Keeping the Focus: To Not Act on What Inspires Us, Stifles Us

Robert Gunn, Jr.

Robert Gunn, Jr. (FL ’12) principal intern, Olmsted Academy North

Focus Louisville – April 2012

I will be the first to admit that I have been to wonderful professional development sessions and have been inspired by something that I have seen or heard, only to let my inspiration fall to the wayside because I failed to turn that inspiration into action. Many of us have careers and families that demand the majority, if not all of our time. While I cannot fault anyone for working and spending time with their family, I would like to FOCUS our attention on those who are less fortunate and need some assistance.

During the two and a half days I spent with Focus Louisville, I learned a tremendous amount of facts about the history of Louisville and the things that contribute to our city and community (Thanks Dr. Tom). I learned to appreciate the fact that there is a push to “Keep Louisville Weird.” However, I also learned that there is a need for individuals in our community to step up and assist those in need. Too often, we fall short on acting or volunteering because we either think our individual efforts won’t have a large enough impact or as I previously stated, we just don’t we have the time. I will be the first to admit that I am guilty of both.

I visited the Americana Center, which helps many refugees from various countries around the world. We were given a tour of the facilities and heard various stories of heartache, injustice, and barbarism that many people who come to the center have experienced in their lives. When asked what we could do to help, we were given a vast list of things we could either provide or things we could do to assist the families at the center. As an educator, I have many of the students of these families at my school. I have vowed to help educate these students as well as provide time outside of school to assist at the center. Unfortunately, to this point, I have done neither. For me, that changes today, Wednesday May 2, 2012 at 3:00 PM when I will arrive at Americana.

In writing this, I am hoping that speaking about my experience that inspired me as well as many others in my group will resonate with you and get you to think of what inspired you. Next, I would like you to ask yourself what you have done about it. If you are like me and have done nothing thus far, don’t beat yourself up or be ashamed. Instead, get up and do something. Anything is better than nothing and trying to do too much might simply wear you down. Whether it’s money, time, sharing your personal experiences or providing resources, do what you can; but please remember, good intentions without actions will not warrant change and become mere thoughts and words.

My Focus Louisville experience

Martha Mather

Martha Mather (FL ’12) vice president and chief operating officer, Our Lady of Peace

Focus Louisville – April 2012

I moved to Louisville in March slightly apprehensive from Atlanta. I can honestly say that after just a short six weeks, I am a new ambassador of Louisville. Here’s why:

1) The passion of the people living in this community supersede that of any other city I’ve lived in (Atlanta, Raleigh, Memphis, Ft. Lauderdale, etc.),

2) The surroundings – Louisville is an underrated city…the parks, restaurants, festivals, (I started to wonder if that is a strategy…to keep Louisville a secret), and

3) The social services resources for people in need.

My background is in social services. I’ve worked in community centers, outpatient settings, and psychiatric hospitals in several states. I was particularly touched while touring The Healing Place for Women. A former consumer toured us and shared her story while doing so. Her humility, courage, and acceptance really impacted me. This is an organization who does not ask for a single dime from their consumers, relying completely on the generosity of this community. It is a lovely setting for women recovering from alcohol or drug abuse. I could feel the camaraderie, love, and support penetrating the atmosphere as we walked through each phase of the program.

I left the Focus Louisville program with a to-do list – some easier than others – donate clothing, make a financial contribution, tour the West End School, eat out in NuLu, and tell everyone about my experience! I want my family and colleagues both to experience Louisville the way I have. And there is no greater introduction than Focus Louisville.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

Debra Hoffer

Debra Hoffer (BF ’12, BF ’04, BF ’02, LN ’06, LL ’93) president, Junior Achievement of Kentuckiana, Inc.

Bingham Fellows Class of 2012

My first thought when I heard about the 2012 Bingham Fellows topic was that if there is a magic bullet for increasing parental engagement in their children’s education, someone would have already discovered it.  In fact, they’d be a regular on Oprah.

Fast forward to the Bingham Fellows Opening Retreat.  I’d read my homework, had a few ideas to contribute and was hopeful that we would share our visions for success, agree on the best solutions and the rest of the Bingham Fellows process would be just ironing out details.  In reality, the process seemed a lot like trying to eat an elephant (something which I have never done in one sitting).   At the end of the day, I decided to just trust the process and modify my expectations for immediate clarity of vision.  A nice glass of Chardonnay was waiting for me at home, which helped me adjust my attitude.

What has transpired during recent weeks is a sometimes frustrating, sometimes delightful, always exhausting process that seems to be leading to some form of success.  We have listened to wise speakers, performed more research and tossed out hundreds of ideas, both good and bad.  Now, in our small groups, we are narrowing our focus.  We are taking small bites of the elephant.  And, it tastes quite good.

What I am learning is the importance of setting the big goals aside while one works to set small goals.  Small goals give us something to chew on, something with attainable outcomes.  We have begun to join our minds together to agree upon a common definition of success, and we are becoming a team.

I think that, one bite at a time, we will eventually eat this elephant.