May 24

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The marshmallow-balancing gene

You’d be forgiven for thinking that 3 days packed with Lego, marshmallows balanced on spaghetti, silly photo props and a whole lot of dancing (my two small boys think mummy has THE BEST JOB EVER!) couldn’t also be a tear-jerker. But I can honestly say that in all my (ahem!) ‘many’ years of attending training courses, none was as emotional as my PULSE training course last week.

In less than a week we learned how we can change, how the NGOs we’re setting out to work for on our PULSE assignments could change, and how GSK could change on our return. Everyone, from attendees, to course organisers and presenters had a moment of blinking back the tears. Some even succeeded. How could anyone not feel choked by one PULSE alum’s first-hand experience of watching the needless deaths of so many babies in Rwanda? Or not feel emotional on hearing another alum’s beautiful song inspired by her PULSE experience? (Someone please credit her; she deserves it.) And how could we not be moved by stories of the difficulties some people had faced in just getting to where they are today?

The second thing that really stood out for me from this course (I prefer to call it an ‘experience’, it was so immersive) was the honesty. From early in Day 1 I was taken aback by the openness of my fellow volunteers in describing how they didn’t think they’d be selected, how far outside their comfort zone they felt, the nerves, the wobbles, the uncertainty, but also the excitement and how determined they were to do something that meant something. Some shared quite personal stories of how they’d reached this point in their life journey. Amongst a complete mish-mash of ages, experience, seniority, nationality and background, there was no posturing, no pulling rank, no carefully-chosen politically-correct talking. Just a bunch of people in it together, being real, and being humble.

There is talk of a thing called the “PULSE gene”. I haven’t seen a definition of this and perhaps for good reason. It’s probably a bit nebulous; a mix of this and that: outlook, behaviours, motivations, beliefs. The ability to balance marshmallows (briefly!). I know I couldn’t define it, but I also know I had my first glimpse of it at that PULSE experience last week.

Good luck to all my fellow PULSE gene-ies! And a big thank you to the PULSE team!