Sometimes it’s hard to believe that it has been more than four years since I accepted the amazing opportunity to serve as President and CEO of Hope Villages of America. When I stop to reflect upon what these years have meant to me, I’m struck by several things.
First and foremost, I have had the good fortune of meeting some truly outstanding people. This region is blessed with many talented, caring, generous and supportive individuals. I am often overwhelmed by the number of people across Tampa Bay who have dedicated their careers and personal lives to improving others’ lives.
Just think about the great strides our community has made in the way of improving our education system, decreasing our rate of teen pregnancies, reducing the number of violent crimes, providing more opportunities for seniors to enjoy their golden years, preventing more teens from turning to gang activity, giving people the chance to live healthier – the list goes on and on.
None of this success would be possible without the vision and commitment of those who make it their life’s work to impact others positively.
Continuing to meet the growing needs of our community is hard work. There is absolutely no doubt about that! But do you ever stop to think about why it has to be so difficult? Why is it that with so many truly amazing people, businesses and foundations pushing relentlessly for positive change, we don’t see or hear more of the good things happening?
Just as I have encountered many wonderful people here, I am sad to say that I have also seen striking evidence of classism, bigotry, racism, homophobia, sexism, etc. Unfortunately, the behavior of a few can deter the behavior of the masses. Sadly, we see the toxic actions of this minority spread like poison amongst almost every city, town, county and state throughout our country.
Fighting this negativity to do what’s right for our community is beyond exhausting. In a country where potential is virtually limitless, we see many great people pack up their bags and head to other places where their vision is embraced and their impact is appreciated.
At what point do we say enough is enough and stop letting the lethal minority ruin the work of the healthy majority? When do we stop empowering people to stand in the way of what is right? When do we take away their power by removing them from positions of influence?
As a man of faith, my heart tells me that people have the right to believe whatever they want. What we do not have is a right to allow our beliefs to bring others down. None of us has the right to hurt and destroy others’ hopes and dreams. Success should never be predicated on the demise of others.
Answer the call: Take inventory of our capabilities in this community and ask yourself if you are on the right side. Pick people over pride, and stop allowing the phenomenal actions of the many to be overshadowed by a few loud, awful people.
Stand behind what is right and drive away the deterrents. After all, the good is the majority, right?
Ask yourself and others, “How did we get here? And how do we get there?”
By Kirk Ray Smith, President & CEO, Hope Villages of America, formerly RCS Pinellas