Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Just 90 Seconds: Excerpt on Approaching

The excerpt below illustrates the second principle from Elia Moreno's presentation on nine impacting principles, which were featured in yesterday's blog.  See notes at the bottom of the post.

Approaching with Gentle Steps

It has been two weeks, and I am settled in my Big Brothers Big Sisters office. I am still struggling; daily, I find myself just going through the motions. I ask God for passion in this new endeavor. I am eager to do something for others. I await the opportunity to learn, and my desire is to grow to love what I do. It isn't long before a coworker invites me to a BBBS (Big Brothers Big Sisters) activity that is being held at a nearby school. I accept the invitation, not knowing what to expect. Activity day is here, and I find my way to the elementary school. I sign in at the office and ask for directions to the library. As I enter, I glance over the crowd of adults and children. I grab my lunch and look for a place to sit. I gently approach a table with others already seated. It is a man named John; he is the mentor to the 10-year-old-boy that sits next to him. I smile as I take my seat at their table. I sit quietly and say nothing as they are deep in conversation.

I begin studying the activity taking place. There is laughter and excitement all around. After a few minutes I notice Joe, the 10-year-old boy sitting at my table. He begins to look towards the door as if in anticipation. I follow his lead, and I, too, start looking towards the door. I begin to daydream of what will come through the door, maybe a mascot, maybe ice cream, or perhaps it’s time for recess. It doesn't take long before the guessing is over. A few moments later, I notice a small shadow in the doorway. This little guy, he is about 6 or 7 years of age.

Joe jumps to his feet, and quickly begins motioning for this little guy to come over. I watch as he makes his way to the table. His eyes gazing the floor as he walks. Gently with his head bowed, he approaches the table and as he reaches Joe, he is asked to shake Joe’s mentor’s hand. The little guy nods no without ever lifting his head. By this point, it is apparent that this little one has been damaged somehow. Joe begins to speak in Spanish, and John the mentor has no idea what he is saying. He calls the child by name, "Ben, shake this man’s hand." Ben nods again. Joe continues to try and convince Ben to shake his mentor’s hand, to no avail. Finally Joe stoops down, and with his little hands he cups Bens face. He raises it so they make eye contac,t and he speaks these powerful words. "Not all men are bad Ben, this is a good man." Joe then lifts Bens little arm to help him shake his mentor’s hand.

I sit unable to move or react. I get up and walk out of the library as my emotions take over. I get it! I get it! It hits me like a ton of bricks. My eight months of agony were worth this very moment. That day in the library, I understood the power of acting rather than reacting. It would be another year before I would fully understand all of what had just occurred. This mentor had just changed Joe's life, in such a way that a generation of people will now live in hope and opportunity. 
Joe’s mentor acted by showing value to this child, an intentional approach made all the difference. If you’ll allow me to share another memory, it will be easier for you to remember the power of approaching.

This memory comes to mind as we begin to talk about how we approach others. Whether we realize it or not, it impacts the person we are approaching. Think of an instance when you were upset at someone. Perhaps you had to approach them about whatever made you mad. How did you approach them? Did you stomp your feet or walk hurriedly? By the time you reached your point of contact the person probably already had a clue about how you felt. Is it fair that bystanders might have experienced your approach as well? Like it or not, whatever we are feeling, people around us experience it, too.

Now think of a loved one, someone you haven’t seen in a while, maybe a solider coming home after a lengthy deployment. How do you approach him? The approach would probably be much different. If it were me, it would look like this. I would be approaching at a slow jog, and my arms would be flailing in the air. There would be screeching at the top of my lungs,while I danced a jig in midair, and it wouldn’t be long before my jog would turn into a run. Hey, but that’s just me. Did this approach impact the people around me? I would say…absolutely.

So now let me ask you this. How do you approach your students [clients, mentees]? How do you approach their parents? How do you approach your local barista? After 20 years of research, I have come to the conclusion that it takes approximately 90 seconds for a transaction to occur in a retail establishment. So that tells me that we have a whole 90 seconds to impact someone.

For instance, let’s say I am approaching a cashier, and as I am approaching my phone rings. Now I have two choices, one is to answer the phone, and two is not to answer the phone. If I answer the phone, I am telling the person in front of me that he or she is not as important as the person calling me. I haven't even answered it yet so it may be a wrong number or a telemarketer. Now if I don't answer, I automatically show value to the person standing in front of me. Without even saying one word, I am saying to the person in front of me, you are valuable, you are worth my attention. 'That old saying "sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me." Not true, words are hurtful, and sometimes the lack of words is even more hurtful.

Sounds like a no brainer, but it’s not easy. We are all busy and usually in a hurry. It is going to take your being intentional with your time in order to impact others the way you want. So let’s start by practicing. A great way to practice is to go shopping. This will give you many opportunities to get it right. So you know what that means, yes, a lot of shopping will take place. I apologize in advance for all those hours in the shoe store.

Source: Just 90 Seconds, PDF, page 3 

Elia Moreno is available to host on-site training over this material. If you would like more information, please contact us at

Building Resilience in Our Youth, August 20, 2013, Seattle University

Note: Elia Moreno has a blog,, and has written a book soon to be published.

Also, Cal Farley's, for whom Moreno works as community engagement coordinator, has recently opened a Family Resource Center in Oklahoma City. Moreno lives in Amarillo, Texas.

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