Walk a Mile in My Shoes

Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.”

There’s no doubt that this cliché statement is more often said than done… until recently.  As part of an activity with Connect Florida, a statewide leadership institute for emerging business leaders, my fellow classmates and I had an exceptional opportunity to experience a month in the life of someone faced with challenges we, as emerging business and community leaders, could barely fathom.

Thanks to the United Way of Northeast Florida, we participated in a one-hour “Poverty Simulation” that transformed our fortunate lives into what it’s like for someone living under the poverty line for a month.

Left: Connect Florida participants had to navigate everyday challenges with limited resources like getting kids to school and coordinating daycare. Right: A key takeaway for the group was the impact of transportation challenges.

This experience was more than eye-opening, it was life-altering. While just for a brief moment we felt the stress, anxiety and heartache of having to make tough choices like providing food for your family or keeping the lights on, the effect was long-lasting. I’ve found myself going back to this moment as I buy groceries, make dinner for my family or even drive my own car to work. Simple tasks that I’ve typically taken for granted now seem incredibly valuable.

So what? You might ask… so you felt something, but what did you do about it? That’s the best part. This experience afforded me a new perspective on ways to help those in need. It is truly by having a better understanding of what someone else experiences that we are able to find creative, inspiring and productive ways to help provide comfort or support. Beyond advocacy, volunteering, mentoring and donating – which are all awesome ways to give back – sometimes it’s just as simple as having a bit more compassion for others, not knowing the challenges they face every day.

As a communicator, I focus much of my work on how to provide an emotional connection to a brand, experience or service, and more importantly, how to move people to action. At ChappellRoberts, we are rooted in a culture of community service that makes this all the more inspiring. The lessons learned from the simulation will provide a fresh look at our own work in helping those in need. Simple in its concept, but powerful in its message, this simulation was one of the most inspiring calls to action I have ever personally experienced.

Thank you to Connect Florida and United Way of Northeast Florida for allowing me to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. It was a great exercise in perspective.

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