Denny Smith
Leadership and Development Trainer

As much as I endorse paying handsome fees to outside speakers, I am proposing a dynamite training session on poverty that won’t cost a dime. Here is all you have to do.

For one of your leadership team meetings this winter, don’t allow staff to drive to the district office. Require everyone to take the metro bus to experience first-hand what their families living in poverty endure.

They might find that to arrive on time for the 10:00 meeting they have to leave their building at 8:30 and walk 10 minutes to the bus stop in below zero weather. Later they wait in the cold at the transfer station for another 15 minutes before boarding their next connection.

They arrive at 9:45 and welcome the 15-minute wait in the warmth of the conference room. The meeting is set to adjourn at noon, but if they don’t leave at 11:50 a half-hour wait for the next bus looms. So, they depart 10 minutes early and miss your closing motivational talk.

This may sound like a hare-brained scheme, but I am guessing if you actually deploy this plan, your administrative team members may never again think that parents of kids living in poverty miss the PTA meeting or conferences because they don’t care. The simple fact is, the buses don’t run at night, or they’re working their second job just to make ends meet. Parents living in poverty care very much and their hearts ache because they can’t always be there for their kids.

The next time you leave the building in the winter and feel the sting of the January air as you walk to your reserved parking spot, imagine how impoverished people feel during their 20-minute walk to the bus stop at six in the morning to get to their minimum wage job.

If you actually take this journey into empathy, the impact will probably be more profound and have a longer lasting impact than the motivational speaker. Local media coverage would send a powerful, thought-provoking message to your entire community and would serve as an impactful public relations piece. Try it and see what happens.

I am guessing that your community would develop a deeper understanding of poverty and its impact on the lives of people from this more than from a motivational speaker. But if you still feel the need for a speaker, I am available.

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