How losing my briefcase enriched my life
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Early yesterday morning, somewhere between Vancouver’s Robson Street and the airport I lost my briefcase – and in it my passport, Macbook and iPad. What a horrible feeling to be standing in the airport – helpless – alongside my colleagues Nancy and Heather just one hour before my flight was to depart, unsure what to do next.
I’d been in Vancouver at an international conference organized by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) where I had heard numerous inspiring award winners and presenters talk about how to make a difference to causes.
- Jamie and Patsy Anderson, awarded the 2012 International Outstanding Volunteer of the Year by AFP, said their lives today would not be as fulfilling without the joy of giving gifts of time and money to organizations that they believe in. But this fulfillment comes not just at moments when giving millions of dollars to charities like Centre for Addictions and Mental Health (CAMH) and the Hospital For Sick Children, but in every day acts of volunteerism for these organizations that make a difference.
- Hockey great Wayne Gretzky spoke of his passion for the game of hockey but not only as a star. He also spoke about his passions specifically, with his every day fundraising efforts to help less fortunate kids find ways to pursue their own dreams in sport, and to create health and social benefits of being active in sport.
- Scott Harrison, Founder of Charity: Water, told how he had a spiritual crisis stemming from an unsatisfied life of partying which drove him back to the values instilled in him by his parents. Now, every day he works to save lives in poor nations by providing one of the most basic human needs – water. He created a new kind of charity that enables Charity: Water donors to see 100% of their donation go to the cause. He believes that true religion and charity involve every day acts and this in part, keeps him going in moments when he is tempted to give up.
- These same principles apply to companies too. Bell Canada was awarded the 2012 Freeman Philanthropic Services Award for Outstanding Corporation in part for its $50 million commitment to the cause of Mental Health in Canada. But Bell executive Mary Deacon pointed out what really matters, is that the company is helping create change through the Bell Let’s Talk campaign by helping dissolve the stigmas associated with mental illness, and helping to make it OK to talk about it.
These examples are well-deserving of international recognition. But I hope you have noticed a common thread. Their achievement of building positive personal and organizational brands are the sum of long term commitments to do good – every day.
Which takes me back to my story. The gut-sick feeling of losing something so personal as my passport and computers (even though the information was secure and backed up) was horrible. But when I approached the WestJet counter, I encountered Maria who immediately empathized with my situation and within seconds had me booked on a flight later in the day (at no charge), relieving the pressure to consider flying home without my briefcase. I had just experienced a WestJet brand experience and it’s good to feel understood in a situation like this.
I still had an awful feeling I’d never see my briefcase again but knew I had to try to find it. The last time I remembered seeing the case was downtown at the SkyTrain station so I hopped back on the Canada Line and headed back down to Station where I had bought my ticket at an automated kiosk.
There I found Peter, a transit worker who immediately understood the value of a passport and the life we have on our computers. Peter noted from my receipt I had bought it at 5:28am and asked the IT people to scan surveillance video at that time to see if I had my bag when I walked away. He also called transit police to notify them a passport was lost, and put out the word to his network colleagues. Within minutes, his colleague Guy was able to pinpoint the exact train I was on, located my briefcase (which thankfully had not been stolen) and waited for me to go and retrieve my valued possession.
The icing on the cake was when I walked into my favorite coffee shop in Vancouver – Artigiano’s, and told the barista what had happened. She smiled and said, “You deserve a free latte today. And don’t forget to buy your lottery ticket. You’re lucky today.”
But I think it was not just luck. And one might also say that each of these people were just doing their job. But I argue they were delivering great brand experiences – a Vancouver City experience, WestJet, Vancouver Transit, and Artigiano’s brand experience.
My experience proves that if you want to do something great, start with something small, every day. And if you’re not doing this already, I implore you to start right now. It will not only make somebody’s day (as it did mine) but eventually these every day mini-acts will add up and you will be recognized for your collective efforts, not just the mini-singleton. What’s more you’ll be working on building your own great personal brand. It’s not out of reach.
I believe Jamie and Patsy Anderson, Wayne Gretzky, Scott Harrison and Mary Deacon would agree with me that it is the every day positive experience which is at the core of great causes. This was the lesson that I learned when I lost and then found, with the help and effort of others who went beyond the call of duty to help me trace my steps and then find my briefcase. That was not part of a training-manual, customer service exercise, but was a cultural override that added value to the service and generated gratitude and future loyalty from the recipient. I am reinvigorated in my work and more determined than ever to champion causes.
Tags: AFP, Artigiano's, Association of Fundraising Professionals, Bell Canada, Bell Let's Talk, CAMH, Charity: Water, Hospital For Sick Children, Jamie Anderson, Mary Deacon, Mental Health, Patsy Anderson, Scott Harrison, SickKids, Sky Train, Vancouver, Vancouver Transit, Volunteer of the Year, Wayne Gretzky, WestJet