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Diversity Equality Inclusion - July 29, 2021
By Theresa Thomas
I’ve had the same framed poster in my office for over 15 years of my career. It says Carpe Diem in large letters – “seize the day”. These words remind me to make the most of the 24 hours allotted me each day. Time does not discriminate; we are all given the same number of hours within the day. How we decide to use them determines how satisfied we are at the end of the day – have we truly seized the day?
This past year, as Chair of the DEI Committee, I have discovered a new motto that will hopefully soon be hanging in my office: Seize the Opportunity. My work on the DEI Committee has challenged me to seize the opportunity to grow in awareness, acceptance and appreciation.
Diversity provides the opportunity to gain awareness of how my experience limits my understanding of the world. I learned that everyone’s journey is important. Facts can be interpreted to mean different things to different people, and difference does not mean that we are enemies. I plan to seize every opportunity to become aware of the diversity that surrounds me in the community where I live and in the workplace where I am honored to be an employee.
Equality provides the opportunity for acceptance. I should never view anyone as less valuable than another person simply based on what I see. “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is good advice. Open the book to read the first chapter – you may be surprised by the content and continue to read! Viewing others first with the lens that we are all equal allows us to share, benefit from and grow an environment of welcome for all we encounter. I will seize the opportunity to ensure equality of trust, support and understanding for all those I meet. I owe it to all those who Goodwin Living serves and to my coworkers.
Inclusion provides the opportunity to show appreciation. Let everyone participate, learning to include others in moments of success and ask for help during challenging moments builds a sense of trust and unity. Such appreciation is an outward sign of what is felt in the heart and thought in the mind. Intentionally include someone who may think and act differently, and simply appreciate that they are not you. Can you imagine how strange the world would be if everyone were named Theresa, or if everyone shared your name? Life would be most boring! I pledge to seize the opportunity to appreciate different cultures, customs and preferences because I would like to be included in the community where I live and the workplace where I have chosen to spend at least eight of my 24 hours every weekday.
Today, I ask myself how could I think so superficially, remain so secluded and distrust so quickly? I am happy to say, I have grown since the formation of the DEI Committee. I can clearly see how my misconceptions of people and stereotyping led to a fear of inclusion. I am not where I long to be, but I am willing to allow my thoughts and actions to be challenged for the better.
I love being on this journey with you. Together we are learning, growing and impacting the Goodwin Living family of communities, Goodwin Living At Home and our Home Health and Hospice programs, becoming even greater champions of Diversity, Equality and Inclusion in our own families and neighborhoods. If you happen to be sitting on the sidelines cheering, join us in becoming change agents for diversity!
To close, I’d like to share some reflections from a few of my fellow DEI Committee members about their experiences during the past year:
After a year on the DEI, I have learned to be patient with the pace of change that is often slower than I’d like, both in the world and at Goodwin Living! But changes are being made and it is gratifying to see.
– Carol Lewis, GHBC Resident
I remember our first meeting and realized that I had judged some of the team members based on my own life experiences. A year later, I have not only grown personally and professionally, I also feel positive about the changes the committee has been able to contribute to the organization, residents and staff.
– Elisabeth Robinson, Goodwin Living At Home Director of Member Services
As our world shifts and shrinks, we all have had to address the issues of diversity. The news media is always ready to tell us when it is done badly. Cultural anger is stoked when inclusion is denied or granted reluctantly. Education about these matters is rife with excuses, denials and moral relativism. The Goodwin Living DEI Committee has been an exception to the norm in its first year of existence.
– Frank Wade, GHA Resident
I have always considered myself as being open and accepting of others, but being a part of DEI has enhanced my understanding of diversity and how we can move forward as one to create equality for all. I have a better understanding of what Cultural Appropriation is and have had several instances where I have witnessed it and have been able to speak up. The DEI Committee gave me that voice.
– Elizabeth Whitehouse, GHBC Cultural Arts & Events Manager
The committee has the hallmarks of a successful venture: strong mission, vital leadership and strategic vision. Those factors, combined with creativity and hard work, have provided Goodwin Living with a year of awakening and expanded outlook about how diversity, equality and inclusion exist at Goodwin Living, why it is essential and what hopes the future will unfold.
– Mary Hix, Chair of the Goodwin Living Board of Trustees
Over the past year, members of the DEI Committee have used their pens to highlight a wide variety of celebrations, concerns and perspectives. Read their Friday Thoughts here.
As Associate Executive Director of Goodwin House Alexandria, Theresa Thomas oversees operations covered by dining services, facilities management and environmental services. In 2020, she agreed to lead the GHI Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Committee. Theresa grew up in North Philadelphia, in a single parent household. She has experienced discrimination based on the color of her skin, her economic status and her gender. While discrimination has left some scars, it also has produced a determination to set and achieve her own goals. As the DEI Chair, Theresa seeks to listen. She believes that by listening first, we can educate and support each other on how to deconstruct a wall that has been built and fortified for years on misinformation or refusal to accept the truth.
About the Diversity, Equality and Inclusion (DEI) Committee: We are a group of staff and residents who together serve a mission to educate, embrace and empower a workplace of diversity, equality and inclusion. Our vision is to seek open and honest communication and collaboration that will inform and celebrate the cultural, ethnic and sexual orientation of all members of our staff without bias.