|I have a confession. Although you've been involved with Make-A-Wish for decades and told me countless wish stories, I've never been moved to tears. Until this weekend.|
|Why? It is not like you were at Tommy Austin's 80th birthday celebration on Saturday. Almost none of the speakers could get through their comments without crying. As you know, there would be no Make-A-Wish without Tommy, as it all started back in 1980 with him wanting to do something special for Chris Greicius, a 7-year-old boy who was battling leukemia and wanted to be a police officer.|
|Those are the facts, yes. But when you invited Sawyer to join you, and emailed us the link to the story that inspired Make-A-Wish video, it sat in my inbox until Saturday afternoon. I was clearing emails and found it, and thought it was a good time to watch it, especially since I knew you were at the party. And that's when the facts of Make-A-Wish became something so much more.|
|You may have been watching it at the same time we were, as they used it to open the tribute to Tommy. I have known him for decades, so am very familiar with the story, but it is a powerful reminder of how people came together to grant a young boy his wish, and how that single wish touched so many lives.|
|Yes, the ripple effect it created was truly amazing, as it led to the creation of The Make-A-Wish Foundation. But what brought me to tears, and made me go through more tissues than I'd care to admit, were the words of Chris's mother, "This was something I was totally helpless to do" but that Tom was able to pull it off with help from others.|
|I cannot imagine the helplessness a parent must feel when their child has a serious illness.|
|Trust me, hearing those words made my heart hurt. But I smiled when one of the other founders explained that after Chris had passed, with his wish having been fulfilled beyond his wildest dreams, that everyone involved looked at each other and said, "There are more children out there; let's go find them" and how it snowballed from there. It made me want to cheer and shout, "Yes!"|
|"Snowballed" is an understatement. Now, 41 years later, Make-A-Wish has made such a huge difference … granting more than 500,000 wishes, with chapters around the world … and bringing hope and joy to the wish kids and their families.|
|I can't begin to imagine how proud Tommy Austin must be to know that his simple desire to make one boy a little happier would lead to so much more.|
|The word I would use is "humble," as Tommy believes he is merely the messenger and refuses to take any credit, explaining he was only trying to make Chris' life better. But, there was a room full of people who saw it differently, and told heartwarming stories about Tommy.|
|It sounds like it was the best 80th birthday party ever, and he certainly deserved it.|
|It was so much more. And, we surprised him by announcing that in honor of his 80th birthday, The Make-A-Wish Texas Gulf Coast & Louisiana had created a "Circle of 80" to kick-off the Tommy Austin Wish Fund.|
|That's so perfect. Although I've never met him, from watching the video I think that the best gift one could give Tommy would be to help grant the wish of a Make-A-Wish child. For that matter, it may be one of the greatest gifts any one of us could give …|
Well, my younger daughter, Sawyer, is a high school senior. And it's November. Which means that we're in the midst of the college application process. It's exciting. It's also very stressful. So, I thought I'd share a few tips that I've recently learned in the hope you'll find them useful. But first a disclaimer!
I'm definitely not a college admissions expert and it's been decades since I applied to college. (I used a typewriter to complete my applications!) And even though this list isn't definitive, I think these items alone could make a big difference.
- LEAVE AMPLE TIME – Even if you can write an award-winning essay the night before it's due, you can't expect others to do the same.
- BE STRATEGIC – This critical first step is often overlooked. Decide what you want to highlight (experience, skills, personal traits, etc.), write them down, and then identify people who can talk about that side of you.
- SELECT PEOPLE WHO KNOW YOU WELL –The wider the range of people, the better. You're looking for people who know you so well, they can talk about your qualities in a way that brings you and your personal story (we all have one) "to life."
- REVIEW THE REQUIREMENTS – Letters of recommendation usually fall into two categories – Teachers and Other. However, different schools have different parameters, so check the instructions carefully.
- MAKE THE "ASK" – Let them know why you picked them, why you value their insight, what you'd love for them to focus on (most people appreciate some guidance vs. staring at a blank sheet of paper) and last, but not least, make sure you properly thank them!
- TRACK AND, IF NECESSARY, FOLLOW UP (nicely, of course) – Ok, please tell me this is self-explanatory.
- YOU'RE ACCEPTED INTO COLLEGE! – Send a thank you to everyone who took the time to write a letter for you. It can be a short note, but let them know they were an important part of the admissions process. Trust me, it will only take you a few minutes but it will be remembered by them for a very long time.
I wondered what Black thought about Letters of Recommendation, so I asked her. As always, she had a different perspective and provided insight as the person either writing or reviewing recommendation letters. She then commented that her thoughts might help you create a better "ask."
- It should be clear that the author of the letter knows the student and WHY they were selected to provide a recommendation.
- Academic achievements and technical skills are important, but emphasis should also be placed on soft skills (things like communication skills, leadership, problem solving, teamwork).
- Visually, the letter should be easy to skim and still identity key points.
When I read the "Breaking News" email about the passing of Colin Powell from
complications from COVID-19, I realized that many of us didn't even know he was
being treated for illnesses that weakened his immune system. To me, he always seemed to be one of those
incredibly strong and resilient men that could overcome anything, as I knew he served
as the country's first Black
national security adviser (during the Reagan administration), chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff (under President George H. W. Bush) and secretary of state
(under President George W. Bush).
I first became aware of Powell during Operation Desert Storm and was living in Hong Kong at the time (shortly after I married a Brit, Shell assigned him to the Far East). I can remember being halfway around the world from home while watching seemingly non-stop news briefings featuring "Storming Norman" Schwarzkopf, with his "larger than life" details about the extraordinary precision of the airstrikes. At the time, it almost seemed more like a computer game than an actual war.
However, Powell had a far greater impact on me as he exuded calm mixed with steely determination, projecting an air of confidence that you sensed came from experience and deep personal commitment. And at this time of war and conflict, he provided a comforting feeling of power and control.
|I will not pretend to be a history
buff, nor will I reflect on Mr. Powell's greatness as a military figure, statesman,
and trailblazer. I will leave that to others. But, several things stand out about Powell as
a man. First, he put America ahead of political party, stating,
"I'm just a citizen who has voted Republican, voted Democrat, throughout my
entire career, and right now I'm just watching my country and not concerned
Thanks to Punchbowl News, I learned that as a young man, he worked in a toy store, and the owner, a Russian immigrant Jew, admired the young Powell so much that he impressed upon him the importance of getting an education. Powell was so touched by this that he stayed in contact with him for the next 50 years. (I loved the sprinkling of Yiddish phrases as Powell tells the story.)
Of course, I could not help but smile rewatching this video of Powell along with two other motorheads, Jay Leno and (at the time) Vice President Biden "racing" Corvettes. And, may explain why one of my many favorite Powell quotes is, "Always focus on the front windshield and not the review mirror." But in his passing, you cannot help but look back over all he did for our country.
Our thoughts and prayers are with his family. May he rest in peace.
Want good customer service? Good behavior is a good start.
BANTER BITE BACKSTORY: We grew up hearing the expression "the customer is always right," and Red certainly agreed with it; and while Black understood the customer service aspect of it, she did question its impact on employees (why would you "automatically" side with a customer over an employee without knowing the details). And that was before the pandemic changed everything, but especially customer behavior.
Until recently, Red didn't think much about why the customer was "always right," but it reminded her of years ago when Black shared her amusing (or, at least, to Red) version of the Golden Rule, "He who has the gold, rules. "So, wouldn't that also apply to customers? Wouldn't a happy customer be a loyal customer?
As much as Black wanted to get into all the reasons why the cliché of the customer always being right didn't make sense, or even that the concept evolved into focusing on positive customer experiences (the pandemic has resulted in some positive changes and trends), she realized that customers' combative behavior is hurting us all, so what needs to be said is,
I get it. Everyone, myself included, is tired of the pandemic and the associated "politics". Emotions are running high, and tolerance and patience are running low. However, none of that is an excuse for rude or aggressive behavior. The customer is not only not always right. But, can be flat-out wrong. Full stop.
Of course, Red, although not trying to minimize the impact of Black's statement, couldn't help but think of a scene in a movie (a car-related one, no less),
One of my favorite scenes from "Ford vs. Ferrari" is when a rather rude and obnoxious customer tells Christian Bale's character (who's British) that "in this country, the customer is always right" and Bale replies, "yeah, bunch of nonsense."