USING PERSONAL STORIES TO DISCOVER YOUR SKILLS AND RESOURCES

(You can also use this great technic to become aware about your skills. Simply write or tell a short story about a small, recent thing you did and analyze it looking for the skills you used.)

Story 1: Post-pandemic Welcome Breakfast

When the pandemic was winding down in Amsterdam after the summer of 2021, there was nobody who wanted to be the representative for the Hispanic Community in the international school where my youngest daughter was a student. I decided to volunteer because I couldn’t stand the idea of us having no representative. After that, three other women from Spain also volunteered to help me out.

We were only talking on Zoom, still, because it was right after the pandemic lock-downs and everyone was traumatized about nearly two years of not being able to meet. The kids had to do school at home online. However, the Dutch government had just allowed restaurants to open.

I wanted to bring the Hispanic community together in a place that felt safe, a big space with good ventilation. My good friend’s husband is the general manager in the Hilton at Schiphol in Amsterdam, so I ask her if it was possible to get a good deal for our community. I really wanted to have a beautiful space that was clean and felt safe, because there was a lot of fear and nervousness around Corona virus.

So, our volunteer team of three Spaniards and one Venezuelan (me) began telling the Hispanic community online about the Welcome Breakfast at the Hilton, so they would buy tickets. 

There was a problem though, in my team, there was a woman who didn’t like having this Welcome Breakfast at the Hilton because it required a fee, and before the pandemic the breakfast had been free at the school cafeteria. However, because of corona virus the school cafeteria was off limits for parents. Still, in her so-called promotion this woman said that there was going to be another breakfast that would be free.

In reality, a free breakfast was an impossibility because the school was not allowing anyone to enter the cafeteria. The other possibility to do it free would be in somebody’s house, but no one wanted to go to somebody’s house because the space was small and it felt dangerous. I felt that by her promising a free welcome breakfast later, she would discourage people from signing up to this opportunity to be together, get to know each other and join the community in a well ventilated, safe space.

So I told her. I said, “When and where is your free breakfast? I want my money back from this one I’m planning, so that I can go to your free breakfast. Where is it going to be?” I was quite sarcastic and not very nice in the way I was texting her in our group chat. After I explained that promising this imaginary future breakfast would sabotage attendance to the real breakfast coming up. She got upset and the following day she said that she was not going to work with us anymore because I said that she was sabotaging this breakfast. This created an unpleasant energy in our group.

The next day she said she couldn’t work with me because I had offended her by saying that she was sabotaging, so she quit the team. Now we were only three people left, one who worked elsewhere full time, so she really couldn’t spend much time with us, the treasurer, and me. I regretted the way I handled the situation. There was a better way to explain it; a kind and compassionate way to put my message across. And maybe she really didn’t understand that promising a free event exactly like the one she was promoting where people are paying 30 euros would sabotage attendance.

At that time, I was alone in Amsterdam, both my daughter and husband were traveling. I had nobody to offer me emotional support.

A week before the event I fell down the stairs and hurt my back, but it was not too bad. Still, I could feel some pain and it was uncomfortable. I felt like, “I’m going to go over there and host this event injured and enduring these bad emotions inside my working team.”  Only one of the other volunteers was going to be there, the treasurer, to pay the fee for the event.

So, nearly 30 people attended, almost the whole community. As Master of Ceremony, I welcomed everyone and guided them in introducing themselves. I said things that would encourage them as the city was opening again after repeated lock-downs. I used humor to make people comfortable. I kept order so everyone could hear what each person was saying about who they were, how long they’ve been in Amsterdam, how many kids they had, etcetera.

After that some people had to leave early, but we took pictures of most of the group and everyone had a really beautiful time. In the Hispanic Community Group Chat many people posted messages saying that it had been a joy and a pleasure to attend, that it was a beautiful event, that they had felt welcome in Amsterdam and in the international school and that they were grateful to have such a warm and welcoming community.

In conclusion, it was a success. And you can see that happiness in the smiles in the pictures. People really needed to come together, to feel welcome and to reconnect with other people. After nearly two years when we couldn’t gather anywhere, the space at the Hilton was clean, open, and beautiful. Also, the food was excellent. So, it was a total success.

Learnings about my Skills and Resources

  1. I learned the importance of my network.  I have lots of friends and connections, like my friends at the Hilton in Amsterdam, and reaching out to them can help in getting a beautiful result.
  • I learned that I should be diplomatic as much as possible. I learned not to be sarcastic with people I’m working with. I made a mistake there. Find a diplomatic way to convey my message, as much as possible.
  • I learned that I am resilient in adversity. If someone is trying to sabotage (even without knowing it consciously) and if the people I’m working with have negative emotions, I can still push forward and provide an amazing event.
  • I learned that I am a good Master of Ceremonies. I know how to lead a group and how to help them feel comfortable, happy and welcome by whatever institution or community I am representing.

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I am an artist and Person-Centered Expressive Arts educator. This blog is for sharing my creative work, including demos of intuitive painting, interviews, and other things. Lorena Fernandez