Who was I to be? Do you ever ask yourself that question? Do you ever wonder, did I follow the right path or did I miss my calling? I did, for the longest time. Why though? Did I really feel like I had missed the mark in the very decisions of life? I have learned those questions derived from self doubt. Sometimes even from a place harkening to the alleged limitless potential that I never thought I quite lived up to. What did I accomplish? Didn’t matter, because it wasn’t everything I could have done. I was totally convinced.
It seemed as if I worked hard to remind myself that I didn’t do enough. I wasn’t enough. In a world of suffering and anguish, I did not do enough to help. I didn’t meet the standard. Therefore, I failed and no matter what I did from that moment forward, I would never achieve the satisfaction of knowing I lived this life well and to the fullest extent. Trapped in my own delusional prison of limitation. No past could be remedied and no present could be void of the past.
Makes you wonder, where did this pattern of thought come from? How could someone who got up everyday trying to make difference, feel so worthless about what they had done. I had a hunch that perhaps all the naysayers and doubters I encountered, had more of an impression on me then I thought.
People I respected, familiar faces, the occasional crush, or just the mean people who thought different was bad and therefore I was weird. They all said things, repetitiously, and convincingly. Unfortunately, I wore my feelings on my sleeves, making me an easy target, until one day I didn’t. I stopped hearing the insults, but I wasn’t able to hear the compliments that came later either.
Now don’t get all sentimental for me. I was no different than anyone else. We are all subject to these things. I consider myself lucky, as I saw much worse with others. So why then, did it mean a so much? Simple, I allowed doubt in and by allowing it to, doubt grew inside me. Like many growing things, self doubt, became a giant monster of an obstacle in my life. To breathe, I needed constant grading and reassurance. I had to see major success to accept a small amount of reprieve. I would have happily died trying to be better, trying to be something others could be proud of.
If anything I have written here even remotely strikes a chord, then do me a favor, and read this next statement very carefully. It was all bull shit. No one in our time has led the societal perfect life. No one has cured all ills by the measure of nirvana. No one rode the horse of righteous perfection down the straight and narrow road to sainthood. It took a lot to convince me, including a self torturous number of years, but I finally saw that it was all a facade.
In a world where individuals can thrive, and differences can yield beauty, I was always good enough and so are you. I was exactly where I was meant to be, in each and every step, good or bad. Those who said otherwise were equally as tortured and also less than perfect. I controlled my path and I get to determine how well I walked it. The only thing that ever held me back, was believing that I wasn’t good enough. I saw the beauty in everything accept myself, which means I was blind.
It’s time we all opened our eyes, opened our ears and taste the sweetness of accepting our value. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Don’t believe that you didn’t do enough or you didn’t choose the right path. Your path, gave you scars, it made you cry and bleed, but it also gave you joy and perspective. Your path made you who you are, and made many others value who you are. You impacted others and you left a mark.
Here’s to us! A life well lived, and life worth cherishing. You’re being who you are meant to be. You define who you are and if you decide to change the definition, well that’s totally your decision. Go be who you are and don’t let anyone make you doubt it.
Despite my many years of public service and heavy involvement with communications, I find myself in a constant state of evolution that never seems to cease. New platforms and new levels of engagement constantly keep me guessing. One thing has not changed though, we must continue to try and communicate with each other, no matter how hard it may be.
When I was a kid, I remember a very impactful encounter I had while on vacation. I often roamed, and got lost, and this day was no exception. In particular I ended up in a store, scared and confused as I did not know how to reconnect with my mother and older brother. Bouncing from aisle to aisle, I met a young lady who approached me with kind eyes and a beautiful smile. Her approach immediately calmed my anxiety, but she used no audible words. Instead, she began to use sign language. I recognized it was sign language but felt inadequate as I did not know the signs. I wanted so badly to know and converse. Her patience with me was inspirational. Just as it seemed we were beginning to have a level of understanding, my mother showed up. I did not want to leave. I pleaded with my mother to stay so I could have more time with this wonderful person. Time was not on my side though and I left without ever knowing her name or how to reconnect. I cried as we left, hoping that I had not disappointed my new friend too much by not knowing sign language.
Later that year I decided I would find ways to learn signs in hopes of one day finding my friend again, in a Hallmark Christmas Movie fashion. How relieved we both would be that we had a common method for communicating with one another. Unfortunately, the day never came, memories faded, and I lost much of what I had learned.
Fast forward many years, and I was working in the park system. One late afternoon, I was in our park office and received two patrons. I welcomed them in and asked what I could do to assist. They gestured for a piece of paper and a pen. I quickly provided it to them and eagerly awaited the response. They let me know that they would be utilizing written instruction unless I was fluent in sign language. Ashamed, I hung my head and responded in writing that I could not sign, but would gladly assist. As they left after completing their business that day, I recalled my earlier childhood experience and decided I must rededicate myself to learning sign language once again.
I waited a whole year for an opportunity to communicate through sign language in my professional life. As luck would have it, the same patrons came back to reserve a shelter. I was so excited to share what I had worked on. The smiles I was met with were worth more than a whole year’s salary! They praised me for what I had learned and then I shared with them the inspiration they had lit inside of me. Just as they were about to leave they provided me with some signs that I just did not know, so I signed, “I do not understand.” Looking at one another and then at me, they made a sign slapping an “L’ against their upper chests. I shook my head again, indicating I didn’t understand that sign either. Shamefully I handed over a paper and pen. The response was, “lazy is the sign and keep learning, is what you need to do,” to which they both laughed a little.
My lessons learned in both those experiences could have been very different. I knew that I needed to work harder to find a way to communicate in a way that was desirable and respectful to the other person. It would have been easy to get frustrated and give up.
Barriers to communication today can exist in many forms. We don’t all speak the same language. Sometimes, we speak the same language but don’t interpret the same way. Sometimes, we are so distant in our positions that communication seems impossible. Sometimes, we expect the worst in response and so we fear communicating at all.
Should we give up when it is hard to communicate? Should we just quit communicating? You would be surprised at how many people respond yes. Or, maybe you wouldn’t. I truly fear where we may land if we give up on trying to find ways to communicate with one another. It was okay for me to feel like I hadn’t communicated in the best manner. It was okay for me to need to try and improve my communication. The worst outcome would have been that I gave up. The satisfaction of connection and working together, far outweighed the effort in overcoming obstacles.
History is ripe with tough communication amongst people. Nothing significant has been accomplished without trying. It seems like my lesson learned is one that now, more than ever, stays true to what I must endure to keep communicating. I hope you will join me.
We all need a little escape this year! Just in time for the holiday, we take you back to a time in which I was a young Park Ranger. The story you are about to hear is true. It happened, and I will never forget it. Enjoy! Special thanks to Michael Hennessey and Chris Weaver for a highly entertaining production.
Happy Earth Day! Given where we are at this time, staying socially distant, staying at home and doing our best to slow the spread of COVID-19, that has sadly claimed many lives, this Earth Day will be different. Not necessarily different in all bad ways though. There are many negative consequences of this pandemic, but nature may have seen one of the few positive results. This pause in our daily activities has seen wildlife repopulating, water sources less polluted and less proverbial mud holes stomped into our carbon footprint. I hope you will join me this Earth Day in reflecting on what that means and how we can learn from it moving forward. The science is available if you choose to avail yourself to it. We can control the sustainability of our planet.
Here is a fun way to celebrate our renewed wisdom:
Greensboro Science Center
Celebrate Earth Day by discovering wild plants and animals found in the backyards and parks of Guilford County, NC! Please note: If exploring a public park, for your own safety and that of others, please follow CDC guidelines for social distancing.
Here’s how it works:
1. Download the iNaturalist app on your mobile device and create an account.
2. From the “More” tab, click on Projects and join Greensboro Science Center Earth Day BioBlitz 2020.
3. On the designated date and time (April 22 between 8am and 8pm), get out and observe! Snap photos, identify the organism as well as when and where you spotted it and save your observation.
North Carolina Zoo lists a variety of virtual programming that allows viewing and learning about their animals online. This listing provides specific details of what the programs are, when they are offered, and on what platform they can be accessed.
Mo Willems archived Lunch Doodles through the Kennedy Art Center. Download a three week, 15 episode doodling fun time with the author/illustrator of the Pigeon books! This article also includes a link to other author/illustrators that are sharing stories and leading activities https://www.kennedy-center.org/education/mo-willems/
Some Upcoming Live Streamed Music Events from Billboard:
May 8: Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman and Talinda Bennington announced 320 Festival, a one-of-a-kind festival aimed at changing the way we talk about mental health. The festival that was set to take place across the entire L.A. LIVE complex in May has been canceled in its current form. Instead, the festival will be going online. On May 8- 10, fans can tune in for free on Facebook Live, YouTube Live, and the KNEKT.TV Network on Roku and Apple TV to join the conversation through educational sessions, musical performances, workshops and more.
May 2: Latin music stars Gloria and Emilio Estefan, Luis Fonsi, J Balvin, Diane Guerrero and Ana Brenda Contreras have teamed for Eva Longoria’s virtual Cinco de Mayo celebration. The virtual concert will stream live on Facebook Live, Youtube, Twitch, Twitter, iHeartLatino’s radio stations and websites, among other social media platforms, on May 5 at 2 p.m. PT. The event is free to watch but viewers will be encouraged to make donations.
May 1: iHeartMedia Los Angeles’ 102.7 KIIS FM will be hosting a Virtual Prom for Southern California students live at 6:30 p.m. PST on KIIS FM’s YouTube channel. The event will feature DJ sets from Joe Jonas, Dillon Francis and Loud Luxury, a special guest appearance from Lauv and more.
April 29: The Grammy Museum is releasing its digital public program with Brett Young here.
April 27: The Grammy Museum is releasing its digital public program with Sabrina Carpenter here.
SPACE will livestream Blue Monday, presented by Magellan Corporation, with Dave Specter (playing at 8 p.m. ET) and John Kattke (performing at 8:30 p.m. ET) via their Facebook page.
April 26: Lindsay Ell will be hosting a virtual Facebook Live concert at 7 p.m. MT to benefit Colorado’s Tennyson Center for Children (Tennyson Center) as Child Abuse Prevention Month comes to a close.
April 25: NETTA, Flora Cash, Hanson, MILCK and more are set to perform during Twitch’s free virtual music festival on April 25. Donations will benefit MusiCares. More details are available at Loop.tv.
Digital music festival Room Service kicks off April 24-26, with performances by Yungblud, Channel Tres, Pink Sweat$, Chromeo, Zeds Dead, Borgore, A Boogie wit da Hoodie, Gallant, Griz, Mt. Joy, Trevor Daniel, RAC, Jeremy Zucker, Shallou & more (full lineup here). Proceeds from the event will go directly to COVID-19 relief efforts, including Sweet Relief and Feeding America.
North Carolina and CLTure are hosting “Under One Roof,” a livestream benefit concert for North Carolina artists, to be presented in one-hour segments on the evenings of Friday April 24 through Sunday, April 26. Anthony Hamilton, 9th Wonder, Ben Folds, The Hamiltones, Petey Pablo, Tift Merritt, Jim Lauderdale, Steep Canyon Rangers, Chatham County Line, Joe Troop of Che Apalache and The Harvey Cummings Project are all scheduled to perform. See here for more information.
The Grammy Museum is releasing its digital public program with Ben Platt here.
100 gecs is hosting a virtual festival experience: Square Garden. The festival will take place in a unique Minecraft world and feature artists like Charli XCX, Dorian Electra, Kero Kero Bonito, Cashmere Cat, Benny Blanco, Tommy Cash and more. The festivities will take place on 100gecs.com at 6 p.m. with all donations set to benefit Feeding America.
April 23: SPACE will be livestreaming a performance from Tony Lucca at 8 p.m. ET, followed by a set from Jay Nash at 9 p.m. ET via their Facebook page.
Dolly Parton will be reading for her “Goodnight With Dolly” series every Thursday at 7 p.m. EST on Facebook.
April 22: The Grammy Museum is releasing its digital public program with Courtney Barnett here.
SPACE will be livestreaming a set from the Mynabirds’ Laura Burhenn via their Facebook page at 8 p.m. ET.
The New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund will be hosting JERSEY 4 JERSEY 7 p.m. ET on Apple Music and AppleTV apps worldwide, on SiriusXM’s E Street Radio (currently free on the SiriusXM app) and carried on WABC Channel 7, WPVI 6ABC, WPIX, News12, NJTV and local radio outlets including 1010 WINS, WCBS 880, CBS-FM, WFAN, New York’s Country 94.7, Alt 92.3, Q104.3 and others. Halsey, Jon Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen, SZA, Charlie Puth, Saquon Barkley, Tony Bennett, Danny DeVito, Whoopi Goldberg, Chelsea Handler, Kelly Ripa, Jon Stewart and more will make appearances.
April 21: Third Eye Blind are performing live during their “Quarantine Kitchen Sessions” every Tuesday at varying times on the band’s Instagram account to promote social distancing. Said Stephan Jenkins: “We all need to be part of the solution and not the spread.”
April 20: The Grammy Museum is releasing its digital public program with Richard Marx here.
SPACE will be livestreaming a set from Miles Nielsen via their Facebook page at 8 p.m. ET.
Virtual Tours of Historic Sites, Museums, Zoos, etc.
Monteray Bay Aquarium California, is giving visitors a virtual look at its colorful sea creatures via free live camera streaming. Animal lovers can zen out to jellyfish or watch penguins waddling in their habitat.
British Museum. The museum has a free interactive timeline that lets users explore artifacts from ancient civilizations around the world. The virtual exhibit lets people focus on different topics and themes, like “living and dying,” “power and identity,” and “trade and conflict,” all from different continents and eras.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Anyone who appreciates architecture will likely enjoy The Met’s series of YouTube videos that show its most famous buildings and exhibit spaces in a 360-degree format. As a bonus, the videos also feature relaxing instrumental music soundtracks.
The Louvre. The Louvre’s official website offers a few virtual exhibits of its own, and a separate site, YouVisit, has a realistic 360-degree tour of several parts of the Paris museum.
The Acropolis. In partnership with Google Arts & Culture, the Acropolis Museum has digitized many of its ancient artifacts, from statues to marble murals. Virtual visitors can also take in panoramic views of Athens via the Street View feature.
Various Sports Online You Can Get for Free During the Epidemic Listed by Cleveland.com Sports-related services
While all the major sports leagues have currently shut down, that doesn’t mean you can’t relive some of the highlights from prior seasons.
BASEBALL: In addition to being able to watch all of last season’s games on MLB.tv, you can also watch plenty of great classic games on MLB’s YouTube channel. Additionally, PBS has added Ken Burn’s “Baseball” to their list of online viewing options.
FOOTBALL: NFL Game Pass is offering free access until the end of May. Watch original programing and games from 2009 – 2019.
BASKETBALL: NBA League Pass is offering a free preview until April 22nd. Watch full and condensed games and additional programing.
HOCKEY: The NHL is providing access to games played this season before the shutdown as well as additional classic games and content from prior seasons.
SOCCER: Enjoy World Cup action from FIFA TV on YouTube featuring full games and original content.
THEATER: Broadway HD currently has a free 7-day preview featuring some of the biggest shows on Broadway. The Globe Theatre is also offering free videos featuring adaptations of scenes from various Shakespeare plays as well as additional content. Watch some of the most loved musicals of all time premiering every Friday on a new YouTube channel. Shows will only be available for 48 hours each though. PBS is also streaming Great Performances.
E-BOOKS: Featuring works in dozens of languages and including a number of classics from Dickens to Plato, you can download works for free from Project Gutenberg. If you are a fan of classic choose-your-own adventure books, head over to Project Aon. For fans of Comics, Comixology has extended their free preview to 60 days.
VIDEO GAMES: The Internet Archive is a great location for lots of content. In particular, they offer access to hundreds of classic PC and DOS video games that you’ve probably been unable to play since you updated to Windows XP. Parental warning, a handful of games do have adult themes.
STREAMING SERVICES: A number of free services exist. However, a number of paid services have also extended free options or extended their free trial periods.
SiriusXM has extended free streaming through May 15th.
The WWE has unlocked a large amount of content online including all prior Wrestlemanias, past live shows and loads of original content.
HBO is making streams of its most popular series available at HBO Now for free, including ‘Veep’ and ‘The Sopranos’
Apple TV+ has made some of its original programming free.
Free educational videos: While you can’t take your kids out to the museum or zoo, you can bring those experiences home. The Great Lakes Science Center’s Curiosity Corner currently provides a number of videos with experiment suggestions as well as brief talks and demonstrations on a number of topics. The Cincinnati Zoo is offering Home Safaris, bringing you up close with Fiona and many of the other animals at the zoo. Closer to home, the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo has expanded their online offerings via their Virtual Classroom.
Ever travel at an accelerated rate of speed? Of course you have. You’re in a hurry. You’ve got places to be. Deadlines to meet or things to get done. Only so many hours in a day right? Ever drive past something that you wanted to see, but went by it so fast, you only catch a blur or fraction of the view? Imagine seeing the Statue of Liberty for the first time, but going so fast that you barely saw the base of the structure. Disappointing at best I would imagine.
Moving fast isn’t limited to travel though. We rush through work, activities, experiences, and ultimately life. Everyone is guilty of it on occasion, myself included. Many of us understand the benefits of what we gain when we go fast. Perhaps we complete multiple tasks. We get an intended result faster or we just get a much deserved sense of accomplishment. Moving fast isn’t a bad thing necessarily. There is, as always, a time and place for everything though.
Hopefully we can make informed decisions when we evaluate going fast. Understanding the value we lose when we go fast should be just as commonplace. Culturally, we have lost some of this understanding in large part, due to quick access to almost all services and functions. Order a package and get it tomorrow. Look at the news in a matter of seconds. Download your music or games by the time you finish folding your laundry. FaceTime your friends face to face and visit without ever having to get on a plane or hop in the car. Those are all wonderful advantages that allow us to overcome multiple barriers. Not a bad thing at all. I have dedicated my whole life to figuring out how to overcome barriers, so I am ecstatic about what speeds up or creates better access.
In contrast, I have also come to appreciate the unintended consequences of going fast as well. What are we missing? What are we not seeing or experiencing? Often something more meaningful in my opinion. If you are like me, you have been busy for years trying to cram accomplishments into a condensed period of time. Driven by a desire to do the most good and produce the most outcomes, many of us will drive fast through life with a fear of no promises for tomorrow.
If two people are walking a trail, one intends to get to the end as quickly as possible so that they can finish and the other takes time to stop along the way but takes much longer to finish, who gets the most benefit? Who saw the hawk in the tree? Who saw the crocuses blooming? Who sees a quartz formation? Granted, the slower person didn’t finish first and can’t say they lay claim to fastest walk on a trail. For some, that may be equally as valuable.
The value proposition is very different though. A claim to finishing faster will likely be one of many simple accomplishments that in quantity may hold some meaning, but will fade fast as a memory. In contrast, a story about the hawk, flowers and quartz formation could mean something that lasts much longer. Beyond a visual impression, you’ve experienced the earth’s offerings, peaked a curiosity or knowledge and discovered special moments that come far too seldom.
Both experiences can fulfill. I simply propose that going fast doesn’t allow for an experience, which for some, could be a very meaningful memory or produces additional benefits. By knowing that, you can decide what has more value for you, but just remember, you can’t see as much, when you go 100 mph.
This isn’t as simple as a trail walk though. On a grander scale, maybe in life, we take a little longer for vacation so we can see more. Maybe we stay an extra hour during a social visit to have a more meaningful conversation. Maybe we spend an extra day planning for a project so that we give due consideration.
As I watch our society enjoy the offering of quicker benefits, I fear a forgotten understanding of value in experience. Particularly as the generations that follow become more reliant. It is for this reason that I have chosen to take some time on occasion to experience life at a different pace, that allows sight of what is around me. Maybe it is time for some of us to set an example for those who have seen us live at a quicker pace, always pursuing quantity as opposed to quality.
Society has little tolerance for taking more time. Our culture doesn’t always accommodate our desire for pace. We are part of society though and we help craft culture. Taking the opportunity to lessen the pace and enjoying more of the experience doesn’t have to be every time or with every facet of life, but where we can, it is worth trying. Going 100 mph can often end in a crash without reaching your destination. Going slower, with more awareness can result in reaching the destination safely and with the benefit of remembering the journey.
It started when I was five years old. By “it” I mean my determination for equity in quality of life and more specifically in community service. My mom was constantly searching for free things my brother and I could do. She remembered that, prior to my father’s departure, his employment allowed us to go to a country club in Greensboro. The facility had tons of recreational options that would allow us to play on our own terms. At the time we had no real income outside of good will and government subsidy, so my mother thought this would be a pleasant surprise. My brother’s mobility was limited as he had just been upgraded from a wheelchair to leg braces that he would have to learn how to use for some years to come. We loaded up into the beige station wagon with the cool lay-down seat in the back end. Then, we headed into the city, watching the road in reverse as if we were leaving all our troubles behind.
When we got to the entrance of the facility, we were filled with excitement. I loved seeing the joy on my brother’s face upon our arrival. He had often endured the ignorance of small minded people who had less aptitude for seeing the beauty within others who may seem or look different than themselves. Even my mother’s face filled with delight knowing she would succeed in taking us away from all the small town gossip and rumors that surrounded my family, even if for just a day. We didn’t mirror the expectation of normalcy in our community. We were so different that I often thought everyone else was strange instead. Seeing the happiness on her face made me feel like she had forgotten the daily challenge of how to provide food or shield us from the awful truths that surrounded us. She had dealt with an abusive, alcoholic, former spouse and my other siblings who had fallen prey to the temptations of the world for so long. It was nothing short of a miracle that she still wanted to get up in the morning, much less make sure we had some type of fun.
I loved playing of any kind. My father had been a local, star athlete and I often thought if I could match his success I would get the attention I wanted from him. Being outdoors was my sanity. I ran away to the woods almost every day. The wildlife I encountered were my best friends and they never betrayed me. Our destination that day would offer all of this and so much more. This place was a childhood Shangri-La if ever there was one. It was to be our day! Nothing could interfere with the happiness that would find its way to the fraction of what was left of our family.
Pulling into a parking space with this much anticipation always felt like a bad slow-motion sequence from a movie. As I peeked out the window I could see the top of the clubhouse. I admired it as if it was the entrance to see the Wizard of Oz. Once we got inside, the Wizard would take all our troubles away and all our future paths would be yellow brick roads. I saw the faces of people coming in and out, and everyone was happy. For a brief moment my anxiety rose, fearing they would detect or smell our lack of culture, financial stability or normalcy that was needed to blend in. Then I remembered that nothing bad ever happens in this happy place. My mother opened the back door. Freedom!!! No matter what pace my brother moved at, I always chose to move at the same. I was so proud to be his brother that I never wanted anyone to mistake that we weren’t related. We walked in sync following our mother to the front door of the clubhouse.
Mom ran up ahead of us to be greeted by someone staffing the entrance. Oddly the exchange looked less than happy. No happy faces, just a look of disgust and then a look of shame on my mother’s face. She walked back over to both of us tearfully and broke the bad news. “We aren’t members here anymore,” she said with a whisper. I didn’t understand. What in the world was a member, and why did I need to be one to play? Why did my brother need a membership? Had he not paid his dues in so many other ways? “A membership is what we have to have to play here,” my mother said. “When your father left, he revoked our privileges, along with any hopes of income,” she murmured. We stood there in astonishment. Suddenly she gathered herself and with an award winning performance, pepped up and said with as much energy as she could muster, “but I negotiated the opportunity for you all to play in the front yard. I brought a ball with us and you all can throw it back and forth.” We did just that.
That day would be defining one for all of us. My mother became very assertive and creative, hoping to avoid what would end up being many more like situations for us over the years come. My brother developed a wicked sense of humor with a strong desire to be financially successful. As for me, well that took awhile to work itself out. At the very least I recognized that we could always make the best of every situation. The way I felt that day and many other days to come, really didn’t bother me half as much as the way I felt when I saw their faces, or how I felt when I thought how much it must have hurt them to not even have the simple right to play on the terms that we wanted. Through the eyes of a child we often have an innate sense of right and wrong, and in this case it just felt wrong. In my later youth, my behavior declined. I became aggressive, introverted and, dare I say, vengeful toward all those who I thought had influence or money. You know the story. Mine isn’t isolated.
Many years later, while attending college, I took a job with the local parks and recreation department. I worked in athletics and the role I had was eventually contracted out to a commercial operator. For three whole months I worked in the private sector and gritted my teeth behind the smile of serving individuals who treated me as if they needed to wipe me off their shoes after every encounter. I called my old boss in parks and recreation and asked for anything they had to get back to serving in a more intrinsically fulfilling fashion. She laughed and said, “How are you with a cash register?” I responded, “I am a quick study.” What she said next though moved my stomach to the lower part of my knees and even as I write this still makes me feel that way. She asked me if I was familiar with the old country club. I whispered back an unenthusiastic yes. She said, “Well it is a public facility now as a part of the company’s liquidation of assets and we are out here trying to give the public the best of what is left here.” “I am in,” I finally said after a long period of processing. I was to return to the very facility I was turned away from so many years earlier.
That call and the previous childhood experience marked the start of what became my obsession. I worked at that facility morning and night, and every day in some capacity. I gave everything I had to make sure we provided the best, most affordable services to everyone who wished to participate. Over the years we negotiated deals, worked for support, and assembled a like-minded team to provide what eventually became the best park/event center asset in the system in many regards. When we left we had close to a million visits a year with hundreds of recreational opportunities. My passion grew to work with many more facilities and services as an eventual director of parks and recreation. I believed so much in the work we did that I applied to become an assistant city manager where I reside today. I am still using those experiences from my younger years as guiding principles day in and day out. Ironically, every position I ever held was not about a promotion or even salary for me. Instead, it was a larger opportunity to provide what everyone should have access to. I never charted the path I was on. I did decide to keep going though, finding that all paths can be a little more“yellow brick” in some fashion for others, and someone has to care enough to make it that way. That’s what public servants do, we epitomize that sentiment. If we do for others, and we do it well, they will rarely know how it all comes together or even what the story is that brought us there. This a small portion of my story. There are many more impactful stories out there amongst us. Remember your story every day and you will never lose your path, even if it was uncharted.