About Paula Kiger

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

June: Not your ordinary news month

When I wrote my wrap-up of my favorite May stories from SmartBrief, I couldn’t help reflecting on the difference between the pre-May 25 stories and the post-May 25 stories. I even added a story from the June 8 issue (which at the time hadn’t even been published yet) because I found it so reflective how rapidly the nonprofit sector’s focus had shifted after George Floyd’s murder.

Setting the tone

I realize it’s probably an awful habit to check my email before I get out of bed in the morning, but I do. Therefore, the first work-related thing I read on the first day of June was Why are leadership thinkers silent about Floyd and the protests? by SmartBrief senior editor James daSilva. This post made a difference to how I approached the month for a few reasons. To put it most succinctly, “silence is also a message,” one of the key points in the post, is so true. It’s true as it relates to the way governments and businesses choose to respond to challenging times in society, and it’s true for us as individuals.

In addition, I breathed a sigh of relief after reading this post because it was a sign to me about the choices I could make in my editing work as the month progressed and as I contributed to SmartBrief’s leadership Twitter account, which I help manage (please feel free to follow if you don’t already). Finally, it was published at the beginning of a day that finished off with the CEO of Future plc, SmartBrief’s parent organization, saying , “We have never made a political statement at Future and we’re not making one now, this is a fundamental truth – black lives matter.”

As an organization we won’t know if we have succeeded in showing that we support that fundamental truth for a long time. But it made a difference that our CEO said something — immediately and without reservation.

Now, having gotten that long prologue out of the way, these were my favorite stories from June.

BoardSource SmartBrief

In our June 3 issue, there was an article about how to empower Black-led organizations to help their communities. Author Jamye Wooten founded an organization that provides microgrants through the Baltimore Black-led Solidarity Fund. Wooten said, “Relationships move at the speed of trust and social movements move at the speed of relationships.” This captures so much about what makes nonprofit efforts work (and last), all in one sentence. 

June: Not your ordinary news month

Business Transformation SmartBrief

The Business Transformation SmartBrief (BTSB) has four focuses: change management, “people, planet and profitability” (which is, to overgeneralize, about environmental, social and governance factors in investing), digital innovation, and any research that applies to those areas. An article we shared in our June 3 issue discussed 10 reasons change management efforts may fail. One of the reasons is the belief that “leaders can force people to change.” In my experience, a leader may be able to make change happen, but doing so comes at a cost to morale, productivity and long-term success.

The post’s author wrote, “A senior manager who tried that approach told me, ‘All I got was malicious compliance.'” The term “malicious compliance” seems about right. And I agree with this reminder: “People need to understand the motivation for change and leaders must ‘win them over’ to succeed.”

Entrepreneurs

I filled in as the editor of SmartBrief on Entrepreneurs for the June 26 issue. The issue included a story about Alexa von Tobel, who founded LearnVest, a company that was designed to help people understand financial planning better. LearnVest was sold to Northwestern Mutual in 2015 for $375 million. Von Tobel discussed how she started the business with only her savings (no capital). “I had so much conviction,” is what she says about her process.

Although von Tobel was discussing a business decision, “I had so much conviction” seems to apply to other aspects of June 2020 and the challenges we all face.

International City/County Management Association

In the June 22 issue of the ICMA newsletter, we included a story about how the St. Paul, Minn., City Council voted to prohibit conversion therapy for minors. Prohibition of conversion therapy is an important issue to me. I advocated for such a prohibition here in Tallahassee, Fla. It ultimately passed, but one of the City Commission meetings I attended as the discussions played out will stay on my mind for a long time. People who have been personally affected by conversion therapy were courageous enough to describe their experiences. People who spoke of their opposition to conversion therapy were too cowardly (or perhaps just uneducated) to be compassionate toward people who didn’t fit their idea of the absolutes into which people should be sorted.

I’m happy to see conversion therapy bans being passed in more places. The American Psychiatry Association has opposed the practice since 1998.

National Association of Social Workers

Relando Thompkins-Jones wrote a piece called Representation Matters in Social Work: We Need More Black Therapists. We shared that piece in the June 9 issue. Thompkins, who is Black, discussed how frustrating it was to have a (white) therapist who “hadn’t heard of Amy Cooper, didn’t understand the racial dynamics at play in the story, and was not aware of the death of George FloydBreonna TaylorTony McDade, or others.”

Thompkins-Jones makes the case that there need to be more Black therapists, and suggests a “pathways approach” that provides support such as mentoring, field placements and workshops to help build skills for aspiring Black social workers.

Must practitioners always share the same identities of the people they support? No. Are understanding identities and their connection to power, privilege and oppression in relation to others important? Yes. Do we need more Black therapists? Yes. — Relando Thompkins-Jones

National Emergency Number Association

I have lived in Florida most of my life, so hurricane prep has been a consistent part of our routines. In this article from the June 4 issue of the Public Safety SmartBrief (NENA), a county emergency management director was discussing how hurricane preparations will be complicated by the pandemic. After explaining that people seeking to stay in hurricane shelters would “need to bring including masks, snacks, food ready that’s to eat and bed rolls,” Rupert Lacy said, “A shelter is refuge, not comfort.” That is technically true. I’ve never had to stay at a hurricane shelter (yet), but I can’t imagine a time when comfort is more sought after than when you and your family are away from your own home, unsure if it will still be standing when you return.

Reserve Officers Association

The June 1 issue of this newsletter had a story that discussed how the Army Emergency Relief program had expanded benefits for Army National Guard members or Reservists affected by the pandemic. One of those is a zero-interest loan of up to $3,000 to deal with taking care of the remains of family members when it’s impossible to have a funeral right away due to lack of capacity at funeral homes. This is known as “dignified storage.” There’s nothing wrong with the term, but it made me sad that it has to exist.

Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Honorary

There were some excellent pieces of writing about the need for more diversity in science last month. In our June 9 issue, we shared US scientific societies condemn racism in the wake of George Floyd death. Several scientists presented compelling statements. Megan Donahue, an astrophysicist who is also president of the American Astronomical Society, wrote, “Racism persists because many of us have refused to see it.”

In addition, I found Donahue’s candidate statement from the time she ran for the office. The election was in 2017, so this statement dates back at least three years. Part of her statement reads, “I propose to increase AAS-supported outreach to underserved communities. We have hard work to do to meet the challenges ahead, from shrinking science budgets to meeting our own high standards for opportunities for all.”

Donahue’s statement occurred long before the George Floyd murder. It’s not that racism wasn’t present in 2017, but there wasn’t a national conversation of the type we’re having now. I admire Donahue for making diversity and “opportunities for all” a part of her platform.

UN Wire

I’m sorry to end this month’s wrapup on such a negative note, but the June 26 issue of the UN Wire newsletter had a story about the millions of Yemeni children facing starvation due to the pandemic.

And if the picture of the starving newborn atop this story doesn’t move a reader, I don’t know what will.

It’s a heartbreaking image, but one that the things I’ve discussed in all the other stories above — motivation, trust, conviction, acceptance, comfort, dignity, making sure the underserved are accounted for and putting aside our refusal to see racism — can be applied to making the type of change that literally helps people survive.

How to Build an Anti-Racist Company

I participated in a webinar on June 11, How to Build an Anti-Racist Company. (There’s a full replay here for Quartz members or people who take the 7-day trial.) This is a huge topic to fit into one hour, but that hour was an hour well-spent, and it will help me make a more focused contribution at my organization.

I wrote about the webinar here, and would love for you to tweet SBLeaders to share a commitment can you make to making your organization more anti-racist.

June: Not your ordinary news month

Working at Future/SmartBrief

This is a section I share every month. I do want to add that our organization just grew substantially as Future’s purchase of TI Media was finalized.

Each month, I share the open positions at SmartBrief and Future for anyone who is interested in being a part of finding and sharing stories through business-to-business newsletters.

wrote in more detail about my experience as a SmartBrief employee here, which may help answer any questions you have. As always, I’m happy to answer inquiries and provide more information about the process.

Open positions at SmartBrief and Future plc can be found at this link. If you are interested in applying, please list me as your referrer or email me so we can discuss further.

To subscribe to one (or more) SmartBrief newsletters, including the “end of the work day” While You Were Working, for which I am a contributing editor, click here. We’re also still producing a brief specific to COVID-19 on Tuesdays and Fridays, and you can subscribe to it here.

If you aren’t in a subscribing mood, you can still keep up with us at the site of our parent company, Future; on FacebookSmartBrief TwitterLeadership SmartBrief TwitterLinkedIn and SmartBrief Instagram.

June: Not your ordinary news month
I always work from home, but right now all of our staff members are working from home. For that reason, here’s a nice memory (and a lovely quote) from my visit to our DC office last December.

*The views expressed here are my personal opinion and not those of my employer.

When private words become public

When private words become public

COMPROMISE

I don’t really know what this has to do with compromise, but it’s on my heart so here goes.

There are some types of compromise in this world that are the right thing to do. There are others that are not.

Recently, I read a blog post that had some points I agreed with, but the title, for lack of a better word, painted all people of a certain ethnicity into one particular stereotype.

I hemmed and hawed for a few days about this. I said something about it on Twitter, and someone I respect and admire reminded me that civil discourse matters.

When the individual had posted their blog to one channel, everyone had agreed with the individual’s viewpoint. My decision to take a civil approach was to send a private message.

The response back was snide, dismissive, accusatory and belittling.

I replied back with a civil but brief reply. I thought the situation was over. The individual definitely did not have to agree with me. It was their blog after all!

I revisited their profile a few days later because I was still interested in their work (which is in the diversity field). Lo and behold they had posted my initial message (without identifying me). All they said besides posting my message was “No.”

Here’s the thing. I said what I said. I didn’t plan for it to be made public, but I don’t write things without knowing in the back of my mind they *could* be made public.

I responded to each person (and ALL of the comments were negative toward my message) to the degree possible (except the truly obnoxious ones — there’s no response adequate in that situation). I gave my email address publicly to engage in a dialogue that would hopefully be more constructive than adversarial.

***end of five minutes***

Ultimately, the person who originally posted my message left a lengthy comment and said they were “not going to spend any more emotional labor” on me.

Here’s the thing. If my words are shared in a way that threatens to compromise my integrity, the most human thing I know to do is to account for those words.

Unfortunately, the lesson I learned was that not everyone is willing to do that. And no matter how much life experience you have, that can still be a tough relationship truth to accept.

Welcome to this week’s Five Minute Friday. Our instructions, via creator Kate Motaung: “Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.” (But I can’t resist spell checking, as you can imagine.) 

When private words become public

4 ways you can help improve global health

I spent part of this weekend participating in the RESULTS International Conference.

The conference was originally planned for Washington, D.C., but as with so many other plans, the pandemic forced a change of venue. I’m not sure I would have been able to go if travel had been involved, so I saw this as an opportunity to participate I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Today, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, spoke to us about how we can all have a role in shaping the future, especially when it comes to global health. Many of his comments (especially “COVID politics should be quarantined”) pertained to the pandemic, but they also apply to global health more broadly.

4 ways you can help improve global health

Here’s the 4-step action plan he recommends:

Continue advocating for more investment

There are a variety of types of investment that can make a difference for global health. Examples include the World Health Organization itself. President Trump has said he intends to withdraw US funding from the WHO, although it remains to be seen exactly how that will play out. Other organizations that make a difference include The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

Fight misinformation

Misinformation is confusing at a minimum and could cost people their lives at the worst extreme. Learn more from this Columbia Journalism Review article, which outlines why misinformation is so dangerous. Learn more about taking an active role in combating misinformation here (I am signed up and looking forward to the next steps).

Support accelerated innovation

The WHO has a research and development blueprint that has been activated to try to speed a reliable remedy for helping people recover from (and keep from being infected with) COVID-19. Learn more here.

Advocate for national unity and global solidarity

The 800+ RESULTS advocates were not all in the same room for Dr. Ghebreyesus’ speech, but in my head (and heart), I feel like every one of us stood up and cheered when he said this, perhaps not literally, but the sentiment was there.

Dr. Ghebreyesus went on to say, referring back to the potential of the US withdrawing funding from WHO, “It’s not the money. It’s the relationship with the US that matters, as it can lead to more money. When the US is generous, it gives hope to others. When others are safe, the US is safe.

4 ways you can help improve global health
My screen capture skills need a little work, but I wanted to catch a memory of this moment.

I appreciate the opportunity to hear Dr. Ghebreyesus speak. The last thing he said was that number four (about the solidarity) should be number one.

I agree, and I’m ready to do my part! If you want to learn more about RESULTS, please visit this link.

I’m linking up with the Kat Bouska prompt to write about “Something someone said recently that made you think.”

4 ways you can help improve global health

How small things can make a difference

How small things can make a difference

HOW

I love these women at Gadsden Correctional Facility (GCF). I have been part of a group that has held running and training events with them since 2012 (!).

So much has changed since then. I am no longer able to run, but I go and do the events and either walk or volunteer. There’s always a job to do or a conversation to hold — these people truly don’t care how long it takes me to cover a walked or run distance.

Our group received an update from our staff contact at GCF recently. We had all been worried about COVID-19, especially based on what we were learning from newspaper reports.

There was COVID-19 at the facility, but we learned that the women who are involved in the facility’s programs are back in their regular dorms and participating in their regular routines. (I don’t really know what that means for the facility as a whole — I imagine there is still exposure there, but it sounds like, in general, they have things under control. I hope so.)

Our group asked if we could contribute a banner to hang on the fence by the field where they run so they would know we are thinking of them.

Our leader shared his email about their condition and his response to the idea of a banner. He said, “always remember the smallest things matter to these ladies.”

And those few words — “always remember the smallest things matter to these ladies” — have stuck in my mind ever since I read them.

This is a time in our nation (and world) where we often feel at odds for how to help.

Although there are VERY big things that need to be done to set our world on the right track, it’s important to remember that “the smallest things matter.” That applies whether our prison is one of literal bars and security measures or one built from our own insecurities and inadequacies.

How small things can make a difference

Welcome to this week’s Five Minute Friday. Our instructions, via creator Kate Motaung: “Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.” (But I can’t resist spell checking, as you can imagine.) 

How small things can make a difference

Doing what’s right and being human: SmartBrief May 2020

The first Sunday of every month, I share my favorite SmartBrief stories from the prior month. The timing is a little odd this month, since the first Sunday occurs when a full week has already gone by. Because the first week of June was such a monumental one for our nation, and for the nonprofit sector, I have already accumulated stories I plan to use when I write my June wrapup on July 5.

One of the benefits of doing things the same way every month, though, is having a little time capsule of what transpired. In that spirit, I’m sharing my favorite stories from May (with one exception).

Business Transformation SmartBrief

In the May 8 issue of this newsletter, we shared a story about takeaways leaders can gain from the pandemic. One of the story’s points was how it can be effective for job-hunters and others in need of connection to ask for “warm introductions” from people in your network if you’re job-hunting during a pandemic. The story has to do with a lesson Ryan Smith, Qualtrics CEO, learned during the previous economic crisis. Conclusion: “The lesson here is if you do what’s right, it may pay off 10x down the line.”

BoardSource SmartBrief

It’s almost quaint how the pandemic seemed like our only and biggest problem on May 11. But it certainly was front and center in many of the stories across my eight briefs. I did not know about Sean Penn’s charity, CORE, what it did in Haiti, or the topic this story addressed: how he made sure so many people in California were able to be tested for COVID-19. The organization, at the time of the story, said it planned to expand the drive-through testing beyond California, to make sure rural areas were covered, and to serve the Navajo Nation reservation too.

National Association of Social Workers SmartBrief

In the May 15 issue, we shared a story in which a social worker discussed the challenges of doing their job while wearing personal protective equipment.

“As the hospital eventually required us to wear PPE when meeting with patients, I found myself trying to convey empathy from behind a mask. My job involves talking to people who are in a very delicate state, especially now. Day in and day out, I hoped that these patients were able to feel my empathy through my body language and tone of voice, since they were not able to see my expression behind the mask.”

I related to this social worker’s concerns.

Public Safety SmartBrief (National Emergency Number Association)

I’m not exaggerating when I say “I love dispatchers.” I had an appreciation for them before I started editing this newsletter, but now I think they are absolute heroes. An article in the May 5 issue was part of a trio of pieces that explained the changes dispatchers have experienced due to the pandemic, both regarding the volume of calls and the way they do their work. “We’re not very comfortable sitting at home,” said one. This does not surprise me at all.

Reserve Officers Association SmartBrief

I’ve read multiple “deployment ceremony” stories since I began editing this newsletter in September 2018. This one in the May 6 issue had a pandemic twist: although there were 130 service members being deployed, the ceremony was a “rolling farewell” and the governor, who attended to see them off, said he was “really sorry I can’t shake all your hands.” This was probably a good logistical choice, but I felt for these service members not being able to share the moment together.

Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Honorary, SmartBrief

I will often go to a scientist’s own website when reading a story for the Sigma Xi newsletter. Ostensibly, it’s to check that I’m spelling their name right or to see if they are on social media (sometimes I share the stories I’m editing via Twitter and/or Instagram). There’s a scientist, Tim Bedding, whose research was featured in our May 18 issue. His research charted the “heartbeats” of 60 pulsating stars.

But that isn’t the main thing that got that story to this point. It was the fact that his website contains a link to pictures of his kids. I love anything that gives the people behind these stories more dimensions than a passing mention in an article can provide.

UN Wire SmartBrief

I learned a new word from the May 11 issue. The word is “renovictions” and it means when a company “purchases apartment blocks, often with tenants already living in them, and then undertakes renovations to communal areas and vacant apartments within the block, regardless of need.” Renovictions. They sound dreadful and unfair.

International City/County Management Association SmartBrief

I’m doing something different with this final share of the post. It’s not a story that ran in May. It’s not a story that has run yet. It’s a story slated for the June 8 issue, which will be published tomorrow.

It’s a story no one could have anticipated when May started, but that, in my opinion, is the story that speaks most eloquently to our time.

In the June 8 issue, readers will see that Washington, D.C. added a street mural reading “Black Lives Matter” that covers two city blocks with massive letters on a road leading to the White House. Ed note: Here’s a link to the story. 7/4/20

Photo credit: Unknown

I’m also proud to work for a place where our CEO said at the beginning of last week, “We have never made a political statement … and we’re not making one now, this is a fundamental truth – black lives matter.” I agree with her and it matters to me to be part of a company that feels that way. It’s an important place to start, even though every company, every organization, every city, every town, every institution and every individual who does not have lived experience as a black person has work to do. A great statement is only a starting place, and we each have to take responsibility for being true to that promising start.

Working at Future/SmartBrief

Each month, I share the open positions at SmartBrief and Future for anyone who is interested in being a part of finding and sharing stories through business-to-business newsletters.

wrote in more detail about my experience as a SmartBrief employee here, which may help answer any questions you have. As always, I’m happy to answer inquiries and provide more information about the process.

Open positions at SmartBrief and Future plc can be found at this link. As of this writing, the most recent position listed is this Senior Sales Development Manager position in our New York City office. If you are interested in applying, please list me as your referrer or email me so we can discuss further.

To subscribe to one (or more) SmartBrief newsletters, including the “end of the work day” While You Were Working, for which I am a contributing editor, click here. We’re also still producing a brief specific to COVID-19 on Tuesdays and Fridays, and you can subscribe to it here.

If you aren’t in a subscribing mood, you can still keep up with us at the site of our parent company, Future; on FacebookSmartBrief TwitterLeadership SmartBrief TwitterLinkedIn and SmartBrief Instagram.

This is an older picture (from my first visit to our Washington, D.C., office in January 2019 — the appearance of this entrance has changed since then). But I still like it, because I was so happy to meet everyone in person. And I imagine it will be a good sign for our world when the doors greet employees again after a long period of working from home.

*The views expressed here are my personal opinion and not those of my employer.

Goodbye to a true-blue vehicle

I bought a new (to me) car yesterday.

I’m so excited about the new car, partially because I’ve been enduring a car without air conditioning through three long Tallahassee summers. That’s not the only problem with the car, but arriving at events with melted makeup and clothes stuck to my skin had grown old and uncomfortable.

Before celebrating that car, though, the car it’s replacing deserves a proper sendoff.

My 2005 Honda CR-V, which I got in 2008, had 45,768 miles on it at the time and is now 300 miles away from having 200,000.

Our Odyssey died unceremoniously one day in 2008 when I was driving down I-10. Wayne had just gotten approved for financing to get a vehicle of his own, but once our family workhorse had been declared terminal, we ended up needing two vehicles for the financing that was intended to cover one.

We got both of them from our credit union’s buying service. He got a 2006 Chevrolet Silverado. I got the CR-V. I don’t remember much discussion at all about the cosmetics. I did know in advance that it was blue. All that mattered (pretty much) was that it would run.

And run it did.

There are so many memories in that car:

Goodbye to a true-blue vehicle
A Monster energy drink sticker can only mean “Wayne Kevin was here” (years ago)

Multiple trips taking kids to school.

A trip the kids and I took to Kennedy Space Center and Cypress Springs.

The kids using it as *their* first car when they began driving.

Me backing into a pole at the Subway on Tennessee Street after taking Tenley to a college visit at FSU.

Goodbye to a true-blue vehicle

One child (won’t single them out) having their first accident in the car.

Me thinking the Idiots Running Club seriously meant we had to use our last names when we got our IRC decals made.

Goodbye to a true-blue vehicle

Many trips taking my father-in-law to doctor’s appointments, to his beloved afternoons at the bar, to radiation treatments. I never figured out how to get this visor to stay in the “up” position once the spring broke, which was frustrating. At the time, there was some kind of “as seen on TV” product that WAS a car visor. He would say, “you ought to get that.” And I would kind of blow it off, but he was actually right. This problem was probably easily fixed, but we were pretty deep into the challenge of dealing with debt at the time, and I just couldn’t muster the energy (or finances) to pursue fixing something that seemed like a relatively minor issue.

Goodbye to a true-blue vehicle

The paint slowly getting so degraded that the paint job looked just as resigned as I did about the car’s appearance.

Goodbye to a true-blue vehicle

I was always relieved that I ended up loving this car, which I didn’t test drive and didn’t have much to do with choosing, so much. I’m pretty sure I treasured this car more than Wayne loved the truck he bought in the same transaction.

I never gave it a name, but maybe “True Blue” would be a fit. It got me through 12 years safely and mostly reliably. The air conditioning pooped out the last few years, but it was always a cool car.

Thank you, True Blue. You served me well.

Goodbye to a true-blue vehicle

I’m linking up with Kat Bouska’s blog for the prompt “Tell us about the last thing you purchased.”

This is the time to be forward

This is the time to be forward

FORWARD

Being “forward” in the sense of speaking up first, taking a risk, not sitting back to hear other opinions before expressing mine, does not come naturally to me.

Maybe it shouldn’t.

There’s something to be said in this world for the tendency many of us introverts have to process lots of information, take time to formulate our stance, and craft whatever we are going to say or write.

But I feel awash in a world of “forward” people.

I think it’s the “instant” nature of social media that makes this feeling of being awash so potent right now. Maybe the closed-in situation created by the pandemic too.

We sit at our keyboards, watching issues like the Amy Cooper/Christian Cooper confrontation and the killing of George Floyd, seeing social media explode with outrage, premature conclusions (sometimes) and lives being changed rapidly (or in Floyd’s case, lives being ended) and we don’t know what to do.

I think the people in our history who ended up making a difference — bigger names such as Malcolm X and Andrew Goodman and less well-known changemakers didn’t do so by not being forward, brash, courageous, brave.

So much of the discourse I’ve read over the last couple of days (and a little bit of the opining I have shared) had to do with what we teach at home. I do believe that creating a less racist world depends (in part) on what we teach at home and how we raise our kids.

I also know hate-filled people have emerged from homes where acceptance and love for one’s fellow humans were taught and demonstrated.

Somehow, we have to teach our children (and ourselves) to be forward in the moments when it matters, to call out racism when it is tempting to stay silent — when the relative makes the racist joke, when they post the meme that stereotypes and degrades.

There are times to be forward, and we’re going to have plenty of them in the near future.

Welcome to this week’s Five Minute Friday. Our instructions, via creator Kate Motaung: “Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.” (But I can’t resist spell checking, as you can imagine.) 

This is the time to be forward

WestPhillyAuthor: My writing inspiration

WestPhillyAuthor: My writing inspiration

I am thrilled to welcome Gerald Jackson, known as West Philly Author on social media, to share a guest post. I heard him read his book, “A Father’s Message,” on the Philadelphia Parks Alliance Readalong, and I wanted to know more about how he came to write the book. He tells the story best:

I never knew the title “author” would one day be a name associated with me. Little did I know my story would be able to connect to so many. It all started in a single-parent home, my mother, brother, and me. That’s right, someone was missing, and that person was my father.

My father was out of the house before I could remember. As the days went on, the void grew stronger. I struggled with knowing that my father knew I existed and knew where I lived, but still didn’t make it a priority to be there. I was crushed and did not know how to handle my emotions. For me, all I really wanted was for my father to play an active role in my life. I wanted a childhood filled with memories of my father to pass down. Instead, I was left with days feeling all alone praying one day my father would come around and knock on my door. The sad truth was days turned into months and months turned into years. What I became used to was times when my father would pop up out of the blue and before I knew it, he would again disappear.

I tried to keep myself busy playing sports to ease the pain. I played little league football in my community but felt like the only kid on the field without their father around to cheer their child on. So, I didn’t go back the next year. Next, I tried swimming my freshman year in high school and really enjoyed it. My neighbor, who was like a father figure to me, came to see me swim one day and I was smiling from ear to ear. I felt for once in my life somebody other than my mother cared. Unfortunately, the next year my swim team switched practice location, and it was too far for my mom to make the travel commitment. So, I decided to quit the team because I didn’t want to put a burden on my mother. My neighbor and uncle were the consistent men in my life, but still couldn’t replace the void I was feeling. I found myself putting barriers up to prevent getting let down. Honestly, what I was doing was making matters worse and harder to ignore the pain.

One day I had enough and could not handle the void I was feeling. I wanted to throw in the towel and call it quits. Yes, I was about to end my life. I thought if I committed suicide that would be a sure way to end the pain. In that moment I heard a voice saying, “all this time you are looking for a physical father, you have a spiritual father who has never left your side”.

Now, things didn’t change overnight but that night something did change. From that day forward I knew I was never alone and that was enough for me to keep going. I no longer looked at my situation as a failure. In fact, God has opened my eyes to see my situation as a blessing. I believe God gave me this test to share with the world. I wouldn’t even have a story to tell if my upbringing was different. I never had a vision of becoming an “Author” and reading or writing wasn’t my strength in school (that’s why we need editors in this world).

I started to look at things from this angle, my message wasn’t just for me, it’s bigger than me. So, it was imperative to share my message so every child who needs to hear it has the opportunity. I would have failed if I didn’t share the message given to me. Initially we don’t know what comes from sharing our story, but one thing for certain we all know what happens when we don’t.

Now, I stand before you as an independent author who wrote a children’s book titled “A Father’s Message” to encourage children to know they are never alone and to let them know their situation may start one way but it doesn’t have to end that way. “A Father’s Message” provides life lessons that give strength and encouragement throughout this journey called life.

Your favorite @WestPhillyAuthor,

Gerald L. Jackson

Here’s WestPhillyAuthor reading his book:

To get a copy of your own, visit this link.

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WestPhillyAuthor: My writing inspiration

Thank you, WestPhillyAuthor, for sharing your story and your book!

A mistake that made things better

A mistake that made things better

These are not normal times, and the Army’s 54th Quartermaster Company does not have a normal assignment. Members of the unit, which does mortuary services, have been serving in New York City, assisting the NYC Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) with managing tasks related to casualties of COVID-19.

Last week, I shared a story about the company’s work in the Reserve Officers Association newsletter, which I edit. The story came from the Army Reserve News Articles, and we try to feature stories about the Reserve and the National Guard when at all possible (as opposed to active-duty service members).

One thing I loved about this story was the fact that a health care provider is making therapy dogs available to the company’s members. Their work is grueling, and the animals provide needed support.

That evening, I posted the story to my Facebook and tagged the company. I did that mainly because I often post stories about “dispatch puppies,” dogs adopted by emergency services units to help dispatchers deal with their stress.

The dispatch world has been pretty light on puppy stories lately, so I shared the story about the 54th Quartermaster Company because at least it mentioned therapy dogs.

The next morning, I had a message from the company clarifying that they are an active-service unit, not a Reserve unit. The source article we had summarized was incorrect.

That left me with a quandary. I could theoretically just leave our publication alone, except for making a correction in the archived copy. Our copy desk chief suggested I do a correction also (so that readers of our next issue will know we made the change).

I have a couple of thoughts to share about how all of this happened.

First, I appreciate the conversation I had with the copy desk editor. She said sharing this kind of story demonstrates that we care about our work on a personal level in addition to an editorial level (this is true for me).

Second, the conversation I had with the communications person for the company brought tears to my eyes amid pandemic craziness. After I had apologized for the error and explained what I planned to do to fix it, this was the response:

No, thank you ma’am for highlighting the work that has been accomplished here in NYC! Overall [it’s] a whole-of-government approach that regardless of component or agency we all have a shared understanding about the ultimate goal: Assist a beleaguered city in their time of need!

Member of the 54th Quartermaster Company

That service member saved the day by bringing the error to light. More than that, the unit is doing their part to save the dignity of those who have passed from COVID-19 and to support a city I love.

A mistake that made things better
A memory from a 2012 walk across the Brooklyn Bridge

Welcome to this week’s Five Minute Friday. Our instructions, via creator Kate Motaung: “Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.” (But I can’t resist spell checking, as you can imagine.) I also threw out the five-minute rule for this one!

I’m also linking up to Kat Bouska’s blog for the prompt “Share a story about someone who ‘saved the day’ for you.”

A mistake that made things better

Mom would tell me to refrain from…

Mom would tell me to refrain from...

REFRAIN

On this Mother’s Day, I’m thinking of things my mom would have asked me to refrain from. (I realize this graphic probably means for us to write about musical refrains, but I’m doing something else.)

I’ve been grappling with the challenge of being respectful and responsive on social media, both on my personal blog and professionally.

On my personal blog, I wrote something I believe wholeheartedly that many people took exception to. I wake up every morning and check the comments to see what new thought has been shared, holding my breath a little bit as the site comes up. I’ve gotten 28 comments. A reporter who wrote beautifully about the same topic (apologies – paywall) has gotten 1,000+, and the comments on her post are brutal. I don’t have it so bad, but I think on balance my mom would have suggested I refrain from writing about the topic at all.

In addition, a reader of one of the publications I edit made a comment on Twitter that worked its way all the way up to a senior leader at my organization. The leader was even-handed in their response, but I still felt the heavy weight of a reader’s disapproval for days. My wise boss simply reminded me that we put out a good product (true) and that you can’t make everyone happy (also true). My mom probably would tell me to refrain from checking that reader’s Twitter stream so much to see if they say anything else. My mom would probably be right. (The irony, though, is that I can tell this reader and I have such a similar take on the world. Thanks, social media and the odd lens of Twitter for driving two people apart.)

My mom was not one to make big public statements. Yet, I think it was growing up as her daughter that made me a) write to figure things out and b) want to fight just a little bit harder to create equilibrium where things don’t make sense.

She always told me to be pretty (in my attitude — it wasn’t an admonition about appearance). Time will tell if there’s a way to blend that with standing firm.

Welcome to this week’s Five Minute Friday. Our instructions, via creator Kate Motaung: “Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.” (But I can’t resist spell checking, as you can imagine.) 

Mom would tell me to refrain from...