Saturday, September 17, 2011

Pluralism, NYC and Goldwater Memorial Hospital

In the late 80s and early 90s, I was a volunteer chaplain at Goldwater Memorial Hospital in the Protestant chaplaincy. Although I grew up Roman Catholic, at the time I had been received into an Episcopal religious community and was residing with the brothers of the Society of Saint Francis in Bushwick, a neighborhood in Brooklyn near East New York close to Pennsylvania and Atlantic Avenues.

Goldwater was a unique representation of pluralism that is not as widely known as the City of New York but I wonder how any person, place or thing can be untouched by the diversity of New York. Being a government sponsored hospital, the chaplaincy was broad enough to cover most of the major religious denominations of its patients, many of whom were hospitalized for the duration of their lives for skilled nursing care due to severe injuries and birth defects.

Although my role at Goldwater was that of a volunteer, I was employed by the Sisters of Charity at the New York Foundling Hospital which also operated a skilled nursing facility that I worked in on the Avenue of the Americas that provided care for children with severe injuries and birth defects. Goldwater had a God-wing that consisted of its three chapels, the Roman Catholic chapel, a Jewish "chapel" and the Protestant chapel that was staffed by the Guardian of St. Elizabeth's Friary in Bushwick, a member of the Society of Saint Francis, who was English and had once been an Anglican Benedictine at Alton Abbey. My volunteer chaplaincy duties included serving as Deacon during the Sunday Eucharist Service, visiting the sick with Holy Communion and administering Holy Communion for the patients in the City's only secured TB ward for patients that were non-compliant with their medical treatment.

Religions and people themselves were not the only forms of diversity. The illnesses and injuries of the patients were also widely varied. There were residents who from birth had been hospitalized and some who had even been raised in the New York Foundling Hospital who upon turning 18 were relocated to Goldwater. Goldwater sits on Roosevelt Island between Manhattan and Queens and you can travel there by car, bas, subway or sky-tram over the East River.

The hospital is a series of large industrial looking government buildings surrounded by the East River on either side. Off in the distance were the ruins of the TB Asylum, which seemed almost a romantic view in Spring and Summer but quite morbid in the winter. It was always a brutal walk from any of the forms of public transportation. Walking to and from the train or the tram, I often passed other people in religious garb, including many nuns and some Orthodox priests. Sometimes there was a brief nod or wave but as in the hospital itself, pluralism was approached with a sense of respectful boundaries among the various religious folks around.

These were very active days for me, between seminary, the friary and the hospitals. Internally, I was being altered by the environment in many ways. It was my perception that there was deep and untold human suffering hidden on that island, in that hospital and even behind those religious garbs we wore. From the role of mean-maker, I'm not sure that the significance of all that time on Roosevelt Island has been sorted out. 

When my graduate social work assignment came, it was for a practicum at Jersey City Medical Center up the street from Saint Agnes Church. It was more massive than Goldwater and was sat on top of a hill which to me only elevated its bleakness. Time it seemed was bringing the experience to an end and it was shortly after this that I relocated to Florida and all the sun I could handle.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Our Lady of Providence

Whenever I take the opportunity to sit and write a blog post, I regret that I don't write them more frequently. Not for any audience that I might have, which I really do not have, but for my own learning purposes. Blogging is like a public journal and in that I find that there is a call to humility and authenticity to keep things crisp, if not clear for a possible reader.

I am a huge fan of synchronicity, the uncanny chain that brings like thoughts, ideas, events in close proximity to one another. There may be other conditions or causes operating behind the coincidences, like the law of attraction or one's intentionality or focus, but all the same I find it fascinating. In the religious life, we spoke of a similar set of experiences but related it to the term "providence". Having lived in Terre Haute, Indiana, adjacent to Saint Mary's of the Woods, the motherhouse of the Sisters of Providence, it really isn't too much of a stretch to trace the origins of this personal fascination.

Yesterday, I had a morning meeting with a fellow member of the South Florida Diversity Council at Starbucks and we were using the opportunity to share our diversity stories and what we may be able to accomplish in elevating the conversation here in South Florida. Visioning about a more inclusive community and what each of us could do...our shared next steps. In the series of topics we spoke of, I returned to an earlier reflection that I had shared with a group of managers regarding Western female gender roles and the developmental life cycle.

I want to proceed carefully as I am a male, but it has occurred to me over the course of examining change processes and problem-solving that being female might afford an individual an opportunity to approach a set of circumstance much differently than an individual who by gender is male. The Dali Lama was recently reported to have said that his hopes for humanity reside with Western women. (An interesting assertion in its own right that I'm afraid is outside the scope of this blog.) Without knowing the context of his comments, I searched for some assumptions that I could use to explain it based on my perceptions.

Developmentally, the life cycle takes us all through immense changes. Given the complexity of social roles and how they interplay with life cycle changes, it became apparent to me that women play the primary roles in developmental changes that take place over long periods of time starting with pregnancy and child-rearing (around nine months and well over 18 years respectively). Additionally, there are other social roles such as education and care-giving that don't take place in a heart-beat. The moment to moment care of a sick family member or an aging parent stretch over extensive periods of time as well. Deep learning and profound change require time perhaps as much as a developmental changes require time. From this context, I can see the possibility of not jumping to problem-solving to soon or moving into activity without greater analysis or sacrificing the relationship for the task at hand. Given the severe challenges of today's world, where no immediate remedy could possibly be hoped, perhaps we need a more relationship-centered, long-term, mutually beneficial, developmental approach to tackle the challenges.

With reflections like this would it surprise you that last night when my friend and I sat down to watch a movie, we choose to watch a 1999 film entitled "Mary, the Mother of Jesus" and a short documentary of Mary Magdalene? Two iconic historical figures and archetypes of the female in the West. As a child of the seventies, Mary's fiat and the Beatles's song "Let it Be..." never come closer together. The documentary was exceptionally well done in that 9 of the 10 commentators on Mary Magdalene were female (always a step in the right direction). I suspect that one of the learning opportunities for me in all this is the acceptance of the unacceptable. In the movie, Mary was led to accept the circumstances surrounding her virgin birth and the eventual death of her son and Mary Magdalene was the first witness to the resurrection. Both are preeminent examples of the triumph of intuition (classically a feminine spirituality in the West) over logic and reason (classically masculine). Western historical commentary on these women, until recently, was a largely male monologue in relation to who each of these women were reflected off the male, Jesus. Entirely missing the point of the story, as per Jesus said in Jesus Christ Superstar, "Neither you Simon, nor the fifty thousand, nor the Romans, nor the Jews, nor Judas, nor the twelve, nor the priests, nor the scribes, nor doomed Jerusalem itself, understand what power is, understand what glory is, understand at all." The interesting thing about these lyrics is that each reference to a subject that lacks understanding is male in gender.

Thanks to Our Lady of Providence, any given Saturday, can provide the context for greater dialog and an appreciation of everyone's contribution to the on-going development of our understanding of what it means to be human, to be in a state of evolution.

Magnificat anima mea Dominum...

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The American Cancer Society - 2011 Relay For Life of Deerfield Beach & Lighthouse Point, FL:

The American Cancer Society - 2011 Relay For Life of Deerfield Beach & Lighthouse Point, FL:

This year Bluegreen Corporation joined the American Heart Association's Start! Program as part of its ongoing commitment to wellness. Because we have a long history of philanthropic work as well, it occurred to me that to up the number of miles we are reporting for the Start! Program, we could register for the local charity walks and raise money at the same time we are counting our steps. With that in mind, we already walked in Boca Raton's JDRF walk on April 9th and are walking in the GreatStrides event for Cystic Fibrosis at Florida Atlantic University tomorrow, May 1st. Our next walk is the Relay for Life event being held to benefit the American Cancer Society at Quiet Waters Park in Deerfield Beach, Florida, on Saturday, May 14th. It just so happens that Saturday, May 14th, is also the date of Bluegreen's 12th Annual Charity Golf Tournament to benefit JDRF and Christel it will be a banner day in terms of physical activities for wellness and philanthropic fundraising.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Random Thoughts

Sometimes feeling overwhelmed by the web of connections one encounters? With the new social media and the multi-networked environment, the six degrees of separation has been reduced despite the immensity of the growing number of individual expressions of consciousness.

In Science of Mind magazine the other day there was an article by Gary Zukav referencing the human evolution towards multi-sensory perception. A way of approaching reality beyond what we now experience through the five senses. Everyone has heard of the entirely eerie sixth sense but the term multi-sensory perception removes some of the negative connotations now associated with just the sixth sense. What was labelled the sixth sense was an intuitive acknowledgement of what is to become an evolutionary reality, however, with all things defined there will be more that just one additional sense perception. Avoiding the dogmatism imposed by language, there is a way in which the five senses have long operated as a system of perception and in that way I feel intellectually in is easier for us to perceive the possibility of what living with this optimized system might feel like.

The perception of reality informs to a degree what we know or think we know and therefore has a profound impact on our behavior. I think this may be more of an unconscious effect than a conscious one because of the enormity of awareness that would be required to sort through or synthesize what is taking place at any given moment.

Relating this to the modern day workplace and business environment or political landscape, one can see that the early recognition of the importance of data (maps, libraries, constitutions, codes of law, census demographics, databases, analytics, etc.) gave rise to the early MIS environment where it was then necessary to find tools that equipped us to make sense of all the data. With advancing technology and the new cloud environment, I wonder how interconnected our own multi-sensory perceptions are with the advancement of our ability to interact and interpret knowledge through the cloud?

All of this makes me take a deep breathe and remember that in our Western mystical tradition there was a way of contemplating God (ultimate reality) through the apophatic tradition of unknowing...through the Cloud of Unknowing as one anonymous mystical writer put it. How much of our modern Constructivist learning theory is built upon that initial letting go of what we formerly held to be true and real?

Returning to our interconnectedness and the advent of the cloud in technology, how will this alter the social reality. Social constructivism talks about how our meaning making is informed by our encounters with the social environment (now global)and reminds me of the memes and conversations from Integral theory and the greater impact this will have on our interpersonal and international relations, our understanding of ourselves and others, which any modern person realizes has been evolving all along...

Friday, April 1, 2011

Volunteerism and Career Development

There are so many benefits from volunteering. We often have heard it said that it is in giving of our time and talent that we truly receive. As I have mentioned before, I am a great admirer of synchronicity and the uncanny ways that we are all connected even on the premise of six degrees of separation. Now with the Internet and all the various social media and networking sites, I feel the benefits are expanding exponetially.

My employer has seen tremendous benefits from its philanthropic and volunteer activities and I want to relate some recent events that I think help the story of how employees who volunteer not only receive personal and professional benefits but add value to their employers and any professional and community networks that they participate in.

The company I work for has made great strides in the last 18 months in elevating the strategic value of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. We presently have a Diversity and Inclusion Steering Committee that reports its efforts through a Talent Strategy Committee and the Executive Committee.  Several members of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee belong to other organizations that are also working on diversity and inclusion in their industries and beyond. Our committee chairperson is also a member of the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AH&LA)and participates actively in their diversity programs, while several other members belong to the American Resort Development Association (ARDA)and a group entitled Women in the Industry (WIN) which is now closely associated with ARDA. The remainder of our committee members also belong to the Florida Diversity Council and/or to the National Diversity Council. Each council member also has a volunteer role in one of these organizations and ofter in a some leadership capacity.

The value for one's career and professional development is largely derived from the sheer amount of learning that comes from extending your intake of new knowledge and best practices and alerting your day-to-day activities enough to take in a widening circle of relationships. Building such relationships and working in the community have mutually benefical outcomes and lead to a sense of pride in your employer for supporting these efforts.

My employer additionally has a long history of supporting charitable and other non-profit organizations locally, nationally and internationally. One of our core values is relationships and our president always reminds us that we genuinely care about one another, our customers and our communities. These relationships offer foster a number of alliances where you feel as though you have entered into some virtuous cycle advancing from good to great.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Workplace Learning and Developmental Theories

When I was in the graduate school we were given some fairly interesting models for understanding adult learning and instructional design. It just so happens that concurrently, I was assuming HRD responsibilities at the company where I have worked in Human Resources for 13 years.

Two of the developmental models that were of greatest interest to me where labeled as: 1) development as emergent; 2) development as a voyage. Emergent development allows room for the learners to influence the direction of their learning experiences and to create their own meaning collectively. While development as a voyage has an emphasis upon the individuals' determination of meaning and the choices they make. The development as voyage is similar to the hero's journey that we find throughout classical literature.

The two models can and likely do overlap with one another in any given group learning experience, as the individual learners are entering into the experience from different perspectives, with different motivations and expected outcomes and at different stages in adult life. To facilitate such an environment requires flexibility on the part of the learning sponsor and facilitator. One of my favorite professors from the HR Management program at Nova had reinforced for me the role balance plays as a leader. As with the example of different models of development, HRD itself, as a professional discipline, is often striving towards balance between at least two terminal objectives. The first being to enhance and benefit the organization sponsoring learning and the second aimed at individual learning and the benefits that can be attributed to that learning.

Making these tensions explicit by establishing anticipated learning outcomes at three levels is one of the strategies being used in a 12 month management training and leadership development program being hosted for the management team of one of our business units. So at the end of the program, learners will have focused on the following:
1. Individual learning
2. Improved group/team performance
3. Enhanced organizational efficiency and effectiveness

From these, each learner can spell out with their manager individual learning and development initiatives and set individual goals that can be measured along the way. One of the tangible benefits of managers doing IDPs accompanied by learning contracts is that they are engaged in an activity that they then can be replicated in the development of the individuals reporting to them. The individual, the leader and the organization will then be able to balance the variety of acquired knowledge and skills among these three general outcomes.