Shape of Things to Come

We’ve often heard the saying, “everyone has a story”.  It’s true.  Our lives are really just a series of stories - of events and occurrences.  And each story or event, in some way, impacts the way we think and act in our lives.   

My dad always believed in the pay it forward system – long before that term was popular.  His belief that doing something nice or having a little consideration for someone else first, would put you in the position to have someone do something nice or considerate for you.  “You never know when you may need their help.” he would say.  Now I was pretty young when he told me this, and I can’t pretend that this was just an ordinary conversation.  He was responding to the rather high and mighty attitude I had that day – an attitude of entitlement from the teenage Nancy – the one who knew everything.  But, he brought me down a notch or two and I still hear his words in my head on a regular basis.  That’s just one ‘story’ or event that changed the way I think about my world and the people I share it with, on a daily basis. 

My role as Communications Director at United Way has allowed me glimpses of these same kinds of stories in the lives of many different people.  And while many of them stick with me, one person’s story is recent and fresh in my mind.

We had been filming interviews for our Discovery Speakers video series for 2010 and were completing the Tools for School episode.  As I interviewed Doug,  the manager of the St. Albert Staples, I could see that he was very passionate about the program.  But there was something more to this – not only was he enthusiastic about helping kids he didn’t even know, he was excited about the act of sharing.  The Staples team is very involved with Tools for School, they are a flagship sponsor and supporter and they encourage staff to get involved as a personal endeavour.  For Doug, his excitement spilled over in his efforts with his employees and fellow managers to help collect the school supplies at the store and then spend a Day of Caring at the United Way InKind Centre filling back packs.  He stressed how much it meant to him to know that others were gaining an appreciation for sharing and for helping others.  He talked about how much fun they had participating outside their work life and how the experience brought them closer together – as a manager, he felt like he bonded with his team of employees. 

And then, after about 20 minutes of conversation, as we were wrapping up the interview, Doug quietly and casually shared a very personal piece of information with me.  He mentioned that he was raised in a single parent family – a family of seven kids – and that he and his siblings had to rely on a program like Tools for School for their school supplies.  Bam – there it was.  Doug’s story.  And it struck me that he didn’t think his personal story was that much of a big deal in the general scheme of things.   Otherwise, I think he would have told me this news first.  He was sharing the way his experience as a youngster shaped the way he lives his life.  For Doug, helping his co-workers and colleagues to experience the joy he gets from sharing is the big deal.  He leads by example and shows others how to pay it forward, and that’s his way of paying it back.  

We all have those moments – those stories – the ones that change things for us and for others.  What’s yours?