“Would you like to buy some Chocolate for Kare for Kids International?”
I am currently enjoying the relative high speed internet (compared to iPhone tethering) of Second Cup coffee house trying to plan out the upcoming week and take a moment to catch up with my thoughts. There’s a lot of truth in Steven Johnson’s TED talk, with respect to coffee shops being a place of thought and idea-meshing – though today for me is more a time of thought and reflection (fertile ground for blog post creation, I might add).
I was lost in a drifting, wayward, thought when a jolt of energy bursted from my immediate left. A kid no older than 11 was blurting at something approaching light speed. To be sure, I was slightly taken aback – I might have muttered “what?” as I struggled to switch context.
Still unable to contain himself, he repeated,”would you like to buy some chocolate for Kare for Kids International?” A millisecond pause as he inhaled at a similar speed. “It would be really helpful. Only $10 dollars for three boxes.”
In stark contrast to his lighting-speak, I slowly explained that I had no cash on me, and had spent more of the day than I wanted to spend hunting for transit ticket dispensers that accepted debit. His eyes started darting around. He was losing interest. But I implored him for details - “what is this organization? What do you do?” After all, this was a young person doing something out of the ordinary, something I love to see and am keenly interested in.
At this point another kid – whom I shall refer to as kid2 – emerged from behind the kid. Somewhat taller and of a slighter build, he didn’t say much – or anything, rather – he simply handed me a thickly laminated (though somehow water stained) information sheet that explained K4K International and what they did. By this time the kid became fixated on the next target somewhere behind me. I took my time and read both sides, eventually handing the material back to kid2 along with a few words of encouragement. He uttered “thanks” along with a slight smite and then reassumed his place trailing the kid.
I would have really liked to have bought their chocolate. Even more though, I really would have loved to offer both of them a few tips in pitching, persuasion, and building good arguments. My few suggestions would have been to focus on building relationships and connecting with people at a deeper level than simply what you are trying to achieve. In essence, treat people as people and not as objectives. Strike up conversation, figure out what their experiences have been with similar organizations. Have they ever encountered poverty or felt the need to do anything about it? Get people excited. Young people doing incredible things have an amazing capacity to do exactly that.
My eyes followed the kid as he progressed towards the door – kid2 in tow – abruptly stopping at each table en route to repeat the same offer he gave me, each time being turned down by some barely legible mumble escaping the mouths of people too consumed to care.
They were a team of two extremes – of fire and ice – the go getter and the strong and silent. But kid knew persistence, and kid2 was ever vigilant – ready and waiting when the time was right. They’ll do well. They’re getting an early introduction to a skillset gleaned through context and practice, not from a textbook, and have lots of time to figure out for themselves what works and what doesn’t. Reminds me of Cameron Herold’s TED Talk.
I only wish I could have helped them learn a little faster.