Speak from the Center

stacey pic 2There are times when we all feel like we are the Center of the Universe.  Maybe we have accomplished something impressive, or are handling an unimaginable tragedy.   But the only way to become the true Center of the Universe is to tell this story to others in a way that gets noticed.

I may not be the Center of the Universe, but I did travel to the geographic center of our planet recently.

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Here I am, standing at the equator in Quito, Ecuador.   Quito is the capital city of Ecuador, perched 9,350 feet above sea level in a river basin just east of an active volcano named Pichincha.   It is home to more than 2 million people, and it seemed to me that each of those must own at least 3 cars.  But beyond the teeming streets and tempting smells from hundreds of local eateries,  Quito possesses both untold natural beauty and a serenity that belies its proximity to an active volcano.

I traveled here with the University of Maryland Department of Health and Homeland Security.   Our mission was to provide crisis training for public safety officials and health care workers.   The seminars were held in a small room of the police academy, where I was fortunate to meet with an enthusiastic team eager to learn.   When your home is ringed by active volcanos, it is a good idea to prepare for an emergency.  And in times of crisis, the need to speak effectively to the media will directly impact the community’s sense of security.  It’s a tough job, even in a small town of a few thousand.  Here, both geography and population make a seamless message even more critical.

I was prepared to teach, but also learned a thing or two.   Did you know that you can actually feel the earth move when you stand right on the Equator?  Really, it’s tough to walk a straight line on that thin red line.

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Also, being the Center of the Universe happens to all of us at various times in our lives.  I had just three hours to tell some very critical people how to convey information during a time of fear, danger and confusion.  Oh-and I was using a translator.   The lesson?  A turn of a phrase is great, but the heart of any story never gets lost in the translation.  A simple story, well told, gets remembered.

Finally-never bring a pet guinea pig to Ecuador.  I’ll let you do some web surfing to find out why.