The August 18, 2008

Good day team,

Once awhile in your career, you have a rare opportunity to work on an assignment that is life enhancing. When I was asked last month by the board of director’s at St. Mary’s Home for Boys in Beaverton, Oregon to help them find a new executive director, I knew it was just this kind of opportunity. But, I didn’t really understand how rare it was until I met with 15 of the courageous people who work at St. Mary’s last week to get a better idea of what they thought was needed for the director position and the kind of person they’d like to see in the job. But first, here’s a brief description about St. Mary’s.

Founded in 1889, St Mary’s offers residential treatment and services to boys at risk between the ages of 10 and 17. Treatment plans include individual and group therapy, counseling, training sessions, juvenile sex awareness program, and aftercare services. Physical, social, emotional, and spiritual programs are also conducted. Cognitive, behavioral, and relationship treatment approach is provided. The curriculum includes reading, language, computers, art, life skills, health, and physical education.

I cannot begin to explain all of the emotions I experienced while I was there this past week. I am still digesting much of what I saw and learned.  But I did come away from the experience knowing how vitally important it is that St. Mary’s and other institutions like it exist and how much they need our support.

The staff members I met were very open and honest in our discussions and gave me more information than I  expected. They also gave me the great privilege of having lunch with the boys and to attend a student’s graduation. What these children have survived is unspeakable.  I honestly cannot imagine a world where the kinds of abuse and neglect these children experience exists.  But it does happen and often, in our own communities.  St. Mary’s embraces these children with safety, security, sensitivity and sanitation as their underlying values in practice and for most of these kids, it’s the first time in their lives they’ve had any experience of these four things, let alone 3 meals a day, a roof over their heads, and an education.

The statistics prove that these kids have a much greater chance for success when people on the outside volunteer to mentor them.  It only requires about one hour a week, but it improves these kids lives forever.  While I was there last week. some drama coaches were there volunteering to give the kids acting lessons;  there was also a play writing workshop going on.  All of these activities were conducted by local people volunteering their time and energy for the children.  And, the kids just loved it.  When I saw the joy on their faces at lunch time I knew that this kind of activity was essential to their healing and the importance of it was priceless.

As a coach, I see clients all the time who are trying to find some inspiration in their daily lives. They want to be happier or to move in a direction that gives them joy and abundance. They are often looking for more meaning in their lives.  In that search, people try to find happiness by delving deeper and deeper into their own psychology. They work so hard to try and fix what’s wrong and then become narrowly focused and obsessed with themselves. This doesn’t bring any joy at all.  As one client said to me recently, ‘ All of these thoughts about myself are driving me nuts and it’s all the same old stories,  over and over again.”

One of the best remedies for this kind of psychological and emotional trap is to be of service to others. Your challenge this week is to serve someone by volunteering your time and/or energy on their behalf.  It doesn’t mean you have to become an official volunteer;  there are small ways in which each of us can serve others every day if we try to make that kind of service a priority.  Perhaps you clean up after someone at work or set a goal to spend more time reading to your children each day. Maybe you do actually sign up for a mentoring program or to serve meals to the homeless.  If you can spare some extra time during your week, investigate ways in which you can volunteer that time to benefit others.  In Oregon we have the SMART reading program, Habitat for Humanity, Meals on Wheels,  to name a few.  Perhaps your company has a program that allows you to take some time from work to do volunteer work during the week.  Whatever it is, find ways to broaden your emotional life and reap the rewards of serving others.

This past week I realized, yet again, the importance of extending my heart and hand to others.  The world is very much in need of us and we are very much in need of experiencing the good we can bring to the world.  Extending your loving kindness to others is a sure way to experience it in yourself.  At the end of the day, isn’t that what life is all about?

Have a great week!