Walking a Tightrope!

Jonathon and I enjoyed a corn beef hash brunch at a local restaurant that is closing, perhaps for good, tomorrow.  We dined al fresco and socially distanced.  It was delicious.  Accompanied by a spiked Arnold Palmer…it was to die for!  The majority of folks were wearing face masks…until it was time to eat and drink.  Our server was a hard working and consistently pleasant young woman who also works as a server at Harbaugh’s Cafe…which is just down the block.  The restaurant was busier than I had ever seen it as there were many returning SIU students and their parents.  Classes begin on Monday. 

low angle photo grayscale of person tightrope walking
Photo by Marcelo Moreira on Pexels.com

I was reflecting on the days that I had to represent my department of  350 – 400 people and in the latter years of my career, the Civil Service Council which had 2 thousand members of the university staff.  


In those days, as is today, there was a school of thought that if you wanted the redress of grievances for your membership or additional consideration for their needs that you should proceed with sword in hand and shield and buckler.  Shine the light on their leadership failure to address their employees and fear not their feelings or the repercussions of the truth!  However I learned as a young man…perhaps even a teenager…that words matter.  When I was speaking with a leader their humanity was in the forefront of my thoughts at all times.  My colleague and good friend Jerry Raney, who was the business agent for the local S.E.I.U. was a wonderful example of walking the tightrope of seeking benefits for his union membership and ensuring the oil of communication between campus leaders and himself always flowed smoothly…  Everyone was always glad to see


people silhouette during sunset
Photo by Min An on Pexels.com


I chatted with chancellors and presidents and directors and Board of Trustee members…and their door was always open for me to return to visit with them.  I never personalized my disagreements with campus managers and administrators.  At times my stomach was tied in knots…and I could not sleep…but I refused to allow my discouragement and nerves and righteous indignation to obscure my vision of my friends in power.  Often those with authority understand that they have made a poor decision concerning those who work for them.  A gentle reminder…with ample time to think about their mistake may solve the problem.  

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For 25 years I was a leader of a large housekeeping department.  Kind words and humility expressed by my colleagues…touched me more than fiery rhetoric.  Heartfelt communications and the realization that my friends understood that I was flawed and far from perfect…drove me to do better…

I had a chancellor tell me to, ‘leave me the hell alone,’ when all that I had said to him was that the president was looking for him at a dinner that the Council was sponsoring for campus leaders and the Board of Trustees.  Instead of angrily replying…I reminded him that he was the guest of honor…

crop man pouring red wine in glass in restaurant
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

I was afraid every time that I had to meet with a powerful campus leader…but there is a reason that their doors were always open to me and that I could obtain a meeting with them the same day that I requested one.  

photo of lighthouse on seaside during daytime
Photo by Mau00ebl BALLAND on Pexels.com

I enjoyed many successes for the people that I represented…and I never lost a friend…


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