September 5, 2016

My Long Weekend Of Hope And Inspiration

wheelchair It started in Parksville, British Columbia. It was the beginning of a very hopeful and inspirational few hours.
As the eldest and youngest of my three children were frolicking in a park near the eye-catching waters of Parksville Beach, my eye wandered toward the opposite corner.
“What’s that?” I wondered to myself. This rather large, metallic structure looked nothing like anything I had witnessed before in a public children’s park.
Sure enough, it was unique.
The picture you see to the right is a wheelchair swing. It was the first time I had ever seen such a contraption.
I immediately yelled to the girls. “Claire, Cate … come here and see this.”
We had a chat about equal rights and equality in general. Cate, nine-years old, reminded me that the Paralympics in Brazil were about to start on Wednesday. “So of course there should be a swing for disabled people,” she said to me nonchalantly. I was struck by both Claire and Cate’s attitude. They viewed this park as one, not one divided.
How hopeful. How inspirational.
We moved on to a local coffee shop called Pacific Brimm for some smoothies.
As I waited for the smoothies to be made–while the girls were keeping themselves occupied at a table–I flipped through my phone.
mcdonalds goodnessThere was an update on Facebook from a friend of mine. A screenshot of that update is found to the right.
McDonald’s is a for-profit company. Margins are razor-thin. I have never been to the McDonald’s in Stittsville, Ontario, but Perry and Jo-Ann McKenna–the owners of the restaurant–ought to be proud of the type of culture they have created.
As you can read from the update, a moment of duress turned into a moment of hope, and of inspiration.
After the smoothies, we headed to Coombs, a short 10-minute drive up the highway from Parksville.
We have made the journey in the past. What’s not to love about visiting The Old Country Market, where there are literally goats on the roof. (And they weren’t my children.)
But it’s not the goats that impressed me.
It was the sign you see to the right, parked right in front of Wabi Sabi clothing shop.
If you’re unfamiliar with the story of TOMS, read this fantastic piece by Leigh Buchanan on Inc.
The short version of the TOMS story reads as follows:
“While traveling in Argentina in 2006, TOMS Founder Blake Mycoskie witnessed the hardships faced by children growing up without shoes. Wanting to help, he created TOMS Shoes, a company that would match every pair of shoes purchased with a new pair of shoes for a child in need. One for One®.”
I suppose I was embarrassed, because it was Claire, the 13-year old, who pointed it out to me. “Hey Dad, look at the TOMS sign, isn’t that company so cool?”
Claire knew of TOMS.
I did not.
And here I was, the author of “The Purpose Effect,” a book that profiles many companies who exhibit a higher sense of purpose in their operating ethos, and I was not aware of the TOMS story.
Once we got back to our rented cottage in lovely and picturesque Nanoose Bay, I spent an hour researching the company. Talk about hopeful and inspirational. Wow!
Later that evening, after our dinner and campfire wrapped up, the girls and I watched an incredible documentary titled, Poverty, Inc. Winner of over 50 international film festival honours, the documentary tackles the issue of whether the West and NGO’s in particular are actually helping third-world countries with the vast amount of aid, assistance and financial handouts that have been given out over the years.
In fact, as the documentary argues, unadulterated aid does not help. Ironically, it creates a nation of people waiting for the next handout–a form of paternalism–as opposed to an army of people with the entrepreneurial mindset. TOMS, for example, was highlighted in the film as an organization wanting to do good with its one-for-one shoe program, yet it had created the unintended consequence of helping to create communities used to free shoes.
As I continued my research on TOMS later that night, I discovered it has begun manufacturing shoes in some of the countries and markets where it donates. TOMS answered the bell, now employing more than 500 people in those communities and producing more than 40 percent of the shoes in the communities where they give them away.
The documentary is compelling, but so too was the response by TOMS.
Indeed, the day was another learning experience for me.
It was a day of hope and inspiration.

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