STAND BY YOUR ORGANIZATION
BECAUSE THAT IS THE MORAL THING TO DO
(Address as Guest Speaker, AFHA General Assembly, Pacific Beach Hotel, Honolulu, HI, December 7, 2007.)
Thank you so much, Gerry, for this wonderful introduction.
I wish to thank as well the Board of Directors of Adult Foster Home Association for this invitation to speak before you this evening. I wish to thank your president, Lani Aki, and Mrs. Thelma Ortal for this invitation.
Indeed, I feel privileged to be among you—and to be among friends.
But, I feel more privileged because I feel—and I am confident with this feeling—that I am among co-warriors.
For tonight marks a different AFHA, an AFHA that is far more different than the kind of AFHA that I have seen in the last few months that I have had that rare privilege of being with the Board of Directors.
It is my intimate knowledge of what AFHA has gone through that I wish to share with you tonight in this gathering of members and friends and sympathizers to the cause of care giving in this State, and by extension, in this country.
Let me start by using a metaphor that all of you quite well know, one that is too familiar to you, and hoping that it gets to you right on.
My knowledge of your organization came at the time that is both serendipitous and sacred.
A few months ago, I got a call from Manang Thelma Ortal, one of the key officers of AFHA.
I was in the middle of my creative writing, right in my office at the University, perhaps one early evening.
It was one of those romantic moments that I always cherish each early evening when I have all the time to myself, sit down before my computer, and think thoughts about many things including writing a poem or two about love, about sickness, about dying, even about care giving—about so many things from the daily grind of our human life.
About this time, the students normally are gone.
I sit before my computer, with a window that gives me a view towards the mountainsides of Manoa. The lights are flickering—and that view gives me hope, a hope that each evening gives way to another morning with lots of rainbows and sunshine, at least in the Manoa valley where I earn my living day in and day out.
Then the telephone rings.
I thought that there is something frantic in the way the telephone rang.
I picked it up and said my aloha, and there, at the end of the line, is Manang Thelma telling me, quizzing me, cross-examining me, if indeed I am that smart and brilliant kind of a guy—and if so—can I please come and help AFHA because AFHA was going through heavy rains, hurricane, blizzard, heavy winter snow, and heavy rainfall, and deluge, and storm, and typhoon. And a similar Hurricane Katrina of a calamitous and disastrous kind.
I did not know how to answer Manang Thelma.
What would I say?
I was not the smart and brilliant guy that she way expecting.
But I thought I could help them out go figure what they can do to put things in order.
So I told her: I do not know about my being so good and smart—but I know about you as my Manang, and if that would serve, I could come and take a peep of what are you up to.
That was what I said.
I did not know that since that time I would be forever punished by again asking me to speak before you tonight. I only hope that I would be able to say the right things.
So there—for showing that I could contribute something, Manang Thelma asked me again to come and speak with you.
I know I am in good hands, with smart caregivers and brilliant foster homeowners around—but to speak about things that you know pretty well is not something that is easy to do.
But let me try by starting with the lessons I learned from your organizing work.
I came in to AFHA as an informal adviser—without any appointment.
As soon as I had my hands into the records of your organization, I went to work, burying myself into the crisscrossing facts that sometimes need deciphering and organizing to make logic out of it.
I realized pretty soon that something needs to be done—that AFHA needs to solidify
itself, with all members ideally closing ranks, do some loyalty check if necessary if it wanted to get out of its troubles still alive and kicking.
You had a beautiful ship—some kind of a Titanic in splendor and promise and luxuriant shape—but your ship was in for an iceberg somewhere.
I had doubts—I had misgivings about what to say, more so what to do.
But I knew that I had to say the right things even if it meant earning the ire of some of the members of the Board of Directors, of some of the officers, of some of the members of the General Assembly.
It was about this time that the rocking of the AFHA Titanic got to be more fierce and fiery, with an exchange of nuclear bombs coming from other sides, with one side unerringly throwing a bombshell each day, in a regular fashion.
We hit the iceberg, and lo and behold, the AFHA Titanic went in half—as it is now.
But this is not a cause for alarm, but a cause for joy.
I know this—this split—will end up in something that is graced and blessed somewhere in time, somehow.
With your allowing me to enter into the life—into the intimate and sanctified life of your organization at a time that you did not want other people to get to know what was happening because there was something not so clean and not so pretty that is happening—and that something that is not so clean and not so pretty has caused some kind of an infection among the ranks of the organization’s members, this rare opportunity that you gave me to take part in your affairs as you go through the process of getting infected and then as you go through the process of getting healed from that infection—that to me is a most generous act, a gesture of welcome, an openness of heart and soul that is not given to all.
I feel lucky that I came in at AFHA as one of the informal advisers at the time that our advice was needed.
We can never be happier, we are not happier, and I feel personally, I am never better.
To become a witness to your history as an organization is indeed an opportunity for learning and teaching, for translating our words into action.
It has not been easy, I must say, and it is still not easy, as you might feel.
There is still some hesitancy somewhere.
There is still that ambivalence in some nook and cranny of our head—and believe, some doubts continue to linger as to what has, in fact, happened to this organization that was once one, but is no longer so.
That, to me is a legitimate issue.
But that to me is not the question now.
The question, to me, as you would know, is how to move on from here.
How do we repair the damage?
How do we address the issue of public image of the organization having been damaged in some sort of way?
How do make people see that this Adult Foster Home Association means so well, means business, and that its leaders means so well and means business?
I am pretty sure that the landscape is not yet that cleared, and somehow, some strange elements will continue to sow intrigue and division among your ranks.
Some people with sinister agendum will continue to divide you—you mark my word.
And in the language of organizational management—some people will continue to reap the glory and honor that you all have worked hard for in a long while, crisis or no crisis.
Some people will continue to test your endurance by spreading rumors that run the gamut from some people stealing your money to some people saying that you have no money any longer because your officers have stolen every cent of it.
Do not be fazed.
Do not doubt.
In my work with this organization as your informal adviser, I have seen with my own very eyes, how your current officers have worked so darn hard to be able to address all the organizational problems that you were beset with.
And this I must tell you: They did their best to address these issues with grace, poise, and dignity, allowing no one to rattle them, staying so focused with the issues and with the solutions, and giving off their time and money—and person—to be of service to you.
It was a blessing to have worked with your present crop of directors—and I say this before this assembly: To your present board led by your president Lani Aki, I take my hats off to all of you.
I have seen you all in the worst of times of your organization—and even in these worst of times, you have proven all the time that you have the best of perspectives, the best of patient endurance, the best of patient understanding of how to run an organization that is so huge like yours.
I have seen you all in the best of times of your organization—and in these best of times you have proven that you have what it takes to have self-respect, to have respect for other people even if other people do not know how to give respect, and to maintain calm and happy disposition in the effort to draw an enlightened vision of what you need to do next.
I know that as you went through these numerous trials and tribulations—as you went through the fire—you drew as you keep on drawing—your strength and inspiration from your members, your members who stood by your side, your members who did not simply kibitz but found a way to connect and reconnect with you.
I am certain that without the support of your members who are here, your members who are not here but are here in spirit just the same, you were able to withstand the worst tsunami that you have ever gone through and experienced in your lifetime.
To the members, I say: stand by your officers, stand by your directors, and stand by your organization.
Because this organization is honest.
Because this organization is sincere.
Because this organization is professional in its dealings.
Because this organization means business.
And this organization is going to stay.
To all of you, I give you my aloha.
To all of you, I give you my greetings for the best of the holiday.
Thank you so much and good evening.