Friday, May 14, 2010

Confidence is Contagious

PCMA member Jean Tracy, senior national sales director for the George Fern Company, is living proof that confidence and compassion are contagious.

Tracy is a longtime volunteer for Healing Hands for Haiti, a non-profit organization which provides rehabilitative services to Haitians, It was Tracy's idea that I accompany the group to Haiti, and she convinced me, with a couple of phone calls and e-mails, that such a trip was possible. In Haiti, whether it was reorganizing overflowing pharmacy shelves or figuring out a way to salvage construction supplies amid post-earthquake wreckage, Tracy boldly moved forward toward solutions, without a lot of fanfare. After spending an hour in Tracy's company at a Haitian orphanage, a volunteer from the U.S., a teacher from New Hampshire, looked over at me and declared: "I'm just going to follow Jean around."

I concluded the story I wrote about Healing Hands for Haiti with a note on Tracy's continuing relief efforts in Austin, where she lives. She was purchasing a shipping container and was collecting tents and clothing for the Haitians left homeless by the quake. You'd think I would have learned something in Haiti about how Tracy's unshakable confidence inspires others to get on board. But I got a lump in my throat, thinking of Tracy in Austin, spending her spare time collecting tents and clothing. It seemed -- like so much of what I saw in Haiti -- to be like bailing out a boat with an eyedropper.

So I was delighted -- and had to laugh a little at myself -- when she forwarded me a message from the George Fern Company COO Aaron Bludworth to his employees. Bludworth is making Tracy's tent drive a company-wide effort. He's even sponsoring a friendly contest to spur participation: whichever of the company's two dozen branch offices bring in the most tents to ship to Haiti will be treated to a barbecue. "It doesn't take much," Bludworth wrote to employees, " to make a difference."

Especially when mixed with confidence and compassion.

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