Month 8: Leveraging Your Strengths


What Gifts Do You Offer?

Facilitator: Today’s practice requires that the group be invited to journal for two minutes each about two questions:

  1. If you had a magic wand and could right one injustice, what would it be and why?
  2. What strengths and gifts do you have that would benefit other people, if shared?

Facilitator: After journaling, invite every participant to find a partner and take two minutes to share their reflections on these questions.

Facilitator: After partner reflection, invite everyone back to the big group and ask participants to share about anything that came up in your groups. (Take about 10 minutes.)

Facilitator reads:

I will now read today’s business parable for reflection. We reflect here for these few minutes, less in a book club kind of way, and more in a “savoring a sacred text” kind of way. Let the words touch you. I will read the parable slowly. Just note anything that connects with you. When I finish reading we will go around the circle and I’ll ask everyone to share a word or phrase that stood out for them. Then we’ll conclude.



Everyone Has Something to Share

What if we each offered what we had, in the ways that we could? Science now shows that what you do creates the world around you. And, people tend to do what others do! Adam Grant, a professor at the Wharton School, has researched and written about people as “givers” and “takers.” He says some of us show up in every situation ready to give what we can, and some tend to take whatever we can get. The majority of us, however, fall in the middle and simply respond to the culture around us. Therefore it takes relatively few “givers” to change the culture of a community. In other words, if you give love first, you are likely to connect with many people.

This is a story of three typical people at work.

Story 1: Miami-Dade Police Officer Vicki Thomas, 55, was dispatched to look into a shoplifting case at a Publix grocery store, and the store manager led her to the crying Jessica Robles, a woman with no prior arrests.

“I said, ‘Okay, what did she take?’ And the manager pointed to a grocery cart that was full of groceries,” Thomas said.

“I’ve been on [the job] 23 years, and I went, wow. She just filled up the grocery cart and she just walked out, which shocked me and I asked her, ‘Why?’” Thomas recalled.

“She said, ‘My children were hungry.’ And that immediately impacted me. My grandchildren flashed before my eyes.”

Thomas took the woman to the police car, completed her paperwork and then Thomas asked her to wait a few minutes.

“I grabbed my debit card, ran back into the store and when I walked out she saw that I had the cart of groceries and she burst out in tears and asked if she could hug me, which is kind of unusual for the suspect to be hugging the officer,” Thomas said with a laugh. “I let her hug me.”

The woman didn’t have a car, so Thomas loaded the groceries into the police car and gave her a ride home.

At Robles’ house, Thomas met two of the three children.

“She went into the house and said, ‘Come outside. The officer bought us groceries,’” Thomas said.
Two of her three little children came outside to help bring in the groceries. This woman’s babies were hungry. These little kids immediately began going through the bags asking, “Can I eat this? Can I have that?”

With quiet humility, Thomas said, “I honestly didn’t imagine the magnitude of how bad it was ….”

Story 2:  Jenice Corona opened her North Carolina-based restaurant eight years ago because she loved to feed people. She was a nurturer, a nourisher, and happiest when her dining room was full of smiles and good food. Her restaurant was next to an alley where people experiencing homelessness congregated. There she met adolescents who had left abusive and neglectful homes, young adults who had termed out of foster care, and veterans struggling with health issues and traumatic memories of war.

Jenice is also an immigrant who originally came to this country with her family as a child to escape war. She too knew what it was like to be hungry. In all of these people she saw shared pain and humanity. Jenice said she knew that she did not want to become a person capable of walking past hungry humans and into a kitchen of bounty each and every day. But she also wasn’t wealthy and she lived off the thin 3% margins of her little restaurant.

Her solution? First she identified that a large soup of the day plus bread was her menu’s lowest cost, and also healthy and hearty meal, retailing for $7. The hard cost for ingredients was $2.50. She decided to ask her customers with each order whether they wanted to “pay it forward”: they could tack on a $2.50 bowl of soup to their order, and she donated her overhead and labor. She also began a community conversation series to build knowledge about suffering and to build connections. Her customers have shown up fully — and now she never has to turn anyone hungry away. She is always able to offer anyone hungry, a warm bowl of soup.

Story 3:  Aaron Steed and his brother Evan founded Meathead Movers in 1997 in Southern California when both were still students. Almost immediately they started to get phone calls from frantic women desperate to get immediate help moving themselves and their children in the narrow windows of time that their abusers were away from their homes. Aaron Steed says, “Even though it was 17 years ago, I remember that first move as the most important thing I had ever done. Getting a hug from someone who’s crying and thanking you for saving their life, for allowing them to start over and for giving them the ability to finally be safe, that’s the first time I ever felt that I had done something truly meaningful.”

Helping people escape from abuse wasn’t something the Steed brothers had planned for. The first few calls they received asking for help, they assumed would be isolated incidents. But the calls kept coming every month. Aaron realized “This is a big problem that no one’s talking about.”

At first the brothers and their moving company worked directly with the domestic violence victims — and they moved each of these women and their children for free. But one day, the abusive partner of one of the clients turned up during a move and the situation became volatile. The brothers realized they needed to make a change to protect their clients and their staff so they partnered with a Women’s Shelter program, which was well equipped to ensure the moves were done safely. The brothers got letters of gratitude from the women they helped and one ended with a “p.s. Every night my daughters and I pray for all the people who helped us. My three-year-old always says, ‘Don’t forget the big guys with the big truck.’”

As word got out, others asked how they could help. “We’re just a moving company, in an industry as old as the hills, but our story inspired them.” Soon other businesses began to come forward to help. Companies offering furniture, clothing, free haircuts — all coming together to support these families in starting over. Now, says Aaron, “We’re hoping to create awareness that you are not alone. If you are getting abused — help is on the way. There is a group of business professionals willing to go into action right now to get you out of that situation and to help you rebuild your life.”

The story of Meathead Movers was excerpted and adapted from an article at
The story of the Miami Dade police officer was excerpted and adapted from an article on ABC News.

Wrapping Up Your Circle

To close your gathering, go around the circle and invite each participant to share a word or phrase – something about the story that stood out or touched each person.

(Facilitator might want to model by starting first, then go around the circle.) 

Thank you. I invite and encourage you all to use these practices & parables in other settings – staff meetings, or at group gatherings with other business and community leaders. We are joining hundreds of other communities in doing this. Together, we can choose to meet these times with courage, and we can #ChooseConnection.

Share Your Stories

Have a story about how your company is defying “business as usual” or how the members of your circle develop a new tool or process to help others? Please share your stories so others may be inspired by your experience. We welcome you to email us stories, feedback, or photos at any time. On social media, use the tag #ChooseConnection so we can repost.