What an amazing journey this past year has been and now the fun begins: I got the gavel.
All kidding aside, it is my honor and privilege to serve as the 2018-2019 RMASFAA president. I was reminded early on this year what a gift life is and that my journey continues with a new appreciation for family, friends, and colleagues who I have met along the way. Having several weeks off gave me the opportunity to reflect on my own journey and where it has led me. I discovered that I was happiest when I focused on what I GET to do and not what I HAVE to do. Therefore, I changed how I started each day. I would no longer focus on that long list of tasks that awaited me but would take a moment to be mindful of all the blessings that were before me and everything I would GET to do that day.
As I prepared for the transitional board meeting, it was exciting to think about everything we will GET to do this next year from creating a budget (okay – I prefer spending plan), goal setting, strategic long-range plans, but most important, meeting new people and embracing new ideas. I knew I wanted to continue with our focus on inclusion. How will the RMASFAA board ensure we are putting our best efforts into helping others find their place within our organization? A place where they feel welcome, can contribute, have their voice heard, and feel accepted.
I want to share with you about a new friend I met recently. His name is Monte. Monte was born and raised in Fargo, ND, the son of a farmer. Coming from a conservative family and community, Monte knew he wouldn’t be able to stay in Fargo. His big dreams and aspirations drove him to leave shortly after graduation and head to New York City. He lived an exciting and extraordinary life in theatre and dance. After a successful 35-year career, he had a strong desire and calling to return home, even though he still felt he would not be accepted. Monte said, “When I was growing up in this area, I had nothing to compare myself to.” He felt alone and fearful. After returning to Fargo in 2003, he opened the infamous Monte’s restaurant in downtown. It was there he met his life partner Jerry. He and Jerry continued to explore career paths and ventured into party planning. In 2014, they threw their biggest party to date – their own wedding with 350 guests at the ceremony and 900 guests at the reception.
When Monte and Jerry decided to get married, they wanted to do it publicly and in a big way. It would be a statement. The evening of their wedding, he again thought, “This is going to be a statement no one can ignore – we are making a difference for those who will follow us.” As both he and Jerry looked out over their guests, they realized that the only people who were making a difference and statement were those 900 people who chose to show up and join them for their celebration. They were the ones that made a difference. Monte said, “It was so amazing to find that kind of acceptance right here in Fargo.” He knew they would continue to throw parties, but they would never again be ‘by exclusive-invite only’ but ‘by inclusive-invite’. Their last garden party involved everyone who lived on their street, in their neighborhood, and the next neighborhood over.
His message to everyone would be: That if there is even one person – even one poor farm kid like he was, who felt left out, alone with no reassurance that they would be accepted – he wanted them to know not to be afraid and to just look at how the Fargo community showed up and embraced him in 2014.
After hearing Monte’s story, my thoughts were: How do we, as RMASFAA, reach out to our own – so they do not feel alone, left out, or afraid they will not be accepted? At the start of our conference, Greg Tehven provided us with insight on how to ‘build the community we want to live in’. Two words stayed with me, “Show Up”. The simplest step in building a community is showing up.
How can we take both these messages and apply them to our own lives, our schools, and our organizations? How do we help others feel welcome and included? We need to do more than talk about it – we need to do something. We need to do what those 900 wedding reception guests did for Monte and Jerry and “Show Up”.
I am going to ask you to show up for your family, your friends, your students, show up for your staff, show up for your colleagues, show up for your state, regional or national associations. Show up as you are. You don’t have to be prepared for every challenge. You don’t have to know how every situation will turn out. You don’t have to know all the answers or be completely ready. You don’t have to be perfect. You just need to show up as you. Don’t let fear and insecurities stop you. You might think hey – I am not ready yet – just say yes – you will not regret it. I know I have not. That first ‘yes’ has taken me on an amazing adventure. Do not worry about what others will think or say. This is about you, your journey, and your adventure. Show up just as you are.
I promise you, I will show up – just as I am, not knowing all the answers, not being completely ready and definitely not perfect, but I will still show up. I will show up to do the work, enjoy the journey, be excited about what we GET to do, and hopefully get to know more of you.
All my best,