I am the type of person who needs visual reminders. When I have to remember something in the morning, I will hang a shoe from my bedroom door knob before I got to bed. Then, when I see the shoe hanging from the knob the next morning, I remember why I put it there. Most of the time, this technique works, and I avoid having to turn my car around and go home to retrieve my left-behind work laptop. I also have (not so) tiny stacks of paper and files on my desk to serve as a visual reminder of what I have to do that day.
When I look up from my desk, the front of my office door is facing me. On that door, at just about eye level, I have taped a strip of paper with the following words:
“Be useful, and be kind.”
This quote, attributed to President Obama, is placed there as a reminder to me; this is the type of colleague I want to be; this is the type of leader I want to be; this is the type of community member I want to be; this is the type of friend I want to be; this is the type of person I want to be.
There are days when I am utterly useless and, sadly, when I am not particularly kind. So, I need the reminder.
Here’s the thing: I am not the only person who needs this reminder. There are days when I wish I had stickers with these words emblazoned on them that I could just affix to people’s foreheads. For example, this presidential election cycle has really challenged my belief it is even possible to be useful and kind – especially the kind part. I feel like I can’t read the news, or watch TV, or listen to the radio, or look at social media, or overhear other people’s conversations and not just want to scream, “How hard is it not to be a jerk, you dummy?” (Which is, of course, useless and unkind. Also, my thought is edited for appropriateness. The nouns are usually – um – stronger.)
I suspect I’m not alone. It’s far too easy to get buried under the weight of useless negativity and bizarre discourtesy.
The good thing is I have reminders every day – both visual and not – that all is not lost. Being a part of an association like EASFAA continually reinforces my belief that people can actually be useful and kind. Through the years, I have been able to rely on my EASFAA colleagues and friends for help, support, information, and commiseration. As a new aid director, I am even more appreciative of the support system that comes along with my membership. Whether it’s advice on where to find a copy of my cohort default rate letter for the auditors, or much needed reassurance that I will, in fact, not totally mangle my first FISAP, my EASFAA colleagues have been there for me.
I’m grateful to be part of an organization filled with thoughtful professionals who know how to be useful, and be kind – and who help hold me to the standard I have set for myself.