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The Difference Ella Made
 

For the Week of June 7, 2004
by Rubel Shelly

How do people bring about needed change? My answer is often a cynical stepping back in frustration, I must confess. I'm only one person. I don't have any real power in this culture. Surely there are others who feel the same way.

But not Ella Gunderson. She was aware of a problem that touched not only her life but hundreds of thousands like her. She was not a powerful CEO or government official. Yet she did something that has helped initiate a change from which you and your family could benefit soon. By the way, she is only eleven.

Ella has been troubled over the narrow range of clothing options for girls. All she seemed to see was racy teenage fare low-riding jeans and tight, revealing tops. "You see girls doing a lot of tugging. They want to be covered, but they are not having the clothes cooperate," her mom says. "The girls want to look feminine and they want to look pretty, but the only look the stores offer is sexy."

So a girl from Redmond, Washington, wrote this letter after a recent shopping trip: "Dear Nordstrom, I am an eleven-year-old girl who has tried shopping at your store for clothes (in particular jeans), but all of them ride way under my hips, and the next size up is too big and falls down. I see all of these girls who walk around with pants that show their belly buttons and underwear. Your clearks [sic] sugjest [sic] that there is only one look. If that is true, then girls are suppost [sic] to walk around half naked. I think that you should change that."

Both the manager of the store where Ella had shopped and Executive Vice-President Phil Nordstrom wrote back. They agreed with her and promised to educate both purchasing managers and sales people on offering fashion options.

Ella didn't scream. She didn't picket the stores. She didn't organize a boycott. She didn't just grumble as she walked away. She spoke from a principled conviction to people who were in position to make a change for the better. She says she is happy about what she did and also confesses to being surprised.

Your company has a suggestion box or web site. There is a supervisor or company president. Somebody is in charge. That person should not only receive information about product design and employee efficiency but also proposals about morale, ethical behavior, and workplace atmosphere.

Before getting too cynical that things won't change in your workplace or community, church or family, turn your frustration not into rage but into a positive suggestion. The result just might make you happy as well as surprise you



 

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