves-dropping on some discussion about legislation, the administration, or political gossip.
  • The presence of work ID badges: everyone seem to have a credential. From tourist sights to hotels to government. I was waiting to see a vendor who sold a fake version.
  • Blackberry’s seem to rule DC. The ratio of Blackberrys vs. iPhone is noticeable in the capital.

Interesting how one’s region has its own culture, habits, icons, and narratives. It was palpable.

What attributes does your community support (even at a sub-conscious level)?