I have emerged, healthy and generally in my right mind, from what has affectionately come to be known as “J.R.’s Hostage Weekend.” That term, admittedly melodramatic, is actually a pretty fitting description of what I’ve just endured (and for the second time, no less).
The “J.R.” in question is J.R. Cifani, one of the head honchos at the Monster Worldwide subsidiary Making It Count. And I just spent three days certifying on two – not one, but, count ‘em, TWO – presentation scripts at the training weekend in for the MIC spring season of 2009.
If those details mean nothing to you, they’re just more evidence that I have the privilege of stringing together seven of the coolest words in the English language:
I am a Making It Count speaker.
For the uninitiated, Making It Count is a company that convinces large companies to help underwrite the cost of sending speakers into high schools and colleges, then trains and deploys those speakers to do the presentations, educating the students and giving the partner companies positive branding opportunities in the process.
While it doesn’t necessarily pay that well, it’s quite addicting work. There’s nothing quite like the high you get from corralling a bunch of students, establishing a connection with them, and then imparting to them information that could impact their trajectory for the better.
Of course, in order to experience that high, you must first be certified by MIC to present the material. So that’s what I was doing this weekend, going through the grueling process of learning the content and refining my technique, and collaborating with others doing the same.
One of the coolest things for me about attending a Making It Count training weekend is that I get to spend three intense days with a bunch of people who are a lot like me. It’s a great change of pace from the everyday grind, and a great opportunity to make and develop relationships. And not just in the networking sense, but you know, actually making friends. It’s a blast hanging out with people with whom I have so much in common.
And I mean that on several levels. Not only is the whole conference populated with a whole crop of dynamic, engaging personalities, but a significant portion of the speakers – a sizable majority actually — are people of color. So both hotels were besieged by African-American, Hispanic/Latino, and biracial folks from all across the country. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I’m not used to seeing so many passionate, intelligent, good-looking Black people at any event that’s not a concert or a church service. So gettin’ to chop it up like that in a corporate training environment is always a special thing for me. We worked hard, but we had fun.
And speaking of church, that’s the other thing that many of us had in common. I met so many people who were in some form of Christian ministry in their “other” lives. Pastors, youth pastors, even a few music ministers. During my first training in August, I thought it was just a big coincidence.
Now, I can see why.
Most people in some kind of vocational ministry need some form of supplemental income. Working for Making It Count means we can get a little extra cash by giving people a message of hope and empowerment, which is what we would normally be doing anyway. The chance to travel, do some networking, and still maintain the flexibility we need to continue in ministry, practically makes it a lock.
Now I’m not gonna lie… even though I really enjoy this work, I wasn’t particularly excited about coming to this training. The holiday season is always busy, especially for a church music director. I had a lot of stuff going on, and I didn’t get to engage in the weekend as fully as I wanted to because I was still spending some of my downtime taking care of tasks related to church.
On top of that, just getting there was a challenge. The first leg of my trip was delayed about 8 hours, which means instead of taking a noon flight to Houston and getting into Columbus that evening, I didn’t even LEAVE Portland until almost 11pm. Instead of spending the day flying and the night in a hotel room, I spent the day at the airport and the night in cramped airline seats that I couldn’t sleep in. It threw off my body clock something fierce, and the next morning I ended up oversleeping by two hours and nearly missing my opportunity to certify.
But still… it was all so worth it. I’m not kidding. Flight delays and bitter cold and hustling from concourse to concourse for almost 24 hours straight, if it means I get to spend a weekend with likeminded (read: insane) people, all reaching toward the same goal of strengthening our ability to reach people, then I’m down.
If I had to do it all over again, I absolutely would.
I’d just make sure to get a loooooooooong nap first.
I’m Jelani Greenidge, and thanks for Mixin’ It Up with me.