June 4, 2020

How to Make a Difference

For at least the last decade and certainly as long as anyone can remember, we have started every staff meeting giving out $100. I don’t choose who gets it. Neither does anyone on our executive team. Instead, the recipient of last meeting’s $100 decides who will get the next “Pay it Forward” by reflecting on our core values and principles and recognizing an individual for representing one or many in their work. This practice has survived for as long as it has because people believe in who we say we are and what we do together.

At this week’s staff meeting, I shared that I was tired. This fatigue is not from our adjustment to living in a pandemic, not from serving as teacher to our kids at home, and not from a lack of sleep. I’m tired because of the systemic injustices in our country and how the killing of George Floyd represents an all-to-familiar and equally devastating new chapter. I told the staff that they, like me, might be overwhelmed by the scope and scale of the challenges and offered the potential solution of self-care, care for each other, and care for those we serve.

At this week’s meeting Emmy Johnston was presented with the $100 by her Real Estate Manager for representing the company’s values as a great teammate. Before our meeting drew to a close, Emmy shared with everyone that she would be donating her $100 to a cause that will address inequality in our society. Spontaneously, several staff members offered to match the donation.

Today, Emmy shared the following with the staff:

First off, a special thank you to Sarah for choosing me as this month’s NAI/Acorn Pay it Forward recipient. I am consistently thrilled to work with you every day and appreciate all that you have taught me throughout my experience as an Assistant thus far! In light of the recent events in our Country, I am choosing to donate my $100 and split it equally between two organizations.

Urban League of Portland:

I chose this organization based on their efforts to empower local Black communities. They invest in programs and services that provide Black communities with equitable opportunities to ultimately eradicate socioeconomic disparities. Additionally, they are involved in local advocacy and engagement for social justice.

Campaign Zero:

I chose this organization in light of the events that have occurred (and continue to occur) across our Nation. Campaign Zero is actively involved on a National-level to change and improve the way police serve our communities.

In the few hours since Emmy shared this across the company, five co-workers have matched the donation and I will match the employees’ donation.

One of our core values is “We’re about being human as much as doing business”. A $100 isn’t going to solve deep-seated systemic injustices in our society. Neither is a $1,000. What does make a difference is caring about each other by recognizing that the human experience is degraded for all of us if inequality exists for any of us. I am proud of Emmy and her co-workers for taking this opportunity to make a difference.


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