(Photo courtesy of Zig Baird)
Folks, I wanted to share this story with you all because it’s just so awesome. The following story comes from Victoria Bell, who was the lucky winner of the MacBook Pro at WordCamp Dallas.
I usually try to maintain an â€˜attitude of gratitudeâ€™. Not claiming to be wildly successful at all times, but the key word is â€˜tryâ€™. (Sorry, Yoda – – it appears in my vernacular more often than you would approve of.) Having journeyed through the land of unemployment and self-employment for the last ten months, some days, being thankful requires conscious effort. Today, there is no try. â€˜Thank you, Lord!â€™ is the headline banner scrolling across my forehead right now.
I had no expectations as I entered WordCamp 2009. I was given a name badge, a T-shirt and a raffle ticket. Two weeks prior, an Aromatherapy Meetup event led to a discussion about technical writing. (Go, networking!) â€œYou should go to WordCampâ€, the woman who organized the meeting told me. I gave her my card. The next morning, my inbox contained an email from her with all of the pertinent information. Even though I didnâ€™t fully comprehend (from the presentation titles) what exactly a WordCamp was, in a purely visceral moment, I registered for the almost-free-for-you-today price of $30.00.
A year-long desire to start a blog was tempered by a couple of practicalities: I donâ€™t know diddly about publishing online and what would I write about that anyone would want to read, anyway? Maybe this would kick my tail into high gear. Perhaps I would meet fellow writers and expand my network.
After finding a seat in the crowded, too-warm auditorium, realization dawned in a what-in-the-world-am I-doing-here? moment. Unfamiliar terms and acronyms were hurled at me full-throttle: â€˜tag cloudâ€™, â€˜CMSâ€™ and â€˜irresistibly stickyâ€™. Excuuuse me? Early on, I acknowledged the vast hole that was my website creation ignorance and decided to let each speakerâ€™s words wash over me. Perhaps something would eventually make sense. â€œI really, really love my pen and paperâ€, I inwardly whined.
Presenter after presenter stepped onto the stage with the ruthless intent of reinforcing my aforementioned â€˜lostnessâ€™. More than once, I vowed to leave â€˜after the next oneâ€™, but these folks were not only passionate and knowledgeable about their topics, they seemed like such nice people. The kind of people youâ€™d want to visit with afterward, even if you might not understand one flippinâ€™ thing they said. Niceness is a universal language that erodes language barriers, even geek speak, and I was charmed.
The day ran long. I was worn out from sponging up all of that new information that I feared I might never use. I kept looking at my watch. Again, I told myself Iâ€™d leave after the next presentation. But that felt so rude.
The noisy room hushed when the event organizer announced it was time to raffle off a MacBook Pro, donated by TaylorMark, one of WordCampâ€™s sponsors and an â€˜Apple-focused information technology professional services companyâ€™. A red ticket was pulled from the bowl, and each number was slowly teased off. Wait a minute! The first five numbers were matching those on my stub. I blinked. Wow. I actually had a chance! My adrenaline level pumped up a little. I once won a gift certificate to a spa. There was that one hundred dollars on a scratch-off that came in handy shortly after I was laid off. But a Mac? No way.
FIVE! That was the last number. I think. Then my name was called out. The rest is a blur.
My heart raced. My goose bumps had goose bumps. I was so flustered that I actually walked in front of the video cameras that were live-streaming the event – – not grasping my faux pas until later. Mark Taylor handed me the coveted white box. A round of applause erupted. I was grinning like a fool, and photos exist to prove it. Me? Who hadnâ€™t touched a Mac in ten years? The one who didnâ€™t know XAMPP from WAMP? I quite literally floated back to my seat, red-faced from embarrassment and excitement.
Earlier in the day, driving to WordCamp, Iâ€™d asked for a sign that I was fulfilling my purpose and to let me know when I was going astray. Lately, Iâ€™ve felt as though Iâ€™m swimming through mud to get back to the land of the employed. Am I moving in the right direction? Yada yada. As I turned out of the UTD parking lot, I glanced at the white box nestled into the passenger seat, (did I mention it was a MAC???) along with my new T-shirt. I was struck by the generosity behind the gift, as well as the thoughtfulness, openness and intelligence of the community Iâ€™d just been introduced to. The door to a new world was opening up for me.
â€œThereâ€™s yer signâ€, I giddily marveled. Thereâ€™s yer sign.
For the many people who have asked me why I spent my time organizing WordCamps, well it’s because of the stories like Victoria’s. If I can somehow contribute to assembling the conditions that help people change their lives in a positive way, then that’s all I’m looking to get out of it.
Congratulations Victoria. Carpe diem! And let us know when you have your blog online so we can all come visit…