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Last week in Bogota

Within minutes it was clear that somehow they didn’t have my mother-in-law’s information in the consultant affairs database. After 5 years of back and forth, that seemed impossible. It was incredibly discouraging, and we worried that we might have to leave Bogota without accomplishing the primary goal of the trip…

When you think about Otis Salinas coming to the US to be with her son, you think about how excited and grateful she must be. She is. Venezuela is a dangerous, failed state. But what you don’t necessarily see unless you experience it first hand is the stressful, broken process associated with immigrating here, and how much pain that adds to what is already a painful process associated with a 73 year old woman leaving her home country–likely never to see it again. Christian went 20 years without seeing his Mom and they are working to reconnect and don’t need any more roadblocks. Can you imagine?

So there we were, stuck again. We knew we had two choices: Wait for a response from visa services via the general email address, or find someone in my network who might know someone in consulat affairs in Bogota who could push things through. The latter seems to be the obvious choice, but we were worried if we pushed too hard it could backfire. Immigration is a hot button, and Venezuelan immigration is even worse.

We decided the risk was worth it and I sent a message to about 50 people who I thought might be connected enough to help. Within 5 hours we were working with their contacts to find a solution. By the next morning we had a very personalized, friendly email from the consulat with specific instructions to take the documents back to the processing center immediately.

It turns out one of those 50 contacts did know the right person, and thanks to them we left Bogota Friday having accomplished our goal.

This experience left me with three feelings. Gratitude for the people who helped, an increased awareness of my position of privilege that led to this outcome, and a growing sense of responsibility to do more.

I was also reminded about the power of a network and I thought I’d share 3 simple principles I’ve used in building my network over the years.

Give generously, ask sparingly. If you have to think about whether you have that ratio right, you don’t.

Be kind at every interaction. It’s true: people remember how you make them feel, and very little else.

Accept offers of help. This one is the hardest for me because it can make you feel strong to reject other people’s help. But I’ve learned if you don’t accept the help people offer, you are dismissing them and the help is less likely to come when you really need it.

The entire process of bringing my mother-in-law to the states has been a multi-year challenge, but knowing I have people on my side, ready to help in a moment’s notice has made it all easier.

If you’re getting this email, I know I can count on you and I thank you very much for that. If there’s anything I can ever do to support you, please reach out anytime.

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