Archive for January, 2008

The Joy Of Aging

Over the weekend I had my 59th birthday. My ever-sentimental husband of 31 years gave me a most remarkable present. He had recently been to the dentist, and gifted me with his used gold crown. He shared with me that 1. I could have it made into a piece of jewelry. 2. gold is now $900 an once. I offered to sell it back to him.

Since collecting fabulous birthday swag does not seem to be my lot, I realized that the real joy of aging occurred two weeks ago when I worked with the Hemophilia Foundation of Oregon. I started out as a hemophilia social worker at Children’s Hospital National Medical Center in 1977.

 We had a drug rep who was in his early thirties. He had one knee that he could barely bend and not only did he have a major gait abnormality, but he had to delicately lower and raise himself in and out of chairs. This was a painful process to watch because one of his elbows stuck out at a bizarrely unnatural angle. Everyone in the clinic, including the clerks, knew that his guy had hemophilic induced joint disease.

One day, this drug rep asked to see me in private. We closed the door of my office and he said, “I want your word that you won’t share this information with anyone.” I agreed and he said, “I have hemophilia.” I looked at him and said, “And I will share something very personal with you about myself. I’m fat.” He looked a little stunned. I continued and said, “We all know you have hemophilia because of your joint disease. What can I help you with?” It’s not only the Emporor who has no clothes. Well, he wanted me to get his nephews into summer camp. Easily done.

Fast forward 35 years. Every child I worked with from those days has died of AIDS. And now there is a new generation of young men and boys with hemophilia.  At the retreat in Portland, there were 4 young men on the board of the Hemophilia Foundation of Oregan. They were all born in the last 32 years. Two had hemophilia and two didn’t. I couldn’t tell who was who. They were all self-assured, living normal lives, volunteering, studying, working, one raising a family. That is the joy of perspective. Real progress. And worth a trip to the bathroom for a bit of a cry.

And perhaps next year, Frank will lose another crown and I’ll have earrings. However, I’m not sure this will signify progress.

Carol Weisman, MSW, CSP 59 and loving it.

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Special Events and The Board, Forgetting The One Crutial Step

One of my favorite nonprofits is in a pickle. And a common pickle it is indeed. A board member suggested a smallish event a few months ago, it is now crunch time. The staff didn’t get the invites out on time. The board has a bit of post-holiday malaise and bloat and the event chair is going ballistic. Where is all the support that was promised? Or was it?

Here is the most common scenario: A board member says, in best Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney fashion, let’s put on a golf tournament, skeet shoot, wine tasting, wild boor hunt, you fill in the blank. The board hears, “I will put on the event.” The board member thinks she is saying, “Together, WE will put on the event.” Everyone agrees to the event, a date is set, and then fast forward, its crunch time. The board is dismayed that the event chair expects the board member to bring 10 people. A few of the board members confide, “The truth is, This really is my kind of thing, you know!.” This is the stuff of antacid commercials.

How to avoid this? If this is a small event and you are counting on the board rather than a committee to bring in the guests, take ten minutes, ask the board for a conservative count and ask them how many people they can deliver that night. Take names and write it down. If you want 150 to attend and the board can  deliver 37, this might just be the wrong event, wrong evening, wrong committee. This one step will make all the difference.

Carol Weisman, MSW, CSP, not a fan of small events

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