How to Spread the Word at Work
Yesterday was Spread the Word to End the Word Day, and I was….in a cubicle at work all day. I always had a huge Spread the Word event to engage in when I was in college, but this is my first year in the working world. I needed to figure out a way to do my part in the midst of client meetings and deliverable reviews.
I had visions of making an announcement at a large team meeting, showing Spread the Word video clips to colleagues during breaks – but instead, I settled on sending a simple email. It may not seem like much, but it had a far larger impact than I could have imagined.
The email that I sent was simple – I described the movement, told my personal story, and left my coworkers with a call to action: take the pledge, and help me spread the word. I typed up the email, blind copied (bcc) the 90 or so people that I planned to send it to, and sent it off. I imagined I would get a couple of responses, perhaps a “great cause!” or a “thanks for the message!”. I did get many responses of that nature, but I also received a wonderful affirmation of the power of the written word by the actions of several of my colleagues.
Thirty minutes after I sent the message, a colleague came by my desk to tell me that she had been forwarded the message by another one of our coworkers, who sent it out to multiple people in his network. Twenty or so minutes after that, another colleague stopped by with a similar experience. He had been forwarded the message by someone else as well, who had added his own story for emphasis.
Throughout the day, I continued to receive notes of support – but more importantly, I received several stories from colleagues who have experienced the effects of the r-word in their own families. These stories added powerful narrative to the movement that we are advocating, and have become invaluable conversation starters in my workplace.
Yesterday was a day of awareness, but these conversations have become a catalyst for continued action.
We often underestimate the power of simplicity. I sent an email – big deal, right? However, with a simple email, my coworkers truly did spread the word. They spread awareness. They took action. They initiated critical conversations around the movement, and became champions for inclusion. So whether you’re out on a college campus coordinating a Spread the Word rally, or sitting in a cubicle counting the hours until your lunch break, the Spread the Word movement is at your fingertips. It’s your choice what to do with it.
Words have weight. A single word has the potential to unite cultures, end a war, or even change a life. The word “retard(ed)” is one word that has had an incalculable effect on society and the pursuit of inclusion.
Today marks the 5th annual Spread the Word to End the Word awareness day – a day aimed at ending the hurtful use of the R-word (“retard(ed)”), which negatively impacts people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). The official campaign is 5 years old, but this has been a lifelong pursuit for me. My 33-year-old cousin Gabi is a dancer, a horseback riding champion and a trustworthy friend. Her smile lights up a room, and her laughter is contagious. Gabi also has an intellectual disability, but it does not define who she is. The R-word is a seemingly insurmountable barrier to Gabi and countless others who face immediate societal devaluation and judgment on a daily basis.
Today, I implore you to think critically about the implications of your word choices. The R-word is so much more than just a word – it is a merchant of derision, scorn and, above all, exclusion. Instead, we should celebrate abilities, promote respect, and champion inclusion.
You can learn more about the movement and take the pledge to end the use of the R-word at www.r-word.org. As the name of the movement suggests, this is a message to be shared and spread. It would mean so much to me, Gabi, and everyone in the inclusion movement if you would help us spread the word!
Thanks, and happy Wednesday!