Sunday, November 8, 2015

Why help the 'strays'?

A doctor wrote an open letter to Obama, complaining about a recent case.  A woman arrives at the ER, arms covered in tattoos, a few gold teeth in her head, a pack-a-day track record of smoking… overweight, drinker…you get the picture.  On the admission form, in the section squared off for payment type, she checks ‘Medicaid’.  The doctor’s complaint is this:  Why are taxpayers paying the healthcare costs of a woman who is so reckless with both her money and her health?  Why couldn’t she have foregone a few of those mouth trophies, skipped the 12-dollar-a-day pack of cigarettes, and paid for her own damn healthcare? 

I live in NYC and regularly encounter not only those that are sliding their way down the socio-economic scale, but those that have crash landed at the bottom. I talk to many of them.  Once, while I was working at the Heart of Chelsea Animal Hospital, we had a homeless man decide he was going to use our outside bench for an afternoon nap.  As you can imagine, a pungent-smelling and drunk homeless man sprawled out on an entrance bench wasn’t the best way to say ‘welcome’, so my employer asked me to shoo him away.  Mindlessly I complied, but found the man difficult to rouse.  Finally, I alighted on an idea and pitched it.

“Hey, tell you what.  If you can get yourself off that bench in less than a minute, I’m going to buy you dinner.”
“Huh?”  The guy muttered.
“You heard me.  The best dinner you ever ate.  But you have to get up in one minute.”
“What kind a dinner?”
“A delicious dinner. You just go down the street to the loading dock and meet me there.  I’ll bring it to you.”
“Down the street?”
“That’s right.”
“You won’t forget?”
“I won’t forget.”

And I didn’t.  On the contrary I was excited. Here was a chance to not only clear the front entrance, but also clear my conscience.  I had a chance to be both a responsible employee and, more importantly, a responsive human.  I set off for a gourmet grocery just a few blocks away and when I hit there, I pulled out all the stoppers.

“What’s that,”  I asked the guy behind the prepared food counter, “tuna steak?  Let me have it.  And are those scalloped potatoes?”
“With a sour-cream-chive topping!”
“Sounds delicious.  What about a vegetable?”
“We have roasted Brussels sprouts with Parmesan cheese.
“Oh my god…”
“We have soup too. Toasted butternut squash.”
“Oh!  And I think a piece of that German chocolate cake. He’ll like that.”

The 47-dollar bill and the beautiful handled bag in which everything was packed were proof that these were some good eats.  I couldn’t wait to heap them on my compliant hobo.

When I arrived, he was exactly where I had ordered him to be.  In a shaky stupor he rifled his way through the bag and went straight for the cake.  “No,” I protested, “that’s desert. Try the soup instead.  Here.”

He clumsily handled the boiling-hot container and plastic utensils.  He was about to spoon this lava into his mouth when I cautioned, “Wait!  It’s too hot!  Blow on it. You’re going to burn yourself.”

Blow on it, he did and the whole spoonful ended up on his already filthy trousers.  I tried to help him. “Oh for heaven’s sakes.  Here, let me do it.”  I take the spoon, get another scoop, blow on it, and offer it to him. 

“Are you going to eat it or am I?”
“ No, you’re going to eat it. I’m feeding it to you.”
“ How come?”
 “Oh never mind.  Here.  You do it, then.”

 I watch this man wrestle with the simple task of eating a cup of soup and think to myself, ‘Jesus’. After a few minutes of watching my ‘stray’ enjoy his meal, I walk away with a mixed sense of satisfaction and failure.

Later that night, I return to the practice to do evening treatments on the hospitalized pets. As I make my way up to the door, I first notice a smooshed piece of German chocolate cake that someone has mashed into the sidewalk.  This is followed by a few chunks of uneaten tuna, then a demolished container of uneaten scalloped potatoes with a sour-cream-chive topping, and an overturned container of bright, orange, squash soup. The homeless guy is standing over the clinic’s trashcan looking through it and urinating at the same time.  I stand there watching him for a good minute or two. He finishes urinating, puts himself away, and continues to randomly look through the junk in our trashcan.

I say nothing to him.  I open the gate, enter the practice, lock the door behind me, and commence the evening treatments.  When I come back out, he is sound asleep on the bench.

This is one of many attempts I’ve made to assist the homeless and poor during my time living in New York City and elsewhere.  I can tell you some of their names: Theresa, Mary, Jose, David, and Juanita.  Each of them stands out as a vibrant character.  There’s almost nothing conformational about them because each is by-product of a distinct history of what: marginalization, disease, substance abuse?  They are sociological wrecks of adversity or maybe of just plain bad luck that has carved them into unique, but broken individuals.

Helping the homeless and poor has not taught me how to help them beyond offering up the most immediate of care: food, money, cigarettes, liquor, a shower, etc.  Whatever comfort I offer lasts what…a few minutes…a few hours?  Is it even worth the effort?

Helping the homeless and poor has helped me to understand that the problem is not straight forward and not easy to solve.  It has taught me that the last thing to go in a person, after their home, their health, their integrity, their clothes, their possessions and their hope, is their pride. Dirt, body odor, and poverty do not rob one of the need to be acknowledged. 

Interacting with the poor has taught me that I have more money, that I have opportunity, that I have ability, and that I have my health, but it hasn’t taught me that I have specialness.  It hasn’t taught me that there are classes and subclasses of humans.  On the contrary, it has confirmed to me that there are not.

A woman walks into an ER and seeks medical assistance. She’s got tattoos up and down her arms, gold teeth in her head, half a pack of cigarettes in her purse, and no money.  Do you spend the money to treat her, or do you turn her out into the streets?  Betcha if you treat her, she’ll step outside the hospital door, take out her cigarettes, and light up.  Betcha if you don’t, she’ll probably do the same.  What’s the point?

I’m convinced that a debate on the costs of action versus no action is weighted heavily in favor of the former, but I’d rather argue this: providing care to those in need provides immediate relief, however fleeting, and more importantly provides insight into a problem that must be solved. 

I don’t have the answer to the homeless, the poor, and the derelict, but I know where to find it and I know on the way you have to step over some smooshed chocolate cake and I know on the way you’re probably going to have to lay out some money.  I don’t know if I like it any more than you do, but I don’t hate it.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

What Is It Like To Meet Caitlyn Jenner?

Will the real Bruce Jenner step forward...and can you
'work it' when you do?
Recent commercials beckon us to meet ‘Caitlyn’, Bruce Jenner’s lipsticked reincarnation of himself.  The media has decided to make a spectacle of this man's life, but there is an important truth at the center of the story.

We’re living in an age of selfies and the chance to dote on ourselves with unprecedented affection. With the right image, editing, content, and timing, we can go viral, and the best versions of ourselves can be streamed to anyone in the world with an Internet connection.

Facebook depresses me.  It makes me feel left out.  I scroll through the images and I think to myself, ‘Why not me? Where are my friends?  Where are my trips?  My loves?  My laughter?  My parties?’  Facebook makes everyone else’s world seem better than the one I’m living in.

Practice Manager, Peace Corp
Activist, Dice Thrower, Braveheart,
Brie Messier
My friend Brie Messier seems nuts.  She does things that blow my mind.  Her Facebook page isn’t a show set; it’s a psychiatrist’s couch.  As her day unfolds, good and bad, we hear about it.  Screw ups, high points, wrong’s a brave revelation of who she is, that quite frankly, at times, seems bonkers.   She does things like take on entirely different jobs and new careers, and then she drops all of that and joins the Peace Corps.  As part of this last decision, she sold all of her belongings and put animals that she cherishes in the care of others.  Doesn’t that seem crazy?  Not to Brie.  Brie risks.  When I think of Brie, I think of that person at the far end of the craps table.  She’s got crowd of cheering people on all sides and she’s in the middle of them, rattling a cup of dice hard and high.

Did Olympic training prepare Jenner for
a marathon towards identity and
I look at another woman, Caitlyn Jenner, and begin to see past the wig, eyeliner and big hands.  I get a glimpse of someone who,when everything she does is placed before the world to judge, walks forward on her own path, towards her own vision.  Forget about discovering herself. That she’s accomplished.  Like Brie, Caitlyn is being who she is.  She’s deaf to her detractors.  Instead, she stays focused on what she knows to be important: that there’s value inside of her, in who she is.  It occurs to me that she pursues this goal for herself with the same determination that took her across Olympic finish lines years ago.

I challenge my own through-line of thinking.  I ask myself, ‘what’s so great about being true to oneself?’  Isn’t that just another cliché; another platitude that we tell ourselves in team meetings and feel-better pow-wows with friends?  Well, I’m not entirely sure, having never been ‘true’ to myself, but I suspect there are two, fairly-great rewards. 

It must be pretty darn empowering.  Any brave journey alone, successfully completed, grows balls, or in the case of Caitlyn Jenner, at least rearranges them a bit. I think that people that take their psyche to the service shop, take it apart, put it back together, and then floor it on the open road, roar. I think the wind flies better through their hair.  I think people in their housecoats, checking for mail in the box, hold their hats when these people blow by and look down the road for some time after they’ve past.

What thoughts, aspirations, or inspirations are you stimulating
in those that you pass?
And I think that people like Caitlyn and Brie go a long way to ending loneliness in the world.  They make people like me less embarrassed about my differences.   They make me braver.  Because people like Brie and Caitlyn exist, I make more eye contact, I shake more hands, I talk out of nervousness less, I connect more.

If I had the same determination of these women, I’d be on my own path to self-discovery and actualization.  I’d be at the perfume counter saying, 'I’ll have two squirts of whatever they’re having'. I’d be roaring down my own road, blowing up old ladies skirts and knocking the straw hats off farmers’ heads.  I would be me…and who knows what would come of that?
Cock of the walk or just plain chicken?
Crowing or growing?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

20/20 Hind Sight

That 20/20 article started Bash crowing!

There are only four of us in our tiny company, Brenda, Tiffany, Melinda and me.  Collectively we spend more than one hundred hours a week working with dozens of veterinarians and veterinary professionals, all of whom are driven firstly by their interest in earnestly helping animals and their human companions.  So, it’s especially infuriating to watch ABC’s more

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Exploring Mission Statements in ACTION

Animal Medical of New City's Mission Statement has actions that speak louder than words 

Striving for something more than our day-to-day existence feels great.  Getting out of bed early on your weekend to coach the kid’s baseball team; squeezing in 30 minutes on the treadmill to meet a health goal; making a difference…perhaps even randomly…by assisting a stranger with something they dropped are the substantive parts of our memory. These acts or thoughts, that exist above our efforts to just get-by, underlie our humanity and most importantly our individual sense of worth and goodness.

Company Mission and Value statements identify these higher-self goals that are important to us as individuals and deepen the value of our company to our clients, our employees and…if we’re able to truly realize these aspirations…the world.

Many organizations have taken the time to write Mission Statements, but fail to integrate them effectively into their day-to-day operations.  Take a moment and review the companies below that have shaped their workplace cultures, products, services and their community involvement around looming Missions and Values.  As you review each, ask yourself whether you’d be inclined to apply for a job with them; whether working there would be fun; whether you would work harder to help such a company be successful; whether or not customers would be more likely to enjoy the company’s products and services; and whether or not the company is more likely to be competitive.  

But don't stop there...companies that have successfully disseminated goals and values that extend beyond mere growth have set a tone for all decision making at the company.  These companies better understand what questions to ask when interviewing candidates, what to look for in resumes and behavior.  Their training programs are written and executed through the filter of underlying principals.  Stalemated management decisions can be resolved by examining the issue against the backdrop of the Mission.  One fine company even selected their stationary based on their Mission, deciding that if their values are to bleed through all they do, perhaps their Mission Statement should as well; so they selected a paper with their Mission Statement as a watermark.

Whole Foods:  Here’s a link to Whole Food’s Mission, Vision and Values page.  Take note of a plan that loans money to small-scale farmers to help them be more productive.  What kind of an impact does this outside-of-the-box thinking have on Whole Food’s supply chain? Its reputation in the community?  Its visibility?  In an age when some consumers are making drastic changes to their eating habits and life style based on sustainability, what does this move do to client loyalty?  How do you presume this idea came about?  Do you believe it was the brainchild of their CEO or a product of a brainstorming session in a management meeting?  What jump-started the thinking process?

Chipotle:  Their latest video has had over 6.6 million You Tube viewers and has been covered widely in global publications like the LA Times and the Washington Post. It has been identified as a ground breaking advertising campaign.  After watching the video, look at this clip that describes how the project was conceived.  Do the film producers identify the Chipotle Mission Statement as a source of inspiration for the film?  What about the advertising company; is there anything in the video that suggests that Chipotle’s commitment to its Mission informed which advertising firm to hire?

Apple:  In an article entitled Greatest Business Decisions of All Time, the choice to bring Steve Jobs back to Apple to replace it’s management board is cited as a game-changing milestone in the company’s journey to world-wide dominance.  With or without a Mission Statement, what is the impact of choosing a leader who deeply understands the company’s reason for being and who can bring the same largess of mind to its daily operations that it did to its company’s creation?

Samsung: In the 90’s Samsung paid some of its employees to move, live and immerse themselves in diverse cultures all over the world.  They didn’t have to work there; they just had to live and observe.  Their feedback helped Samsung understand the needs of people all over the earth. Years subsequent to this, Samsung embarked on a successful global marketing plan. The chairman of the time, Lee Kun-Hee was responsible for this novel decision. Do you believe that Mr. Kun-Hee intrinsically believed in the value of understanding a consumer and their needs?

Starbucks:  This company’s Mission is ‘to inspire and nurture the human spirit, one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time’.  Starbucks has a policy that everyone who sits in their café can have a free refill of coffee.  How does this business decision dovetail with their Mission?  Follow the Mission page link above and review the additional ways Starbucks brings their goals alive each day.

Calvert Investments:  While most of Wall Street’s financial companies are grabbing at financial goals, this company is underlining a set of very different values.  Review this company’s Mission and Values page.  Take a look at the picture that’s positioned at the top.  Where was this taken?  Who is in it?  Does this page present a company that is talking about responsibilities or acting on them?  What do their actions say to their employees?  To their clients?  Based on what you’ve read on this page are you more or less likely to consider their services?  Review the ‘five key strengths’ on the right side of their Mission and Values page, then follow through the hyperlinks.  Once you have reviewed each, ask yourself whether or not these five, ordinary terms they’ve listed have been thought through or only provided cursory consideration.  How did this company come to understand each of these strengths in the terms described?

While a successful Mission Statement might be difficult to articulate, its contents are already inside of you.  Stating what you want to accomplish is essential, but the words ultimately pale to the actions required to make your Mission live.   If you are struggling with finding the right words and phrasing to state your Mission, focus on actions within your company that might do the talking for you. Once you see these higher-self goals playing out, inspiration will teach you how to say them to the world.