Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Power of Words

I can remember the first time I realized the power of words. I was the president of the Telephone Pioneers (a charity supporting organization) at the Hoover facility. I sort of fell into the position because the current president retired in the middle of her term. No one else would take the job so I thought...sure, I'll give it a try.
I had no idea of the amount of work involved with this position. The Pioneers had a list of charities that we supported as well as individual requests for aid. There are a lot of people in need.
During my two year term as president we had many causes. The guys that worked with me, in the hardware maintenance group put their hearts and souls into the effort. We sponsored kids at Camp Smile-a-Mile (a program that sends terminally ill children to a summer camp), the Cerebral Palsy, area schools, and many other charities.
One of the guys talked a local merchant into donating a very nice go-cart to raffle off. Tom was at the front door of the building early selling chances. He sold $400 worth before breakfast. There was an upperwardly mobile executive woman heading into the building and when Tom asked her to buy a chance on the go-cart. She snapped "I don't have time for this" as she brushed on by. Tom said I understand mam....the kids at Camp Smile-a-Mile don't have a lot of time either. The woman's pace slowed as she entered the building. Tom turned back and asked others coming into the building to buy a ticket. The woman who was in a hurry came back. She said "I'm sorry I was rude to you. I actually have plenty of time." She bought twenty tickets.
Late that November we learned of a man in Hueytown who had fallen ill and his family was up against the wall. There were a number of factors that contributed to their condition, but their circumstances were sad. They didn't have the luxury to think about Christmas presents for their three small children because they were worried about where their next meal would come from.
I felt so badly for the family and I decided that I/we should do something. I sat down and wrote an email to everyone in our building. At that time a few thousands folks worked there. I must have been in "the zone" that evening because the words I chose were eloquent and painted a compelling picture that touched hearts. The next day money started to show up in company mail. Some of it was checks, some was gift certificates for food, and a lot of it was cash sent anonymously with the simple instructions "for the family."
We raised more money in a few days than I ever imagined. I know for a fact that it help a family through a very difficult time.
After that I did use the email appeals every now and then, but only when the need was great. But it was then that I realized the power of words.

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