You know those days at work when you feel like all hell has broken loose? The days where the phone hasn’t stopped ringing, you’ve got 1,000 unopened emails in your inbox, and everyone you know needs everything NOW? Yesterday was one of those days. So when 6pm rolled around and I needed to transform myself into the Volunteer Chair of the San Diego Tour de Cure and lead our meeting, I was feeling…less than prepared. Or adequate. Or sane actually. In fact I felt like I’d stuck my finger in a light socket and my brain was just one vibrating pile of mush. Not like a leader in the slightest.
I sat down at the table at the ADA Headquarters and picked up the meeting agenda to quickly run through my bullet points before the other Committee members arrived. I’ve been volunteering for five years with the San Diego Tour de Cure, and this is my second year serving as the Volunteer Chair. If you don’t know about the Tour de Cure, it’s a series of bike ride fund raising events from which the proceeds go to diabetes research and programming – and there’s most likely one in a city near you since there are 80 rides across America throughout the year. If you have diabetes and you’ve never been to a Tour de Cure, I can say this for certain; you’re missing out! The Tour is all about honoring people with diabetes, and raising money to hopefully one day find a cure for it. I’ve loved being part of the small crew of volunteers who, along with two paid ADA employees, put on this 1200 rider cycling event every spring. Last year we raised $500,000, and all of it goes to our mission: STOP DIABETES. It’s been a great way for me to connect with the diabetes community here in San Diego, and it combines one of my favorite sports with a cause I’m passionate about.
All that said, I wasn’t exactly feeling it last night. We’re under our fundraising dollars right now, and too low on ridership to make it up. We’ve had several committee members fly the coop this year due to other commitments, and we need to fill their spots. After my crazy insane workday yesterday, I wasn’t feeling like the person who could rally this motley crew.
Until Jerry walked in. Jerry is a new member of the Committee this year. He’s a soft spoken retiree who rocks a mustache and long ponytail of white hair. What you don’t notice at first with Jerry is that he’s got a witty sense of humor, and a tremendous heart. He strolled in to the meeting, holding a cardboard box. He set it down in front of me, without a word. “For Alexis” it said on the top of the box.
“This is for me Jerry?” I asked dumbly, my name clearly stamped in Sharpie on the front.
He nodded. “Yep.” Then he took a seat at the other end of the table.
I pulled the tape off the top of the box. What is this? I wondered. It must be a donated raffle item, or maybe a stack of business cards or…..huh?
Nothing could have prepared me for what was actually in that box. I reached in and pulled out an old-fashioned wooden gavel (check the picture). Attached to the gavel was a note from Jerry that said: “Use Wisely – Jerry.” Below his handwriting was a quote typed on white paper that read: “Power is like being a lady, if you have to tell people you are, you aren’t” – Margaret Thatcher.
It was all I could do to not fall out of my chair laughing! In my moment of weakness, just when I thought I couldn’t be the leader of the pack that night, Jerry had come through with all the inspiration I could ever need. In his subtle but hilarious way, Jerry had let me know that I need to believe in myself as a volunteer and in the power we have to pull off an amazing event, despite any roadblocks. And he had given me a tangible tool to instill just the confidence I needed in that moment.
I opened the meeting with the gavel that night, and the meeting discussions produced some workable solutions for some of our problems, and also gave the Committee the extra push they needed to get out there and recruit for our event. It was a highly productive meeting, and I left there feeling better than ever about the Tour de Cure, and more confident that we’ll hit our goal this year.
The most amazing part of the night though, was realizing that all of us – whether you’re 22 and fresh out of college, a busy working professional, or a retiree – has the power to inspire and lift up another person with simple acts of kindness. And when you come together as a community to share that kindness, you have the ability to touch thousands. When I need a little inspiration in the future, I’m going to get my gavel out.