I’ll buzz them in so you’ll know when they are coming, okay? Okay, so just stay there calm. Don’t worry about it. I’m gonna sit right here so they see that you didn’t try to harm me, okay. It’s gonna be all right sweetie. I just want you to know that I love you. I’m proud of you. That’s a good thing that you’ve just given up and don’t worry about it. We all go through something in life.
– Antoinette Tuff, from the 911 transcript, via MSNBC
Forgive me if this seems a side-step from what I usually write about. But I can’t get this woman, and her astounding act of humanity, out of my mind.
If you don’t know who Antoinette Tuff is, or what I’m talking about, you can read her story here. In short, she faced a very dangerous situation not with fear (though she was afraid) and not with force (though many would have applauded that) but with empathy. With love. With concern for the troubled human being in front of her.
I do believe we all have that capability. But how many of us would have had the strength to find it and use it?
And maybe that’s where this does touch on our profession. Because it’s that humanity, the ability to see another and respond with empathy and love, that we’re supposed to cultivate. Certainly, we want to encourage it in our donors. To be more effective, we try to put ourselves in their shoes. We want to connect them with their own empathy toward the people who need their help. Smart fundraisers understand emotion is what connects. All the facts in the world only take you so far. One pure moment of human caring is priceless.
When Antoinette Tuff faced a dangerous weapon in the hands of a dangerous person, she chose to relate to him, person to person. She told him about her own struggles, hoping her honesty and caring would inspire a similar reaction. She told him she loved him. She chose to focus on his needs, not her fear. There are lessons in that for us as fundraisers, and as people.
I enjoy many aspects of my work. There’s the fun of creativity. There’s the challenge in keeping score and tracking your progress. There’s satisfaction in connecting people and causes. But I think beyond tactics and technique, what we do touches something essential in us. We have a chance to connect with other people in a more meaningful way. We’re most effective as fundraisers when we focus on our donors’ needs and the needs of the people our organizations serve. We’ll be better people, too.
I doubt I would have had Antoinette’s courage. In a fight or flight situation, I’m likely to run and hide.
But because I do what I do, I have the chance, every day, to get closer to her example. I can inch toward meeting other people with love, instead of fear.
I’m privileged to do the kind of work that invites people to do that. I hope you feel that way, too.