When I was 15, my dad took me to see Alien, the movie. It was a milestone for me for two reasons. One, it was my first R rated movie, and two, it instilled in me a fear of space monsters that still exists today. While I generally don’t run into acid-for-blood aliens, I do occasionally encounter spiders, my other deep-seated fear.
Upon being surprised by an arachnid, I approach coronary failure, but this is nothing compared to what happens to a coworker, who we’ll call Stacie. Stacie experiences apoplectic panic. She becomes completely unhinged…for hours. If ‘freak out’ becomes a clinical description, she’ll own it. The only thing she can do is go home to calm down. Her day is over.
Some time last year, one of our coworkers sent an email around that included a picture of pure 8-legged villainy. When I opened it, my eyes got big, I couldn’t talk, my pulse rate went through the roof, but neither my heart nor brain exploded. I collected myself, and then I thought about Stacie. She was on the distribution list! I sprinted down the hallway to her office, barged in and yelled, “Back away from the computer right NOW!” Squinting at me as you might any deranged co-worker, she cautiously rolled her chair away from her desk. Disaster averted. “Stacie, there’s an email in your inbox you really don’t want to see. Delete it now. Do not open it.” Her eyes softened with understanding. Stacie was grateful, and I felt downright chivalrous.
What does any of this have to do with the United Way of Salt Lake?
Well, I’m the chair of TDW’s United Way campaign this year, and my experience with Stacie reminds me what our co-workers do when they contribute – they think about someone else. I was proud of my selflessness after the Infamous Spider Email Incident of 2014, but in talking to coworkers about their United Way contributions, I realized that I’m a small fish in a big pond. Take this comment from one of our people:
I lived overseas for 17 years in Africa and India. I’ve seen the worst of poverty and was unable to help everyone there so I helped no one. As an ex-hippie with a Christian heart, I feel a duty to help my fellow community members. I have more than enough, it is only right to give a little back. It makes for good karma and United Way of Salt Lake spreads it around.
I’ve always liked this guy, perhaps because he’d sell me his season tickets to Utah football games, but now I want to grow up to be just like him. He even signed this note back to me with “Peace & Love.” Groovy, man.
Here’s another one that resonated:
For me, I love United Way’s effort toward helping children. As a mother, I want to make sure my child has a proper education, doesn’t go hungry, and has every opportunity to be their best. I know there are children who don’t have access to the same opportunities. It tugs on your heart strings to think of a child in your own community who might go hungry, be worried about shelter, isn’t supported in their education, etc.
It would be natural for a mother to focus entirely on her own children, but this one spreads her love and support well beyond her family.
There are many more comments like these, and they’ve taught me that selflessness is a way of life at TDW. It begins with the TDWilliamson family who owns the company (and matches our contributions dollar-for-dollar), and it extends to the generosity of its most unassuming employees.
I’d like to say I emulate that behavior, but the best I could come up with was rescuing Stacie from a picture of a spider.**
*It’s still a bastion of pure vile and evilness, and I’m still a hero for saving her. At least in my own mind.