The Spare Room

The Spare Room

Imagine you’re driving home from work one night around 8 pm. It’s cold. It’s raining. And there’s a dirty, slushy, melting snow on the ground. You glance out the car window and you see a young girl huddled up on the side of the road. She looks cold, scared, alone, and injured.

You pull over and invite her into your warm car, and take her to a diner for a meal.

She doesn’t speak to you the entire time. She just sits there, staring down into her plate while eating, dripping gray water all over the seat. Your mind races though all of the unthinkable possibilities for what might have lead her to this place in life.

When she finishes eating, still not having said a word, she peels herself off of the plastic seat, gets up, and heads toward the exit. You watch as her frail little back walks away from you. In two more seconds, she’ll be through the door and gone from your life forever.

At that moment, what do you do?

Emily Chang doesn’t have to imagine. She knows. Because this happened to her. At that moment what she decided to do was yell out,

“Where are you going to sleep tonight”?

The girl stopped. Her shoulders quivered a bit. And Emily continued, “I have a spare room.”

That girl became the first of sixteen people over the last 25 years to have been blessed to spend some of the darkest times of their lives in the respite of Emily Chang’s spare room.

An abused child bride. An unwanted boy with hydrocephalus. A girl raised in a brothel. And over a dozen other young people whose lives were changed for the better in Emily’s spare room.

Emily documents their stories in her new book, The Spare Room: Define Your Social Legacy to Live a More Intentional Life and Lead with Authentic Purpose. In the book, she not only shares their unforgettable stories, but the life and leadership lessons we can all learn from them.

In this episode, Emily describes one of those young people lucky enough to spend some time in Emily’s spare room. Click the play button above to hear the story of Devon, a child bride thrown out of her own home.

Emily Chang has worked in leadership positions at Procter & Gamble, Apple, and Starbucks. Today she serves as the CEO of China for the global advertising giant, McCann. You can find Emily at

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Paul Smith is one of the world’s leading experts on business storytelling, a keynote speaker, and bestselling author.

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5 book images

4 Responses

  1. Beautiful. I’m also curious to hear more about how each one of these 16 human beings influenced Emily. Each one of those people survived their situations with skills and abilities. I think it’s important to remember no person is a passive recipient of trauma, meaning they did their best to do what they could to survive. This is an aspect of Narrative Therapy practices I deeply appreciate, placing a person facing incredible hardship as also a person with amazing abilities. I imagine in the book Emily shares how each one of these people made an impact on her beyond them being a ‘victim.’ I write this as a survivor of multiple traumas
    Thank you for hearing my perspective ♡

    1. Yes, she definitely addresses how these people affected and changed her and her family, perhaps even more than she impacted theirs. I think you’d enjoy it. 🙂

  2. Great story and experience !
    Thanks for sharing.

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