By John Berry
I have always prided myself on the fact that I thrive on change. Early in my professional career I was weaned on the management philosophy of Jack Welch and the culture at GE. Change was what and who we were. It was a good thing and it made us a better company. I have carried that learning throughout my career from the private sector to government service, and now to the nonprofit sector. It has always served me well.
But I must admit that these past few weeks and months have been full of enough change and drama to last me a lifetime. I am finding it hard to maintain my perspective in a world full of crazy. And I don’t mean crazy in a judgmental sense of any person or politics. I mean crazy like the crazy that comes with unfettered, unfocused, and unproductive noise. The crazy of change that itself seems to change in mid-change. The kind of crazy that makes you sit back and say “What the heck was that?!” There are days when I find myself wishing for boring, for stable, for serenity.
So, to maintain my perspective and keep myself engaged I try and go back to the root purpose of what we are doing and who we are doing it for. The way I do that is I walk from my office to the Family Support Center on the other side of the St. Vincent de Paul building in Chamblee. And I talk to the people there who have come to us for help. Or, sometimes, I just observe their interaction with my staff and our volunteers. I listen to the challenges that they are facing everyday just to make it from one day to the next. To put food on their table, to keep a roof over their heads, to clothe their kids.
The challenges that they, and thousands of our other neighbors here in Georgia face every day are real and gritty and granular and have immediate and powerful impact on their lives. The nuances of a political debate and the making of policy are hard to appreciate when your child is crying at night because they are hungry and you have nothing to feed them. The finer points of tax law are irrelevant to someone who will be sleeping in the street tonight in 30-degree weather. Whether people will be able to gamble or not in Georgia has little interest to the senior citizen who cannot pay for the medications they need to stay alive and pay for food, so they must make a decision that has no good outcome.
None of this is to say that those debates and discussions and deliberations are not important. We know they are. But they are not, or at least should not, be held and made for the sake of the debates and discussion and deliberations themselves. Nor for the sake of one party or person over another. No, they should occur, and they need to occur, to the end result of making this city, this state, this nation, and this world a better place for all. Especially those who are struggling.
Because in a world of crazy, a little perspective will go a long way.