Michael J. Readinger

Be the change that you wish to see in the world. — Mahatma Gandhi

The CHHSM Board of Directors held their first ever virtual meeting via Zoom last week. We gathered for 10 hours over three days in two- to two-and-a-half hour blocks of time. I strongly recommend this structure over an all-day Zoom meeting because it kept our team engaged, fresh and spirit-filled. We were able to handle the fiduciary duties, which included approving minutes, accepting reports, scheduling other meetings, accepting the 2019 audit report and more. But, equally as important, we were able to hold education and generative sessions that truly advanced the mission, vision and ministry of CHHSM. My deepest gratitude to the Board and staff for their flexibility, vulnerability, transparency and commitment to our shared work. And, also, my deepest thanks for the inspiration they gave me to move from hurt and despair over recent losses to healing and hope for the future.

You see, in the last few weeks, I have been letting my anger and emotions get the best of me. The recent elevation of violence and brutality on top of the COVID-19 pandemic was clearly keeping me from being my best self. Sometimes you just cannot see yourself as you are. Many times, others do not see you as you are. As we gathered, I began to see more clearly how events were impacting me, and I gained an understanding that something within me needed to change. Thanks to the words of wisdom and support from my CHHSM family and friends, I can now begin to replace my anger and emotions with the desire and hope to become a change agent and make a difference regarding the pandemic of systematic and systemic racism.

As we gathered, one of our key goals was to work on the further development of our Vision 2030 process as it impacts our current strategic plan. As we checked in with each other, we shared our individual stories of how we have responded to the coronavirus and to the recent events surrounding racism, protests and violence. We began to see that being vulnerable and transparent created an atmosphere where flexibility became necessary as we came together as a community to respond to these events. The CHHSM Board meeting schedule ended up changing dramatically from what was planned. What emerged was something that was truly needed and ultimately much better.

We realized that before we could think about long-range planning and visioning for 2030, we needed to address what was in our hearts and on our minds regarding recent events in America. So, we amended our schedule and created a safe and gracious space where we could come together to share our emotions, our anger, our feelings and our hopes. As a result, we were able to craft a “Statement About the Pandemic of Systemic Racism.”

What I’ve learned during this time with my colleagues is that it’s okay to be angry and emotional, but it’s not okay to withdraw or lose hope. Thank you to my CHHSM family and friends for challenging me and reminding me that, together, we can be better. That we can emerge from all of this in new ways which allow for a new way of doing our work. That we create a new way to make the world a better place.

As Gandhi said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” Sign onto our statement and join us in the days, weeks, months and years ahead as we work together to find a cure for systemic racism — a pandemic for which there is no vaccine.