Aug 2022


I woke up this morning in a ditch.

Not an actual ditch, thank goodness. My life isn’t Peaky Blinders.

But I was in an emotional ditch created by a series of challenging moments that were eating away at my solid footing. Most of those moments were beyond my control, and none of them were insurmountable on their own. But the gestalt of them all had leveled me, and I’m not someone who is easily leveled.

I tried to go about my day-to-day business but was in a fog. Gotta keep going, I said to myself.

So I started with “work” and opened my inbox.

Usually, opening my email is not uplifting. It’s a slog through calendar invitations, unwanted promotions and fundraising solicitations, slightly diluted by news about a sale taking place on my favorite pair of shoes.

But today, my inbox felt like an intervention.

* * *

First, there was an email from Janet, a long-time friend and Parlay House member.

“I left [the recent Parlay House Book Exchange in NYC] with one of your books but admit that I haven’t started to read it yet. Instead, I went out and bought the book Bea talked about at the event: It’s called All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. I was so moved when I heard her personal story that I couldn’t wait to dig in, and I finished it in a matter of hours.

Last night I shared the wisdom from that book and its role in Bea’s story with a Judge who was being installed as President of a national organization committed to improving the way children experience the court system….who welcomed the reference and simplicity of the book.

In that moment, Beatrice’s openness and authenticity was ‘Parlay-ed’ to a person who makes an impact on a broad and meaningful level.”

Wow. Dopamine rushed through my system, as effective as smelling salts.

I snapped back into the present and began to rise from my ditch.

Janet was telling me that the organization I had founded to connect women and create meaningful conversations had done what was intended, and “The Parlay Effect” – the extension of small acts of kindness, inclusion and inspiration – was now spreading to people who would amplify it.

But there was something more.

The author of that book they were talking about was not new to me.

Its author, Robert Fulghum, was my high school English teacher.

Was this just a crazy coincidence… or something bigger?

* * *

I had missed this book event due to a family emergency, so I reached out to Bea to understand Janet’s reference to her story and to learn why she had chosen that book.

“I was gifted the book when I was a teenager. I left home at Sixteen to go to a shelter for teens and then to a girls’ group home. I was so scared – standing on shaky legs by myself – and I felt like I was perhaps fully standing for the first time. I was so unsure of what to do with all that was before me.

My therapist gave me the book as a gift on my new path of life. Reading it, I felt empowered, encouraged, and understood, despite being in an abusive space where there wasn’t much understanding. It changed the course of my life and has stuck with me.

I was so excited about attending the book exchange. You asked us to bring something that meant something to us, and in all these years, I have always treasured that book. Through it I learned that the mountains I faced might be big, but I could scale them.

I wanted to share my empowered state, especially with women navigating serious, rough terrain. I wanted to share the treasure trove of joy and laughter that heals the soul.

It was a sincere blessing that Janet passed the knowledge I found to someone who will better help others. Its joy multiplied.”

Hearing this from Bea, I was now out of my ditch, standing on my own shaky legs. Thanks to her and Janet, I brushed off the dirt.

Janet and Bea had given me important context and a much-needed reminder that I was doing something important in the world.

Fueled with dopamine, I dove back into my inbox with a more positive view.

* * *

The next email?

A note from Dhaya, another Parlay House member as well as a speaker, performer, soul sister and friend.

“Anne, it’s been a while since I’ve seen you, but I knew you’d want to hear about this.

I was walking along Van Ness the other day, and saw a clearly unwell person lunge at a woman who was dressed for work, in heels etc. The woman had to run into oncoming traffic to avoid the person now almost chasing her. The woman recovered without being hit and safely hid near a building back on the sidewalk. I saw the whole thing happening.

My main concern was not calling the police on the perpetrator but checking in with the woman nearly attacked. She was crying.

I had my mask on, but kept talking to her. I asked if I could walk her to her destination or needed a hug. Suddenly she said, “I KNOW YOU” And I was like “What?” She said, “You spoke at Parlay House! I’m Melody, a Nurse. I loved what you said about nurses.”

Since then Melody and I have hung out, she lives in my neighborhood and two nights ago she came to a show. This felt like such a random story, but I believe Parlay and you had a lot to do with this!”

Double validation in one day! An influx of encouragement and positivity. It’s amazing how being seen can turn the tables on darkness and provide fresh perspective.

I literally felt strength surge back into my body.

I had not spoken with Dhaya in over a month and she would have no reason to know that I needed a hand getting back on my feet.

Some would say this was divine intervention. Others would look to the glory of coincidence and celebrate that luck. Cynics might assert that I get positive feedback and validation at other times in the year – that this wasn’t so unique. They may be right, but there is something special about being reached during a moment of need. It rings louder, sinks deeper and means more.

And since there is no way they could have known that I was in a dark place, I’m taking away a flicker of light and am going to share it forward.

If someone has affected my life in some way, I’m going to let them know.

It may only be a nice blip in their inbox (not quite as good as a shoe sale, but still…). Or… it could be the message that lifts them out of a tough spot, onto sturdier footing and adds an infusion of encouragement that was as transformative as this one was for me. You never know, but isn’t it worth putting it out there?

* * *

What can you do to lift someone else?

Share it Small: Did someone reach out to you in a way that made you feel good? Let them know!

Share it Big: Did someone reach out to you in a way that was much bigger than they even knew? It might be time to take five minutes to reach out to someone else in the same way! Maybe even make it a daily or weekly practice to tell people in your life that you see them, appreciate them or benefitted from something they’ve said or done.

Share it with Me: We all learn from each other. If you have had a revelation, a breakthrough, an insight, or a triumph, we can learn from you so please tell me about it here! I’m collecting stories of these cascades of good for ongoing community building and to track The Parlay Effect in action. I would love nothing better than to hear how you lifted, were lifted, or observed something in others that made you feel good and recognize your power.