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An Unexpected Gift

Recently, a Community Action team member walked into my office with her confused looking supervisor following behind.  The two seated themselves, and, after a bit of small talk, the team member announced, matter-of-factly, “I asked my supervisor to come here with me because I have something to say.”  The supervisor and I exchanged glances.  It’s almost never good news when a conversation in the Executive Director’s office starts this way.  “You’re always asking us,” she began, “what we’ve learned about poverty at Community Action.”  That’s true.  At least twice a year we ask our team members what their experiences have taught them about our agency, our community, or about poverty in general.  I love reading the answers that come across my desk.  Sometimes they’re data-driven, like, “I learned that over 70% of our customers last year were employed, but still needed our services.”  Sometimes they have a more humanistic tone, such as, “People in poverty aren’t usually lazy.  They just need a little help now and then.” With a serious look on her face, the team member in my office continued.  “I’ve been thinking about that question and last night, the answer finally struck me.  It was so meaningful to me that I wanted to share it with you both at the same time.”  She straightened her posture and continued, “Since I started work here, the most important thing I’ve learned is compassion.  I’m not a very patient person sometimes and I like for every little detail to be just right.  Working with my supervisor has helped me understand that we can be accountable and compassionate at the same...