Carol A. Hand
“I really HATE that report you’re working on!”
Imagine hearing this this every morning as you walk through the door to do your job. Delivered in a strident nasal tone, this was my supervisor’s greeting and her commentary on my efforts to develop the first-ever report on the demographics and services for elders in the state. Each morning, my response was the same. “I welcome any specific suggestions you have to improve it.” None were ever offered by my supervisor, but fortunately, the director and staff all provided assistance, ideas and support as part of a team effort to write, organize, and illustrate the final product.
Photo Credit: Aging Wisconsin – Cover Page
The report, Aging Wisconsin: The Past Three Years: 1984-1986, was so popular that the first 6,000 copies went quickly. Even during tight budget times, the report went through a second printing and generated hand-written letters from elders thanking us for creating something to make their lives better. My supervisor never liked it, but I now realize she really wasn’t the audience, nor were legislators, administrators, or academics. The report was written to help elders learn about the range of services and supports available to improve their lives. Focusing on task completion is important, yet I also learned an equally important lesson about the value of process from my supervisor, although not the one she probably intended. Any project can be approached from a coercive power-over stance, or from a liberatory joyful stance. The staff and director, often easily divided by petty issues, joined together to produce something that was fun and gave them a sense of purpose and pride in their work.
Photo Credit: Aging Wisconsin – Long Term Support
Photo Credit Aging Wisconsin – Transportation
Photo Credit: Aging Wisconsin – Caregiver Support
Photo Credit: Aging Wisconsin – Home Delivered Meals
Photo Credit: Aging Wisconsin – Housing Options
As I look back on this experience, I realize how grateful I am that I had the opportunity to work on this report shortly after graduating from college. I am grateful to the director who believed that I could do it, and the staff who offered their support, assistance, ideas, and encouragement. I am grateful to the elders who penned hand-written thank you notes. And interestingly, I am grateful to the supervisor who kept spurring me on to do the best I could with what seemed like an overwhelming, impossible task at the time. Today, looking at the photos we gathered for the report so many years ago, I am grateful that I didn’t give up trying.
Photo Credit: Aging Wisconsin – Community Support
I left that job decades ago, but this memory resurfaced this morning as I reflected on today’s blogging 101 assignment, reviewing the About statement for Voices from the Margins. The memory and the assignment both remind me that it’s important to be mindful of purpose. Not everyone will like what you do, and that’s as it should be. Knowing that I was hired to serve elders in the state, not the whims of my supervisor, helped me find creative ways to build a team to be successful any way. Clarifying the purpose of the blog helps keep me focused. I have attempted to explain our blog’s purpose. It’s a space that celebrates diversity and welcomes creative efforts to resist status quo critiques. a place to give voice to different “truths.” Like all bloggers, I hope people will read what I write and engage in dialogue, but I also try to speak about what I see as important during these challenging times.
(A final note: I just couldn’t decide which photos to share so I went a bit overboard I fear 🙂 )
Carol Hand (1988)(Ed.) Aging Wisconsin: The past three years – 1984-1986 progress report on the Wisconsin State Plan on Aging. Madison, WI: Bureau on Aging, Department of Health and Social Services.