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I recently heard the following quote from Greek philosopher Plato “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle”. This insightful phrase made me reflect on both my professional and personal life. In my professional life I have had the honor of meeting so many hard working, kind individuals in my 23 years on my job. These are folks who live in our rental housing, have become homeowners with our help, have staved off foreclosure, and are students at the Normandy schools, our community members and many more. They lead lives not unlike mine in their aspirations, their hopes, but face many more battles than I do. I worry about paying for my children’s college education, not am I going to be able to pay for my rent since my car just broke down and I have to fix it to get to work. I worry about having enough time to get my workout in not am I going to lose my home. I worry about, actually I don’t have to worry about much while those we serve have the stress of so many things on their shoulders each and every day. I can only imagine the mental and physical stress this causes. My life is easy compared to so many that we serve. Given all this I try to remember Plato’s admonition, be kind.
I particularly enjoy going to Rosie Shields Manor for any meetings I may have, for I usually get to see and say hello to the residents who live there. They are always full of cheer and good spirits. I always make the time to stop and see how they are doing from their health, to their family, to their day. I hear about medical procedures, grandchildren, their apartment and much more. No matter what meeting I am going to I stop and talk to those in the lobby, these are the people I work for and serve.
I also try to visit our Save A Lot across the parking lot from Rosie Shields to both shop and check on the store. I always make a point to check in on all the employees while I am there. I know they don’t get paid a lot but they drive the success of our store. My understanding is of the value of those we serve as my fellow human beings who are so worthy of my respect, admiration and empathy.
I have taken this respect, admiration and empathy in my professional life to my personal day to day life. My mother recently had hip replacement surgery and I have watched the nurses and more importantly the nurse’s aids care for my mother in the most loving way. Right after the surgery she was in significant pain and everything in her life was hard to do. The staff at the rehab hospital was so kind and thoughtful.
As my mother improved she began as is her habit, to extol the virtues of her youngest son and the wonderful not for profit he runs. She told her new found friends and caregivers that Beyond Housing might be able to help them. As I visited her twice a day I got to meet these fine folks and began to hearing their stories. One, in particular, stays with me. A nurse’s aide who particularly was good to my mom told me she started her day between two quarreling neighbors who had guns drawn. She went on to tell me that situations like this were sadly not the exception. Here is this 2016 Florence Nightingale caring for my mom right after the unthinkable stressful situation that few of us can even begin to understand. Her ability to be kind and patient and help my mom get better is just astonishing. She categorically deserves my kindness just because of what she does and who she is but even more importantly because of the battles she has to face.
I ask you to remember the people you pass, meet and interact with everyday are going through some kind of battle, maybe a similar battle to yours, so be kind.
I’ve been working in community development in the St. Louis area for 25 years, and I’ve been the CEO of Beyond Housing since 1993. While I’m proud of our accomplishments, I don’t claim to be an expert. At Beyond Housing, the experts we listen to are the voices of the community members we serve. I’ll be raising issues here that I believe matter to our community. I hope you’ll join the conversation. We do reserve the right not to post comments containing offensive language. To paraphrase Dr. King, we can disagree without being disagreeable.