Yesterday, I hosted a mentoring session with an entrepreneur and two members from a group that partners with us here at the Innovation Hub and volunteers the time of highly seasoned, accomplished mentors. I was the host, which means I only had to make sure everybody found their way to the room and got introduced. I was not going to be part of this session. The entrepreneur was very polite as he walked in and greeted me, as I waited outside the elevator on the 4th floor to point him in the right direction. He then introduced me to his son, who happened to be with him because, as I learned later, the original plan to spend the day with the grandparents on a Spring Break Monday suddenly changed. The little boy – no more than ten years old – shook my hand, looked me in the eye, and greeted me back saying my name clearly. We walked into the room and I introduced the two mentors who were inside waiting. The entrepreneur very politely and formally greeted the mentors, introduced his son, and the son went ahead and greeted each of the two mentors as assertively as he had done the same with me a minute before. The dad explained the boy’s presence, and then the boy sat quietly on a side chair, pulled a notebook from his backpack and started working on something. The meeting got started and I left, feeling impressed by the maturity of this young man and good about the impact this kind of exposure and coaching by his dad will have on this boy for the long term.

The Saturday before I had to get up at 6:30 am and get ready, and later drag my younger daughter out of bed so she could get ready to leave and be at this service project at 8 am. We had been out late the night before at a big dinner gathering with other friends, and she had fallen asleep on a couch an hour before we left there. She was tired, and as we were getting ready to leave the house in the morning she asked me how many hours we would be there. I said “I’ve been told it ends at noon.” She complained – “Can we leave after two hours?”. “I don’t know, don’t worry about it, I think you will like it” I replied. She is very trusting of me when I ask her not to worry about things, so that was all I needed to say. For the past three years, since it started, I knew of this event, had received notice of if through my circle of friends, but had never been able to accommodate it in my schedule.

We were done by 11am. It was an amazing, uplifting experience. That Saturday morning, my 12-year-old daughter and I were part of the very well thought out assembly line logistics operation which took pallets of rice, dehydrated soy protein, condiments and vitamin packets and in two hours, from 9am to 11am, along with a couple hundred volunteers – mostly middle and high school kids along with some parents, transformed these raw materials into thirty-two thousand (32,000), weighted, sealed and labeled meal packets destined to feed about 125,000 people one time in Burkina Faso. Talk about impact. It was a sight to see the kids doing the measuring and pouring through funnels, while others held bags underneath, or operated scales and heat sealing machines, swaying to the latest pop hits blaring through the loudspeakers. The organizer lady would come on the loudspeakers every half hour or so to inform on the progress, followed by cheers and high fives from the crowd. As we left, my daughter asked me when was the next time that we could do this again.

On Saturday, two hundred mostly very young people took two hours of their spare time, which they would have most probably devoted to entertainment activities typical of this age group, to help make possible 125,000 opportunities to feed another person.

On Monday, it took 2 hours of highly valuable time from deeply wise, skilled mentors, to multiply the opportunities of one entrepreneur of advancing his route to market.

The gentleman who started the food packing project three years ago was present on Saturday – although I did not meet him. The idea lit up in his head, he approached the right people, squared away the donations and the logistics, and now has a recurring project that helps people in need of nourishment – both physical and spiritual. He built something that creates immeasurable value for thousands of people here and overseas. I’m sure he had to knock on some doors and cold call on people, and use persuasive people skills to find his way and assemble all the resources he did the way he did it.

I wonder if as a little boy, decades ago, his dad or a close relative lit a flame, built him up and coached him on the way to approach and impress people with assertiveness and courtesy.

Our View from the Top – March 27, 2018