If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.
— Dalai Lama
When her son Daniel was 13 years old, Debra Poneman signed a consent form allowing himto attend an eighth-grade class trip to Washington, D.C. The plane ride, the cool hotel with a swimming pool, and how they were going to sneak into the girls’ rooms was all Debra remembers Daniel and his friends talking about for weeks leading up to the big trip.
Two nights before the scheduled departure, Debra attended a parents’ meeting at which the travel itineraries were distributed and the hotel roommate assignments were announced.She learned that Daniel would be rooming with an autistic boy named Ricky, along with Ricky’s 30-year-old personal aide. She knew Daniel loved Ricky, who had been to their house manytimes, but this was different. Debra had so much empathy toward her son’s excitement, and herheart sank at the thought of all of his plans being turned upside down. How am I going to break thisnews to him?, she thought.
“I consider myself to be a loving and compassionate person, but this was a tough one for me,” Debra admitted. “I was so afraid that Daniel would be hugely disappointed that drivinghome from the meeting I went into full mother-bear mode. I decided that if necessary I would call the school and see if we could work this out a different way.”
When she got home, she told Daniel every other exciting detail about the trip before shemustered the courage to share the roommate news. “Daniel,” she said, “the roommates were announced at the meeting. I want you to know that if you’re really upset, I’ll see what I can do, but they put you in a room with Ricky and his aide.”
Daniel was silent for a long moment, studying his mother quizzically, and then shared, “Mom,they didn’t put me with Ricky; I asked to be with Ricky. I figured that if he wasn’t with me, he’d probably get left out—and you know, Mom, it’s his eighth-grade class trip too.”
“After my own long pause, the words that came out of my mouth were, ‘Yes, it is Daniel,’ but the words in my heart, as I choked back tears, were, ‘You are probably the kindest 13-year-old boy who ever lived—and this is one of the proudest moments of my life.’
Now, anyone who knows Debra and her work as the founder and CEO of Yes to SuccessSeminars, Inc., wouldn’t be surprised that she raised such a compassionate and empathetic boy. Debra is known for her own warmth and authenticity as an award-winning keynote speaker, popular seminar leader, and best-selling author. She teaches people all about structuringtheir lives and business ventures in alignment with their true selves. Additionally, she cofoundedYour Year of Miracles virtual mentoring program for women.
Ironically, Debra credits her current success to the two decades spent outside of the business world when she took time off to be a full-time mom to her own biological children and numerous other young people who needed a stable refuge for a few hours—or a few years. Compassion and empathy for her extended family laid the foundation for Debra and her brand to soar to newheights. Debra knows the secret sauce is kindness. And as the years go on, her legacy is being played out through the amazing contributions all her “children” are now making in various aspects of the business world and society at large.