Communications 101: Becoming a 'giving tree'

The outstretched roots and branches of the Angel Oak Tree in Johns Island, SC. As locals tell it, African slaves used to gather around this tree to talk, sing and pray.

No one cares about the roots of the tree until they trip over them. This has been a battle for me.

You see, I'm a giver. I’m actually hard on myself, about pretty much everything I do that appears not-so giving. When I complain about my "first world" problems; when I make fun of someone behind their back; if I’ve stolen a quarter from my boyfriend’s pocket while doing laundry; when I make a task seem harder to do than it actually is to someone requesting my help at work; when I could have given a homeless person something, but I let the opportunity pass. In those instances, I’m hard on myself to the point where I mentally slap myself for the mean or deceptive behavior. Deception and stinginess is not me, but as they say, we all fall short, don't we?

Honestly, I'd give someone (and have given someone) the shirt of my back. It’s no song and dance, either. I was raised by a woman who is a giver, and father who transformed into a giver because of this woman. With those two pieces already in place, it is not hard to see why I feel in love with communications.

Giving people, by nature, are tasked with taking on other people’s emotions and hardships. As early as I can remember, I can remember my mother’s generous nature ranging from opening up rooms in our home for struggling friends to volunteering her time in the area of domestic violence awareness. Once my late father became clean and sober 31 years ago, he gave his time to people who also wanted to get sober by becoming a drug counselor. To give unconditionally, a giver must lose themselves in the wilderness of other people’s circumstances which, nine times out of 10, are remarkably sad and unfortunate.

When we're young, we give the wrong “things” to the wrong "causes" in this learning curve called life. I gave my time to the wrong boys, gave all of my effort to art instead of algebra, gave my money to the wrong clothing stores (if I never walk into a Hot Topic again, it would be too soon). I hated myself for how much and how often I gave my "things" away because it left me with nothing.

It wasn’t until I began majoring in journalism at Howard University that I learned how to use the power of giving for good. Much of a comms pro's role involves giving. As a profession, communications is a form of customer service congealed with subject-matter expertise, an affinity for appropriate vocabulary, a knack for making bad ideas sound like fantastic ones. Communicators give words to events that leave people speechless and provide clarity to people who may be confused. After an experience I will never forget while riding a bus in D.C., I wrote a double-truck article for my college's student-run newspaper back in 2008 about the lives of college students who had children. Unbeknownst to me, a small yet sizable chunk of Howard's matriculating students had kids and still chose to attend college. In writing that article, I interviewed 6 students—4 women and 2 men—about their choices, their struggles, their desires and goals, and most importantly, their advice to other students and the University. The article was said to have opened up conversations about student-parents, including a wider discussion about housing for parents and scholarships for single parents.

Good communicators give solutions to problems. Great communicators give their customers the means to be able to prevent problems. The best communicators make tons of money for all of these acts.

Again, no one cares about the roots of the tree until they trip over them, including moi. So here I am in communications owning my hereditary gift for giving. If I have to give back, I might as well make a little in return, right? ;)

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