If You Want to Go Far, Go Together

“Let us then be up and doing, with a heart for any fate. Still achieving, still pursuing. Learn to labor, and to wait.” – A Psalm of Life, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

We are, all of us, waiting. Waiting for a return to some semblance of normal. Waiting for the fear, doubt, and uncertainty associated with the current crisis to melt away and into a brighter tomorrow. Waiting to see each other again. In the meantime, we are learning: how to be adaptable; how to be considerate; how to “labor, and wait.”

My name is PJ. Together my Nana and my Mom run Lamont Homes, an organization that operates group homes for adults with behavioral health needs throughout Washington, D.C. They have 30 staff, 40 years of experience, and 50 residents.

One of those group homes neighbors my own home. So given both the geographic and totemic proximity of Lamont Homes to me, I’ve come to know its residents and staff. They are my neighbors, and I am so proud of my forebears for their work in protecting and providing for this community. As such, I’m always looking for opportunities to contribute myself. This week, I found a way.

Our current circumstances won’t last forever, and when the threat is behind us, we will be faced with the collective challenge of societal rejuvenation:

We will then see if we can do it with mutual consideration and sacrifice—or if we can’t and will fight instead. If we can do it together smartly with consideration, it will be great. If we can’t, it will be terrible.” – Ray Dalio, Founder of Bridgewater Associates.

Last week I received a stimulus check from the IRS. I wasn’t expecting to receive one, and it immediately posed a number of questions about what to do with this unusual and unexpected windfall. And then I thought about the quote above from Ray Dalio. In times of crisis, we are all called upon to rise to the occasion, to engage in “mutual consideration and sacrifice.”

I live – and for the time being, work – in a row-house on U Street in DC, and I count myself lucky for that. My house shares a wall with the residents of Lamont Homes and the staff that care for them. I can recognize their voices when my windows are open and they’re chatting in their yard. They know my name and I know theirs’. There is more than a wall between us; there is  mutual respect and gratitude, too. So when I received a surprise payout from the IRS this week, it didn’t take long to find a way to use it “smartly, with consideration.”

“If you want to lift yourself up, lift someone else up.” – Booker T. Washington.

I donated it to Lamont Homes, to provide a $50 Visa gift card to each of their staff in recognition of the essential services they continue to provide – 24/7, 365, pandemic and all – to the residents of Lamont Homes. They deserve it, and I was happy to be able to do my part in that way.

I’m sharing this story because I believe in the network effects of positive energy. In a world where our screens are often inundated with fearful negative news, I’ve always believed in the simple wisdom in letting your light shine; not for your own aggrandizement, but for who you might reach and inspire.

As an example, the seed of generosity was planted in my head by my favorite reality TV show, Survivor. I love Survivor so much that I listen to a fan podcast hosted by a former contestant called Rob Has a Podcast. This month, Rob, the host, is contributing all the money contributed from his patrons to purchase Personal Protective Equipment for our healthcare workers bravely fighting the outbreak of COVID-19. If he hadn’t shared that on his podcast, then maybe I wouldn’t have thought to make my own contribution. So kudos to him for sharing in both ways, and for all of us who are, in our own ways, making light in a world that could use more of it.

And thank you, to the Lamont Homes team, for doing your part to better our community by providing your residents a safe and secure space to shelter in place.