Networking at conferences is a perfect place to test our story. People ask, “What do you do?” and I have about ten seconds to summarize The H. E. Butt Family Foundation. It isn’t easy.
But last month when I shared our story at Agile Camp, two people cried. Actual tears.
The first guy was wearing a suit across the table from me. “We all work on the same team,” he said indicating everyone else at the table. I felt included and outnumbered at the same time.
They worked in insurance, just a few floors above the conference we were attending in Newark, New Jersey. He gave his pitch, “We analyze people on short-term disability who are at risk for moving to long term disability. Then we reach out to them to help them find work before the transition. Once someone gets on long-term disability, they are much less likely to find work again. Long-term disability takes a terrible emotional toll on people.”
For a complicated job, he had his pitch down. I wasn’t going to run home and tell my kids about the exciting opportunities in disability algorithms, but I could definitely see the value of his work—to motivate others to get back in the workforce.
Then he asked the question that I used to dread. “So. What do you do?”
I took a deep breath and said, “I work for a nonprofit in Texas that has a 1,900-acre ranch with several camps on it.
“We serve lots of people, but the vast majority of them are from public schools and other qualifying nonprofit groups who use the facility for free. Because we believe everyone should have a chance to experience natural beauty. Some of our campers are from inner city schools, and they tell us they’ve never seen the Milky Way or they’ve never been swimming in a river. Man, you should see our river.”
At that point, I get out my phone and swipe through half a dozen photos of Blue Hole. Let’s be honest, the pictures are the real pitch.
The second person was a waitress at the pub where I had dinner. It was a sad, lonely dinner, I’ll be honest, and I worked on my laptop the whole time. When refilling my water, she asked what I was so busy doing.
So I gave her my pitch and showed her some of the pictures. She was quiet while I swiped through the photos.
“So. I help with communications for the camps and the retreat centers,” I said.
She said, “I wish my daughter could go there.”
I did too.
This place is special. What we do is special. Sometimes I forget until I’m reminded by a teary-eyed insurance agent or a single mom waiting tables. God, help us not forget.