M: So, Bill, you visited Nashville recently, didn't you?
M: Didn't you say you met those friends in Japan?
B: No, I didn't meet them in Japan, but they did come to Japan. Actually,
they were the reason I
came to Japan.
M: Oh really?
B: Yeah, they came before I came in 1994, and they invited me to come see
M: I see. How did you know them before coming to Japan?
B: Well, these friends were part of two big, life-changing experiences
in my life.
M: Japan and...what else?
B: Well, I first met them when I was in college.
B: At that time, I didn't have a very good sense of what I wanted to do in the future, and I wanted
to try something new.
B: I remember sitting in one of my university classes hearing other students
talk about their plans
for the future.
B: And they all seemed to have a pretty clear idea.
M: Oh really?.
B: Yeah. One guy was planning to go to law school, another to med school -
B: And I had no idea what I wanted to do - not even a clue.
M: (Laughs) Right. It's that way for a lot of people in college.
B: I know. And so, you know, some people treat college like a buffet -
M: (Laughs) Right.
B: Only instead of choosing a salad, a soup, and a fish, they choose a
science, a lit, and a history...
M: (Laughs) Right, right.
B: That can go on for years, you know?
B: In fact, it did for me!
M: (Laughs) Well, you weren't alone, I'm sure.
B: It felt like I was in that classroom!
M: (Laughs) Yeah.
B: Well, so anyway, I was sick of not knowing where my life was headed.
B: Then, later that day, I came across a sign in the school cafeteria.
M: Oh yeah?
B: Yeah, it said something like, "Make a difference! Become involved! Meet new people! Join
M: Wow. Sounds like a pretty strong pitch!
B: Well, it definitely made a strong impression on me. It seemed like just what I was looking for..
M: Yeah. I think I've heard about them. They're kind of like Greenpeace,
B: Well, they're a nationwide lobbying group, and they work to improve the environment, increase
access to health care, you know, progressive issues like that.
B: So, the very next day, I went and applied, and they hired me!
M: Wow. Great!
B: On the first day, all the employees had a morning briefing, and then we broke up into groups of 6
B: Then each group drove to a different neighborhood. When we got there
we split up.
B: My job was to go door-to-door and talk to people about our issues, to try to get new members,
and also to ask for donations.
M: How many houses did you have to go to?
B: About 100 houses in 5 hours.
M: Wow, that's a lot!
B: And I had to memorize a "rap", what I was supposed to say about the issues we happened to be
working on at the time.
M: Sort of like a salesman's rap?
B: Exactly. You rehearsed it, and you had answers prepared in case someone asked you questions.
B: I remember how I felt as I knocked on my first door. I was really nervous. My heart was beating.
M: Right, I can imagine.
B: Then the door opened and this middle-aged guy dressed in his bathrobe answered.
M: (Laughs) Uh-oh. Caught him at a bad time, maybe?
B: Must be. 'Coz when I started telling him about our issues he growled, "NOT INTERESTED!!" and
slammed the door in my face!
M: Oh no! And on your first door too!
B: I was really bummed out at first. But I regrouped and went to the next door. And tried again.
M: Yeah? And this time?
B: Success! A really nice lady who gave me a check for $60!
M: Wow! Big difference, eh?
B: I remember I felt a surge of confidence after that! I was walking on air! It was a great feeling
convincing people I knew what I was talking about.
M: Yeah, I bet. So how long did you work there?
B: Only a few months.
M: Oh, really?
B: Yeah, they definitely had a pretty high turnover. It was easy to get burned out . Or fired.
M: Which were you?
B: The way it worked in my office was you had to make quota every week.
M: How much was quota?
B: $120 a night.
M: Wow. And if you didn't make it?
B:If you missed it, you'd get a warning. They called it "going on
M: (Laughs) Oh yeah?
B: But right near the end of my term there, we were in the office one day,
and our director opened
our morning meeting not with his usual greeting, but by holding up a newspaper.
M: Yeah? What'd it say?
B: "Legislature accepts Citizen Actions recycling plan."
M: Oh great.
B: Everybody cheered. It felt good to make a difference like that.