I recently had the opportunity to speak at a convention for soccer coaches. While I was excited about speaking I was also really looking forward to some one-on-one conversations that I had scheduled. I was purposefully using my downtime to connect with some really good people.
For the last year, I have been working remotely with Sarah Dwyer Schick, the Founder of The Sports Bra Project, but this event was the first time she and I would actually be in the same place. We agreed to meet in the hotel lobby to talk, brainstorm, and dream about how we can continue to work together to empower girls and women both locally and globally. When I arrived in the hotel lobby I knew we would have to find another place to talk because it appeared that everyone at the convention who wanted to meet with someone else had also selected the hotel lobby! But as I surveyed the crowd I noticed a theme; all the men were in suits and all the women were in heels. It was like a giant board meeting was being held in the lobby. These were clearly the people who make decisions on legislation, policy, and funding for various programs and organizations.
Sarah and I decided to make our way upstairs where registration had been held a few days earlier. There were still a handful of tables and chairs that hadn’t been packed up yet and so we found a quiet place to talk. As a looked around I saw a few other small groups and I just smiled. Some of these people I knew by name and others I knew simply because of the work they are doing. These are all people who are doing great things in the world. They are using their voices and platforms for good. Some are using the sport of soccer to make a difference in their local communities and others are impacting people halfway around the globe. The individuals in this room see people’s needs not from a distance but up close and personal. They work among the people they love. They are literally doing the work.
I strongly believe we need good people who can advocate for legislation and policy while speaking ethically about the distribution of funds. But the people I connect with the most are the ones with calluses on their feet, scars on their knees, and dirt under their fingernails. When you walk closely with the people you love you will get a little dirty.
And I’m okay with dirt under my nails …