Social media today has literally transformed the way we interact with each other. We’ve all seen it. We are staring at our phones more, even in the presence of each other at gatherings. Yet we seem to have an insatiable appetite to know what those around us are thinking. Just look at how we scroll through Facebook. Even a contractor I was talking with recently said, “I hope the next president we elect tweets like this one, because I want to know what’s on the president’s mind every day.”
Thus, this is the intro to the basis of our blog. It’s an opportunity to know what we’re thinking and what’s foremost on our minds.
“From the Bridge” With Chuck | Dispatch #9 – Even Though I Believe I’m Not, I Am
I saw the killing of George Floyd and I watched the reaction spread from South Minneapolis to around the world. And like many folks, I’ve had to ask myself some difficult questions — questions like, what part do I play in this? Why am I asking myself this? Because, like it or not, I’m standing by and watching the pain of those who’ve suffered injustice and inequality. It’s a suffering that’s gone on for many generations.
To ask myself these questions, I have to begin with the first question, which is “what is my perspective?” Let’s begin with the obvious, I’m a white male. In the American way of life, I’m at the top. Throw in that I’m a protestant, I’m at the top-top. I have benefited from a system, one that the demonstrators have called out. It’s a system that’s designed to do what’s it’s intended to do—to live in the benefit of white privilege. Even if I’d prefer not to admit it or face it, it’s true. It’s been that way since the arrival of the first African slaves to Jamestown in 1619. It’s also been that way since the first wars were waged by European immigrants against the indigenous peoples of this continent.
I’m old enough to have lived through the 1960s. I marched for the enforcement of civil rights laws, for voting rights, and for improved equality across color lines. I saw the passage of the Civil Rights Act, the establishment of Affirmative Action and the passage of equal housing. All these steps worked to change the mind of America, but not its heart, and not necessarily its will.
Witnessing the murder of George Floyd is beginning to change this nation’s heart. It has given white America a real insight in to what “Black Lives Matter” is really all about. Some might say “but the reaction over this has ranged from peaceful to destructive and illegal.” When you think of it, the Boston Tea Party was also destructive and illegal — and we might not have become an independent nation if it hadn’t happened.
So if my heart is beginning to change, what do I do next? Next, it’s to change our will. That responsibility begins with me. I have to admit that I have biases that are “hard wired” into me. I have to look deep within myself to ask what biases I have. I have to ask others what biases you see within me. Once I have these out in the open I can work to cleanse them from that quiet thinking that we all know about.
But even if I’m successful in routing out these biases, I’m still living in a culture that is built upon systemic biases. We have to work together to rid these from our nation’s psyche. That’s a tall order, but not impossible. It begins with an understanding of what’s it all about. To better understand systemic biases, a prominent African American leader stated it this way. If you’re white in this country it’s like being carried by the current of a river. Sure you might have ups and downs along the way, but you’re still being carried by the current. But if you’re black or brown, you are being forced against the current. And despite your successes along the way you’re still being forced the wrong way on that river.
Now is the time for all of us to work on this. Everyone needs to be carried by the same current in the same direction. I must work to be a part of that solution. Being complicit is no longer a qualified response to the inequities that still plague us. We’ll never be any better if we don’t all have a change of heart and will. Let’s first look within ourselves. Then let’s look to others for advice and knowledge. It’s a great opportunity to learn. Ask questions of others around you—others that are different from you. And then, like I’ve said before listen… really, really…listen. The future reconciliation of this nation’s heart and will depends upon it.
“From the Bridge” With Chuck | Dispatch #8 – A Call to Serve: Taking it to the Summit
In the East African country of Tanzania lies a great plain known as the Serengeti. In the midst of that vast stretch rises the solitary mountain Kilimanjaro. It’s the highest point in all of Africa, 19,340 feet. The mountain stands alone with a commanding presence as far as the eye can see. Despite being on the equator, it’s peak is permanently snow covered because it’s so cold at those high altitudes.
Our founder Terri Williams and our California Director Anne Silcher are embarked on a mission to climb Kilimanjaro this February. They made their decision, set a goal, and have never strayed from achieving their purpose.
They have been training for some time now. They are hopeful that they are physically and mentally ready to make the climb next month. Yet they are concerned about the high altitude’s thinning oxygen and what impact that will have on them. About 20% of those who train for this climb, despite being in good physical condition, experience altitude sickness due to their personal physiology and aren’t able to make the summit.
Why are they doing this?
Terri and Anne’s purpose for doing this is to raise funds for the village of Mgadla in rural Zimbabwe. The villagers there are in need of a school building. There are some 300 children there who aren’t able to attend a school because of no place to assemble and learn. Yet these villagers are determined to complete a school someday for their children. They just don’t have access to a consistent source of resources to complete the project.
There’s a parallel here between Terri and Anne’s determination to summit and the resolve of these villagers to complete a school for their children. Both are set upon a goal with strong dedication.
Mains’l Mission Teams 8 & 9 have been to Mgadla. They brought with them some of the older children from Ethandweni to join in with the villagers to construct their school brick by brick. The people of this village have never given up. What Terri and Anne raise will go toward construction materials to help complete the project. This will complement a portion of the funds that you have so graciously dedicated to this region.
I don’t write this as a call for additional funding. Rather I write this to celebrate the human spirit as found within Terri and Anne and the people of Mgadla. It’s the possibility within all of us to set a long term goal and the devotion each day to reach it. I also write this to highlight humankind’s higher purpose to serve others who are in need and to provide for our future generations.
Terri and Anne have disciplined themselves to train every day. In my mind they are true Olympians. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers as they ascend “Kili” this February.
The musical group Toto in their hit “Africa” written back in the ‘80s said it best, “I know that I must do what’s right, sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus
above the Serengeti.”
“From the Bridge” With Chuck | Dispatch #7 – A Reflection On the California Fires
TO THE PEOPLE OF CHICO AND SURROUNDING REGION
I’m sitting tonight in Chico, California outside on a hotel patio. It’s one of those beautiful California evenings here in the Central Valley following the summer heat of the day.
Terri and I are spending this week here visiting our California operation. It’s always a blessing for us to come out here and see the wonderful folks of Mains’l California who make the services for those whom we support the great success it is.
Yet my heart is also heavy tonight.
Chico is about 90 miles north of Sacramento. Just a few miles east of here is the city, or should I say, was the city of Paradise, California.
Last November Paradise was made internationally newsworthy for being completely destroyed by the Camp Fire, one of the worst wild fires in California’s history. This city of 27,000 was completely scorched and leveled by this horrible fire. Many were able to escape. Some were not.
A result is that the people of this former city have been completely displaced. Many have moved into the city of Chico. Many have no homes to go to or places to stay. So many are in this hotel here to stay for the long-haul until they can begin rebuilding their lives.
Even many of our staff lost their homes along with the keepsakes of their lives. Over 300 people receiving services, including several of those whom we support, lost their places to live. This created a gargantuan task for California’s Far Northern Regional Center responsible for finding places for these people to live.
Televised media spent a few days covering the fire and a couple of weeks covering its aftermath. Then it slipped from media attention. Yet the aftermath goes on and on.
Recovering from disasters like these is an arduous task. To rebuild this city, if it’s even meant to be rebuilt, will take decades. To erase the memories will take a lifetime.
The spirit of the survivors and those supporting them is remarkable. I don’t know if I have what it would take to do what these folks are doing.
To make matters worse, this past spring saw a incredible rainstorm in Chico which flooded many buildings and displaced many residents and companies from their home bases. Even some of our own operations have moved to our office until new or restored locations can be established.
Again, the resilience of our staff is utterly remarkable. This is the aftermath we don’t really see. This is the aftermath that never really makes the news.
The media does serve a purpose. It informs us of disasters resulting in major disruptions in people’s lives, hopefully to engender a compassion within us to support those in grave need. Sometimes it even covers the stories of incredible survivors and those called to help. I wish they would do more of that.
Yes, while heart is heavy, my soul is uplifted with the renewed knowledge that the human spirit here in Chico goes on no matter what.
Keep those here in your prayers.
“From the Bridge” With Chuck | Dispatch #6 – These Are The Most Challenging Times
It’s been said that the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court have defined just how divided we are as a nation. Some argue that never in our history as a nation have we been so divided. The Civil War might trump that. Please excuse that term.
I’ve recently posed this question to my colleagues in fun. Are the extremes of our Congressional leaders a reflection of us? Or are we a reflection of our Congressional leaders? It’s sort of a “Chicken or Egg” question.
Why is this significant? We are at a point of political extremes. After all, we are a democracy. And we have the right to firmly disagree. Some nations wouldn’t permit this level of extreme dialogue.
I don’t think there is harm in this. In fact, I am encouraged. More and more people across the U.S. are becoming more involved. It isn’t always productive. But segments of those who’ve been silent in the past are now speaking out.
So, why are we so divided? Why do the extreme voices seem to dominate? The answer, according to my perspective, may not be so good to hear. It’s because so many of us who are moderate or centrist are not being heard. In fact, we’re not even stepping up.
I think I know more people today who call themselves “independents” then ever before. In fact, some states have attempted to form Independent Political Parties. That’s not a bad thing. But those voices of reason in the middle are not being heard. Rather, they’re checking out.
Until we change that, we’re going to keep hearing the extreme views that many of us find so troubling. This is not the time to give up and quit. In fact, it’s the time to be heard again, and to help redefine who we are as a nation. We are a nation known for our wisdom, our trust, and our heart.
It takes a lot of work. It takes a lot of effort. And, believe me; moderating the extreme voices of either party isn’t easy.
Over 150 years ago alone U.S. president who presided over a nation in one of its most difficult times, Abraham Lincoln, said it so well, “A house divided will not stand.”
It’s time to unify, not divide. It’s time to step up, not step out.
“From the Bridge” With Chuck | Dispatch #5 – None of Us Is As Smart As All of Us
I had a dean back in college who used to gather us together periodically as resident assistants to problem solve issues arising in the dorms. Resident assistants were like dorm floor supervisors. Yes, I know it’s hard to believe that I was given the responsibility of the safety and success of my classmates on my floor of the dorm.
He began each meeting with the phrase which you’ve heard before, “None of us is as smart as all of us.” He would state the problem for us to figure out a solution together. Then he would say to us, “Now it’s your turn. What should we do?” Usually we were all silent. We all seemed to be waiting for him to come up with the answer. We thought if we were silent long enough, he’d cave and give us the solution.
Not the case.
He reminded us that we were being trained to become problem solvers of tomorrow. He told us that answers don’t come easy. He said they don’t usually come by you individually. I guess he was teaching us that we needed each other to find the best solution.
Usually our ideas started out slowly. Sometimes they were silly. What made our dean good at what he did was that he didn’t rush us. He didn’t criticize us. He didn’t value one idea over the other. He valued that we were collaborating, or working together to find a solution.
This was back in 1970. Collaboration, such as working in teams, wasn’t the typical management style back then. Rather, corporations and other entities were more typically run by “X” styles of management. “I’m the boss. I know best. You do what I say.” It wasn’t until the Japanese car makers were really coming on the scene in the early ‘80s that corporate America was asking “How do they get that quality? What makes them so good?”
The Japanese had a different style of management. It was labeled “Y” style of management. It was much more collaborative—meaning everyone had a voice in what they were doing.
In the Japanese car industry, workers on the line had more say. Their ideas were listened to. They were asked to come together periodically and work on solutions to production problems, because they were believed to be the experts. They directly collaborated with the automotive engineers. American corporations figured out “We got to do this to be competitive.”
“We believe in partnerships and collaboration” is a cornerstone of who we are, too. We don’t always get it right. But we keep trying to promote this style of operating. We’ve learned we get farther working with each other or outside stakeholders, rather than ordering, blaming or even ignoring the problem. It’s like the example of having to bail a boat. Yes, you can argue who’s at fault for the hole in the boat, but the rising water is going to bring you back to being part of the solution, not part of the problem, not ordering around or blaming everybody.
We all know that in our work, sometimes speed is necessary. Someone comes to you with a problem and we’re quick to give the answer. They need the answer right now. Yes, the person seeking your help appreciates your knowledge and direction. But have we really helped them to solve these problems themselves with their own teams in the future? Or just keep coming back to you for the answer next time? I’ve heard it before, “I keep telling them what to do. Why don’t they learn?” The better question might be, “How can I help them learn so they don’t need me?
Bye, for now…..
“From the Bridge” With Chuck | Dispatch #4 – The Benefits of Coaching Today
Increasingly, coaching is becoming more prevalent in the American workplace. Executive coaching, or advising CEOs, has been around for a long time. Even top leaders need and often ask for coaching to help them get better. That kind of coaching is now filtering through the workplace at all levels, because the benefits are many and fully proven.
Some might ask, just what exactly is coaching in the workplace? Think of a college or professional basketball team you might see on TV. The camera is forever switching back and forth from the play on the court to the professionally dressed coach always on their feet, pacing back and forth, watching every second of play. They’re watching to get ideas on how to make the team even better for the next game. Without expert coaching, good players remain only that—good. To become great, highly skilled players still need instruction and feedback on how they can become better. Coaching is watching every move and play to look for ways to always improve individual and team performance.
So, if you’re already great at what you do, do you need coaching? Keeping with the basketball analogy, think of LeBron James. Some would argue he’s the best player ever in the history of professional basketball. At 33 this year, he became a free agent and is transferring from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Los Angeles Lakers for a four year contract totaling 144 million.
You can bet that LeBron James will be coached every minute of every day he’s on the court, be it practice or a game. Yes, he is likely the greatest. But he won’t stay that way without coaching and continued development. We’ve all seen great players fail at their craft. Often it can be traced back to fallout with their coach which then becomes a problem for the team.
Here at Mains’l we’re about to embark on a significant coaching program. We believe, as with sports, coaching makes us better. It makes us winners. In today’s ever changing health care field, loaded schedules, and constant distractions, we can really benefit further from coaching so our skills won’t falter and our teams don’t struggle.
If you’re one of the partners in a coaching pair here at Mains’l, congratulations. You’re about to be invigorated and enhanced in what it is you do. Plus you’ll be contributing to your partner’s improvements as well.
We all have a lot to do.Our schedules are hectic. It seems like we never get ahead. Can we take on one more thing? The real question is can we afford not to take on coaching? Because coaching might just help us get control of these things better and, in the end, make us all winners!
“From the Bridge” With Chuck | Dispatch #3 – Long Live Rock n’ Roll
Next year, August, will mark the 50thanniversary of the music festival Woodstock! “Three days of fun, frolic, and music,”was the billboard. Maybe 100,000 might show up, thought the promoters. 500,000 did. So crazy and out of control it was. The fences came down. The concert organizers finally announced, “It’s a free concert from now on!”
This stuff was so over the top at that time. The music of Woodstock divided youth from their parents. It generated arguments. “You kids are crazy!” One thing for certain—it changed music forever!
Janis Joplin was there. Jimi Hendrix was there. Jim Morrison of The Doors would have been there. But he was on the run from the law from a concert fiasco earlier that year in Miami. Unfortunately, they all died in their 20s, victims of overdoses. Life and fame that overtook them, something they weren’t ready for. Janisbrought blues into the Top 40. Jimi introduced screaming guitars. Jim fused eerie poetry into rock. Were they pace setters? Were they crazy? Or, were they outlaws?
One thing for certain, they represented change. Change that was explosive for the times. So much so that television shows wouldn’t broadcast them anymore. But that didn’t matter. Change was marching on. “You’re freaks!” became the critical cry of the older generation. So Grace Slick of the Jefferson Airplane said back, “Everything you say we are, we are!”
They were daring in a time that didn’t want change. And they didn’t turn back.
The message here is about a change from convention. We, too, are facing change from convention. We get so used to doing things a certain way, which then becomes a convention, like tying neck ties a certain way. Doesn’t mean were bad. We’re just used to the routines.
Our Vision for 2020 and beyond is about changing conventions. It’s about stepping out in front and not turning back. Yes, we will encounter naysayers, those who don’t want to break from convention. The Rock and Rollers of the ‘60s didn’t wait for the tide to catch up. They kept forever ahead of the wave. So, too, must we.
It won’t be easy. There’ll be some friction. So, let’s be those agents for change. And, let’s ROCK!
“Purple haze all in my brain! Lately, things don’t seem the same!”
“From the Bridge” With Chuck | Dispatch #2 – 1968
I’m about to head off to my home town and join my old classmates for my 50th high school reunion. I actually haven’t gone to any of my reunions before. It will be interesting. I only have images in my mind of 18 year olds. Will I even recognize anyone? Will anyone recognize me?
I graduated in 1968. Some say 1968 was a dark year in our history. 1968 began with the Tet Offensive in the Vietnam War. This was a military policy that extended the war another seven years and cost so many more lives. In April, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. In June, Robert “Bobby” Kennedy was assassinated. And that summer saw one of the worst riots in our nation’s history in Chicago during the Democratic National Convention.
These truly were dark times. Yet, are there lessons we can learn from these events?
Well, first, the mean age now in the United States is 38. This means that well over half of those living in America were not even alive in 1968. I’m old enough to have lived through that time. My son, on the other hand, studied the year 1968 in a history class in college.
1968 saw a costly war, leaders assassinated, and deadly riots over political differences.
The Vietnam War is a perfect example of public policy gone awry. With enough funding and support by those in power, public policy, no matter how misguided or bad, can go unstopped and steer a nation in the wrong direction.
Great leaders, such as King and Kennedy, have opponents. Often the greater the leader, the larger the group of those who reject your leadership, even with the strong support of those who follow you.
And, politics in our nation have regularly divided us from each other. In some cases it’s led to wars and lives lost.
Just look at some of the policies in force today, the ones that we question. Again, enough funding and support and they take us in the wrong direction. Pick any national leader that you respect and follow today. There are still those who reject their leadership and work to cause their downfall. And, listen to our political debates today. It’s more a case of name calling and blaming. As a nation, we are criticized as being so uncivil to each other that our own leadership and prominence in being questioned.
All of these events represent disputes we create between ourselves. We’re not taking the time to learn more about each other. If we want to build a better understanding about each other and regain our civility, we might start with practicing the art of better listening.
Yes, there are lessons we can learn, maybe if we listen more and talk less. So, when I see those old classmates of mine, I’m going to ask them how they’re doing and…listen, really listen.
Farewell for now.
“From the Bridge” With Chuck | Dispatch #1 – Immigration
Here’s one of the things we’re all thinking about.
Immigration. It is practically on everyone’s mind these days. Last week was the story of separating children from their parents who enter this country illegally. Everyone’s heard of “the wall.” Opinions are so divided on this, that even our congress can’t pass a comprehensive reform bill on immigration. And the Supreme Court just upheld the president’s immigration ban on primarily Muslim countries. Fortunately, the ruling was more about presidential power in the face of national security than singling out a religion. Nevertheless, the ruling will support an outcome that I can’t tolerate personally.
We are a nation of immigrants, from all stretches of the planet. That’s what makes us strong. Despite being a nation with a history of “inclusion,” are we dangerously becoming a nation of “exclusion”?
Thirty years ago I read an article in The Atlantic Monthly that said in 30 years, meaning today, we will not have enough immigrants to do all the work that will need to be done. How prophetic that was.
Our own field, the field of serving those with disabilities, is experiencing its greatest labor shortage ever, with little prospect of getting any better for the foreseeable future. Other fields, like agriculture and construction, are experiencing the same thing.
If there’s any good news in this, it is that “necessity is the mother of invention.” How we do the work that we do will have to change, whether it’s our field or other fields. The old way of doing things won’t work in the future. And creativity will become the engine of change. If you want to see creativity in action, just look at our own Silicon Valley in California.
The prospects of change are exciting. Mains’l has its own Vision 2020 to meet the challenges necessary to thrive in the future. Not everyone though wants to embrace the notion of change. It can be uncertain and a little scary. That said, however, I want to lift up the people doing the work in our agency, because they believe in the vision and recognize that changes must and will occur.
But the big question, maybe for a topic later, is what will the next 30 years bring and how will we meet those challenges?
For the time being, be well. We’ll talk later.