Archive for July, 2007

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Final Thoughts from Washington Business Week

July 21, 2007

As you know, I quit my job. It wasn’t planned. And I wasn’t really looking for a new job but sometimes when an opportunity is this good, you have to have the courage to at least try. Sometimes you just have to ask the pretty girl to dance.

Anyway, I am in love with the new Wilco CD and there is a lyric on track two that always hits home – Happenstance has changed my plans, So many times my heart has been outgrown. And I think that is so true. Happenstance has changed my plans so many times. And the experiences I have had these past few weeks have only reaffirmed that for me.

Because I have been out of town doing programs for Washington Business Week, I have not been updating my blog as much as I wanted to do. But I have some stories that have been rattling around in my head, which I believe are worth sharing. So I present you with three final reflections from Washington Business Week

It’s Embarrassing for Me Too
The majority of my responsibilities at Washington Business Week were to raise money and complete projects that helped facilitate fundraising. Whether I was designing the annual report, writing the quarterly newsletter or placing the finishing touches on a major grant proposal, I was doing things I enjoyed and things that required higher level thinking. However, at the end of the day, I am fundraising for an educational summer camp. And when we head over to our various university locations, I am no longer the development coordinator at Washington Business Week, I am one of the camp counselors for a group of 250 high school students.

I never saw myself as a camp counselor until a student talking on the phone to her mom referred to me as her camp counselor. [Excuse me, I have a master’s degree] is what I thought in my head. But being a camp counselor has its unique challenges and I found myself in more uncomfortable situations during those two weeks than I did over the course of the past 11 months. But nothing topped the girl who asked me for a tampon.

It was late in the evening, I was working the late shift, and the students have free time at this point. I was in our “office” by myself when this 15-year-old girl walked in. She looked disappointed to see me and I thought that was strange. She walks up to me and I ask her what I could help her with. We had the following conversation.

Girl: Hi, um…
Me: [inquisitively looking at her]
Girl: do you have…
Me: Do want water? [we sell .25 cent bottles of water to the students]
Girl: No… [she leans in and whispers] Do you have any… …feminine products?
Me: Uhhh, yeah… uhhh… hold on a second.
[I start to dig through the medical supplies looking for our feminine supply box, it seems like minutes are passing while I scrounge through various tubs]
Me: Uhhh… take what you need.
What the girl didn’t know was that is was just as embarrassing for her to ask for a tampon as it was for me to go get her the tampons. Ironically, this happened to me two more times over the two programs I staffed and each conversation was equally awkward.

At the Gonzaga program everyone goes on a rafting trip. Here is a photo right before I fell out of the raft while trying to move it to shore. Photo taken on July 7, 2007.

At the Gonzaga program everyone goes on a rafting trip. Here is a photo right before I fell out of the raft while trying to move it to shore. Photo taken on July 7, 2007.

A group photo of the volunteers and the staff, after the rafting trip. Photo taken on July 8, 2007

A group photo of the volunteers and the staff, after the rafting trip. Photo taken on July 8, 2007

A photo of me hard at work. I think I am both angry and sweaty in this photo. Photo taken on July 8, 2007.

A photo of me hard at work. I think I am both angry and sweaty in this photo. Photo taken on July 8, 2007.

On Friday night everyone ends the week with a couple of drinks at the bar. This was taken at my favorite bar the Blue Spark. Photo taken on July 13, 2007.

On Friday night everyone ends the week with a couple of drinks at the bar. This was taken at my favorite bar the Blue Spark. Photo taken on July 13, 2007.

My coworker Shannon is giving me a kiss. After working in the trenches with her, I will miss our bantering. Photo taken on July 13, 2007.

My coworker Shannon is giving me a kiss. After working in the trenches with her, I will miss our bantering. Photo taken on July 13, 2007.

Huddled for Warmth
It was over a hundred degrees during the entire week at Gonzaga University. Students were getting heat stroke and we had to take some students to the hospital or call 911 for heat related issues. But one of our business volunteers works for 7-11 corporate. And Steve asked him if 7-11 would be willing to donate ice cream sandwiches to our students and they agreed. We ended up with 500 ice cream sandwiches and Steve asked me to run them over to the walk in freezer behind student union building to store them.

The freezer was fucking awesome. You walk inside the industrial freezer after being in the heat and it was so cold. The sweat is immediately evaporated and after a few minutes, your clothes are freezing. Over the course of the next couple of days, I would smuggle people to the freezer and show them how simply wonderful it was. People loved it.

On the last day at Gonzaga, Steve sent Kyle and me to the freezer to collect the remaining ice cream sandwiches and hand them to students. We brought along an ice chest and head over to the student union building. We walk inside and I close the door. We stand in the freezer and take in the sweet relief from the heat. It was awesome. I gather the sandwiches into the ice chest and pull on the door to leave. It does not open. I turn the lock and it does not open. I pull on the door with all my might and it simply will not open. I look over at Kyle and he laughs.

With our breath visible with every exhale and wearing shorts and flip-flops it was bitterly cold in the 20 degree freezer despite being over a 100 degrees outside. Slightly panicked I use my cell phone to call over to the office. I explain to Erin that we are stuck in the freezer and we need someone to rescue us. She sends Steve over. With the promise of help on the way, I begin to look at the lock in detail and then I realize how stupid I am. I had been pulling on the door and the door pushes out. I shake my head, push on the door and we become free from our icy situation.

Felicia
The heat during my final week at Business Week only aggravated the existing medical conditions that students are afflicted with. And this fact was especially true for a young girl named Felicia. This young girl from Sequim, WA had the worst hard luck story I had heard in a while. She is in foster care because her mother was a crack whore and CPS had to take her away from her when she was about 10. Her father is currently out of the picture but sends Felicia money from time to time. And even through Felicia is 16 years old, her foster parents, now adopted parents, are around 30. Think about that for a minute.

Shannon had to take Felicia to the hospital early in the day because her blood sugar was too high. Felicia suffers from either Type One or Type Two Diabetes (I cannot remember now). The doctors think she got the disease from drinking contaminated water her mother gave her when she was a kid. Shannon returned with Felicia from the hospital with instructions that if she developed ketones in her urine, we should bring her back to the hospital immediately. A few hours go by, Shannon and I are closing up the office for the night, and walks in with the bad news.

So at 11:30 p.m., Shannon and I are headed for Sacred Heart Hospital again. After waiting in the waiting room for an hour and finally getting our hospital room, it was another hour or so until Dr. Apell (pronounced apple – the jokes were quite good around 2:30 a.m.) arrived to see Felicia. The treatment was an IV, insulin and monitoring until she was ready to go.

Very late in the night, Shannon begins to tease me about leaving Business Week. And Felicia very innocently asks me where I am going next. And I tell her that I am actually going to work for a nonprofit that is trying to find a cure for diabetes. And at that moment in the hospital room, we all got a little choked up. Here we all are, all away from home, brought together by coincidence, in a strange hospital at 2:45 in the morning, here because Felicia has diabetes and I just told her my new organization tries to find a cure for the disease that has us all here in the middle of the night. It doesn’t sound that profound as I type it now, but on that hot July night I knew that I had made the right decision about leaving Business Week.

Eventually, Felicia fell asleep. And Shannon and I took turns “sleeping” in the family waiting room and checking in on Felicia. Around 5:00 in the morning, they let her go. We take her to get breakfast while the morning sun was low over the horizon and the sky was filled with bright orange. After everything that happened that night, it was an amazing sight.

I promised Steve that I would work on Sunday finishing some lingering projects. Alone in the Business Week office, I began to slowly clean out all my belongings from the place where I had just worked 11 months at. I moved a stack of papers that were recently placed on my desk and a paper fell out and landed on the floor. It was a thank you note from Felicia. I began to read it. She wrote that “foster care often makes one feel unwanted and unloved.” She continued, “Helping me gave me the reassurance that there are people who care for others, including me. It’s people like you that give people like me light in their future.” I was already sad because I was cleaning out my desk but then I cried when I read her letter.

I carried a box of stuff to my car, locked the office and I headed home from Federal Way to Seattle one last time. The next day I was going to start a new adventure. And I was both excited and nervous and I still wondered if I had made the right decision. But when the knuckleheaded shit at my new job takes me down, I will simply remember the optimism and positive outlook of that 16 year old girl.