Dear Charlotte: How can we find our way?
Our Hope for Community Health luncheon, scheduled for today, was cancelled due to the events in the city last night. These were my remarks I was preparing to deliver to our guests.
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”
So yesterday afternoon, after one of the most difficult days in Charlotte’s history, when one of our fellow citizens lay mortally wounded, 16 of Charlotte’s finest were injured, families across this community were in unbearable grief, and the bonds of social trust and connectedness in this city were badly frayed for all the world to see, I was at a loss.
With our biggest day of the year almost upon us – our annual Hope for Community Health Luncheon would be on Thursday -- when we would be meeting with hundreds of our neighbors on this day of great celebration and happiness and joy for all things Care Ring…here comes the reality of violence and misunderstanding and unrest that sadly afflicts our country and has now very visibly visited our city.
One of our Care Ring nurses lives next to where the violence first erupted on Tuesday night.
One of the families we serve lives right there.
So I needed to walk.
As my colleagues at Care Ring know, I’m a walker. I think and walk. If I don’t have a meeting or a budget sheet to revise or a donor to thank, I walk.
I walk and try my best to put down my devices and look around this city and think about who we are. Think about who we serve. Think about how we can serve them better.
So I walked across the street by Police Headquarters, which happen to be next to our Care Ring uptown headquarters. I walked past a CNN reporter and countless local press that had assembled to report on developments this week, one of Charlotte’s most violent weeks.
And I stumbled upon an “old friend,” someone I hadn’t planned on visiting, but who serendipitously appeared as I walked.
Yes, Gandhi. How many folks here know there is a fantastic statue of Gandhi right uptown? Erected by a volunteer committee of citizens a few years ago, it is tucked in behind the old county courthouse and often obscured from the street by the beautiful trees near its location.
The statue includes a number of memorable quotes and reflections from Gandhi, and one in particular stood out for me during these times of unrest and uncertainty:
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”
This little nugget, which came to me on an impromptu, unplanned walk, is helping me in many ways this week.
I think about the desperate need for excellent, affordable, accessible health care in this community. There are tens of thousands – tens of thousands – of our neighbors here in Charlotte, in neighborhoods just like the one where violence broke out this week, where folks do not have adequate, affordable, and in some cases any health care options.
What can we do? How can our broader Charlotte community find our way?
How can we, and by this I mean Care Ring, find our way?
We can “lose ourselves in service to others.”
What do folks in our community who are struggling need?
How can we more effectively serve them?
Can we do a better job of listening to them and truly understanding the challenges of their day-to-day lives?
When I think about what we can do to help our community not only heal from this epic week, but what we can do to make a difference and improve conditions going forward, I find comfort in thinking about how all of the work we do is designed to serve others in need.
That’s our mission. We’ve been at it for more than 60 years and will be doing it 60 years from now.
We work to empower individuals with limited resources to establish and maintain good health.
We have a vision of a community that promotes, protects, and improves the health and well-being of all people.
What we need to do – what we have to do and will do – is embrace and live out this mission in our work.
We will lose ourselves in service to others.
You guys are here today to listen to us extol our awesomeness.
You want us to tell you about how we change lives.
I assure you this amazing team of health care professionals at Care Ring does this every day.
Nearly 7,000 of our neighbors – every one of them an individual with limited resources and representing the broad diversity of our community – rely on us for their wellbeing.
They lean on us and depend on us to bring vitality to their lives.
Our clinic in uptown Charlotte has a remarkable chronic disease management program. In a few short years this program has seen tremendous growth, taking care of more than 500 of our neighbors through healthy exercise and eating clubs, and by connecting folks to food pantries and much more.
More than half of the physicians in Charlotte volunteer with us to care for those unable to get public or private insurance – THANK YOU for giving back. Last year these docs – and increasingly more dentists, too – gave back nearly $13 million in services they did not charge for.
Every day our heroic nurses in Nurse-Family Partnership go into homes and neighborhoods most of us have never visited.
These community health heroes literally transform lives, leading to healthier babies, moms prepared for motherhood, and over time, a reduction in poverty.
We are finding ourselves through service to others in the community.
Our staff, our clients, our work is rooted in the VERY communities that feel so disenfranchised, and often are marginalized in our society.
I am so grateful and excited each of you has chosen to be here today to learn more about Care Ring and hear our vision for the future.
One of the things I truly LOVE about Care Ring is that our support goes out to every one of our clients.
I keep a sign on my door at Care Ring of the London Underground subway system visual “Mind the Gap.” This visible cue is designed to keep passengers wary of their steps and to be careful as they proceed on the subway.
I’ve shamelessly borrowed this visual for Care Ring. For us this message is a daily reminder of why we exist, why we care, and why we can never forget about the people we are privileged to serve each day.
There is a massive challenge and, sadly, a widening gap in Charlotte in the ability of those on the lowest rung of the economic ladder being able to climb up to success in Charlotte. In fact, as many of you know, Charlotte is the most difficult large city in the country for those trying to escape poverty.
We are minding the gap in access to affordable, high quality health care in Charlotte.
We help people regardless of their station in life. Regardless of the zip code they were born into.
A person may be new to our country. We can help them.
He or she may be socially isolated. We are here to help.
Perhaps a neighbor has not seen a doctor in decades. Tell them to come see us. If we can’t help them, we’ll connect them to someone who can.
We are mindful of each individual’s current situation – and we are ready to step in to help.
ALL are welcome at Care Ring.
This is part of our core values, which the Care Ring board revised and adopted this year.
Our values are pretty simple, just four words:
Compassion – Compassion towards ALL of our neighbors. Compassion drives us to do our work. It is a central motivating factor for our staff and board.
Integrity – Acting responsibly and ethically, we always strive to be inclusive and open about our work.
Collaboration – We embrace our poverty-fighting partners. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them. In fact, we couldn’t do any of our work without them.
Empowerment - We strive to empower others to take responsibility for their health, giving them the tools and the education they need to excell.
These are our values, and this is our vision: We see a community that promotes, protects, and improves the health and wellbeing of everyone.
Not just some of us.
Not just those with good health insurance.
We work to empower individuals to get and stay healthy – giving them the tools and the education and the support they need to thrive.
I hope you will embrace our mission and JOIN us in this movement.
I invite you to be a part of Care Ring, as a donor, as a volunteer, as a supporter, as a connector. You can come along with me and this remarkable staff and board to “find yourself by losing yourself in the service of others.”