By: Eric Bleuel

I absolutely love today’s post for so many reasons! Let me count the ways: (1) I love Eric’s writing style; (2) I appreciate his honesty and candor; (3) I love that he shares a story about helping others; and (4) My favorite part of all – that Eric walked away from this experience a better person, then took it upon himself to share this article (and these absolutely fantastic photos) with the rest of us. Bravo, Eric. I’m standing beside my desk applauding as I type these words. We’re honored to rub virtual elbows with the “Crazy Can Guy.”

I have been a member of our local paralegal association for about two years now. I really enjoy it. The people I meet are nice and the monthly continuing education programs are interesting. I volunteered as Vice President my first year, but unfortunately, with three kids at home and a wife that has to commute long distances for work, I wasn’t as available in that capacity as I would have liked to have been. This year I volunteered in a less demanding role as our Newsletter Editor. However, I don’t feel I’ve lived up to the expectations I set for myself in the position. I know I can do better. I intend to.

When I received a flyer in my mailbox about the association’s “Holiday Can Drive Contest” where the law office that raised the most amount of canned food would be recognized at the Annual Holiday Party, I began thinking. This might be a way to show everyone that I CAN (no pun intended) do something positive and perhaps make a small difference in the lives of those less fortunate. And who knows, I thought, if I put my mind to it, maybe we could win? But even if we didn’t win, at least it’s a charitable cause that could help someone else.

So I entered our firm in the contest by filling out the form and the next day a bright yellow barrel appeared in my office with a picture of a hungry kid on the front.

Now I had recently read a few articles that were posted on the LinkedIn group for The Paralegal Society (of which I am a devoted member.) One article was written by a famous blogger, Chance Scoggins. He wrote about how he helped his wife attract shoppers to a children’s consignment sale by holding up a sign and waving it at cars driving by. He found that when he put the sign down, the crowd stopped coming. He concluded that it’s important to “wave your own sign” to causes in life which matter to you. It can be a determining factor on whether or not those causes succeed.

I also read an article authored by Dave Kerpen about a “cracker jack vendor” at baseball games. Dave found he wasn’t selling enough cracker jacks to make a good commission, so he started acting wild and crazy and yelling things like “YOU RULE!” whenever someone would buy a bag. It was a big hit with the crowd. Next thing he knew, he was making a lot of people laugh and earning hundreds of dollars a night.

I also was inspired by an episode of “19 and counting” where the family set a super high goal for the amount of money they hoped to raise at their charity yard sale. It was such a high goal that at one point in the day they thought it was going to be unreachable. But at the last moment they rallied together as a team and took action to sell more items. They actually surpassed the original amount they had set for themselves.

So basically I took all three of these ideas to heart and started a “Crazy Can Guy” campaign. The first office e-mail that was sent out was kind of bland and only announced the challenge. There was not much of a response. The next e-mail was an emotional call to my co-workers explaining how much I wanted to win the contest for the most cans. I declared that our office goal would be 300 cans. It was a goal that I knew would be very difficult for us to reach. In fact, if we hit half that amount, I would have still been happy. I decided that a way to “wave my sign” would be to take a picture of me…IN THE BARREL ITSELF with a big smile holding on to two cans. It was hard to press the send button on that e-mail, but I did it. I was willing to look silly for the cause. (As pictured above this post).

It totally worked. I could hear people laughing at their desks. I put a few posters up of the photo in the break room to remind people of the can drive. A lot of cans came in and I was very happy. But they soon stopped coming in a few days later, much like the traffic that stopped coming to the “sale” when Chance Scoggins put his sign down.

It was time for another email photo of me. I had to act like the cracker jack vendor at the baseball game and try and make people laugh. So this time, I held up as many cans as I could, balancing them on my head, shoulders, and even through the loophole in my tie. As soon as the email hit everyone’s in box, I became an instant celebrity. People would pass me in the halls saying they loved the photo and that they would bring in cans over the weekend…and they did.

With a week to go we were at 215 cans. I couldn’t believe it. Cans overflowed out of the barrel onto my desk. I felt good, but we weren’t at that self-proclaimed goal of 300, so I was a little nervous. Sure, I’d be happy with 215, but if I didn’t reach the goal – it would look like I failed. I remembered the same thing happened on “19 and counting” when they were short on their goal and had only a few hours left in the day. They knew they had to take drastic action or they weren’t going to make their goal. So another email was in order. This one was me surrounded by cans with a can of SPAM on my head. I really got a lot of responses on that one. Even people who had already donated asked me what they needed to bring in order to make the 300. They went to all extremes to bring in those cans and meet our goal.

And that’s when I began to realize something. The can drive had really taken on a life of its own. The photos made people laugh. They felt good about giving to charity and helping me out on my quest for the trophy. Every time I came into my office there were more bags of cans. It made me feel good that people cared enough to bring in the cans.  I don’t really give too much to charity. I don’t volunteer my time for worthy causes outside of my professional endeavors. I don’t think about anyone but myself and my family on most days, but to tell you the truth, when we hit 341 cans and the FoodShare guy said “Dude you just fed about 200 people for a day!” I felt good. I did something good. Something good happened at my work with the camaraderie over the cans. That warm fuzzy feeling that everyone talks about…finally applied to ME.

My point is that beyond the barrel of cans, there was something inside of me that shined for one brief moment this year. My year has really been challenging (for lack of a better word). I won’t get into that now, but it really was. There were days that I just felt awful. But this was something different.  I executed an idea and it worked. It was fun. It made me and others laugh. It brought my office together and we fed about 200 people – if only for just one day.

So I write of my experience and share it with you because, believe it or not, you can shine too. No matter how unsure you are or if you have never done anything like it before. Pick a goal no matter how unrealistic, wave a sign to attract others to your goal and act a little silly to make them laugh. When you succeed, you will look back at that moment in time and feel good about yourself. You will feel honored to have helped other people. You will realize that if you were able to that, you CAN do so much more.

Happy Holidays Everyone!

The Crazy Can Guy