If In Doubt, Be Helpful
April 1, 2019
I attend conferences frequently and I find myself not being able to head into a windowless room too many times or see too many keynoters before I just need some sunlight and friendship!
Such was the need a few Saturdays ago in Chicago at ASCD where I and 7000 educators descended upon McCormick Place for three days of workshops and speakers. Serendipitously, I connected with my friend, Jeffrey. Jeffrey Benson is the wonderful author of, among many books, the book, Hanging In: Strategies for Teaching the Students Who Challenge Us Most. I use his beautiful and inspirational Ed Leadership article, 100 Repetitions, in my workshops to encourage others to be optimistic when times are tough.
Jeffrey and I decided sunlight and a spot to connect would provide us just what we needed and so we walked to a quieter spot in the conference center. We found two chairs and a table on which to put our coffees and began to talk. Jeffrey lives in Boston and I live in Palo Alto so we often don’t get an opportunity to chat and as we were getting started, we realized that sitting behind a table must have given off the vibe that we were ‘somebodies.’ Somebodies who had information. Knowledge. Guidance. And so our hour of catching up turned into something unexpected and quite delightful.
Between my Midwestern niceness (!) and Jeffrey’s grey beard, which gives him an ‘Uncle Jeffrey’ persona, everyone and their mother seemed to stop by. And we, having nothing formal to do with the conference, nor knowing anything more than anyone else about the locations of sessions, or what time the doors opened for lunch, or the location of the closest restroom, we tried to be helpful anyway!
We met a director of a school from Florida, a publisher from Boston, a woman doing workforce development in Nebraska, a principal of a school in a small town of 400 in Canada and a few others – just because we were sitting behind a table. Our smiles and our question, “Can we help you?” in response to their looks of lost-ness might have had something to do with it too. 🙂 We had moments of helping and, in between, we reconnected. It was a sweet way to spend an hour.
That evening I got my daily Gaping Void email. Gaping Void is a culture design group that produces these terrific graphics that I often retweet because they say so much so easily. That evening’s visual included the words, “If in doubt, be helpful.” I took that advice seriously and the next day I facilitated my workshop and ‘left it on the field’ – meaning I gave my attendees everything I had on Having Hard Conversations – the whole of the materials in digital form to what I hope were a bunch of tangible and immediate takeaways. Given that we need real support from each other in the immediate moment now more than ever, please don’t turn away from someone in need, don’t shirk your responsibility to assist, or decide it’s ‘not your job.’ We need to be there for one another even when the request comes at us at an unexpected moment. See you in the hallways. I promise I’ll try to help you get where you are going.
If you have any questions, comments or topic suggestions, please feel free to email me at Jennifer@jenniferabrams.com. I look forward to hearing from you!
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