A Little Respect

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.

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Doryann Barnhardt

About Doryann Barnhardt

I am currently the Director of Student Financial Aid at Washington College in Chestertown, MD. Prior to coming to WAC, I held various positions in the aid offices at Delaware State University and Wesley College, both in Dover, DE. I am an accidental aid administrator; I stumbled into the profession over a decade ago, taking a job in a small college in New York City without even so much as having glanced at a FAFSA application before in my life. (How hard could it be, right?) I quickly learned it was hard work but that I was just the right kind of weird to do it. I am a graduate of the County College of Morris in New Jersey, Wesley College, and earned my Masters in Literary Studies from Washington College. I am an avid knitter, weaver, and home brewer . I am married to a college professor named Jack and we live in Delaware with our two cats, Dexter and Winston. You can reach me at dbarnhardt2@washcoll.edu.

4 thoughts on “A Little Respect

  1. If you’re sharp enough that you remember why you left the shoe hanging there in the first place, you’re probably sharp enough to remember what it is you need reminding about, but whatever works, stick with it.

    EASFAA does often serve as a respite from the evil you describe (I recall a wise man once saying something about lighting a candle instead of cursing the darkness, so we’ll see if he’s reading this or not and hope he responds). I’m cynical enough to come to expect that I will encounter those who choose to be neither useful nor kind on a pretty regular basis, and I’m not perfect either, but their negativity does make those who do meet loftier standards – even it they’re not perfect either – stand out that much more and make us all appreciate them.

    And I guess if you wanted to stick to your Beatles song titles, you could have named this entry All You Need Is Love, even if that’s kind of sappy. Because Maxwell’s Silver Hammer just doesn’t work here.

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