Do you ever have the sense that although things change, nothing really changes? I’ve spent the past couple of days in meetings that were peripherally work related. Lest you think I’m disoriented and confused, let me clarify that I’m telling the truth. On Wednesday morning I made reference to having missed an important meeting the day before because I thought Tuesday was really Monday. I guess there is something about a four-day workweek that seemed disorienting. I know, it makes no sense unless you’re my age.
At any rate, on Wednesday morning I sent an email to the person at the Department of Family and Protective Services who invited me to attend Tuesday’s meeting apologizing for not attending. Truthfully, it was troubling to me that it happened. First of all, I don’t like to make a commitment and then fail to keep it. Secondly, it was an important meeting related to residential childcare licensing standards and I was keenly interested in the topic.
Seven of the seventeen and a half years I worked for the State, I was the standards and policy specialist for residential childcare licensing. Long story short, I spent and inordinate amount of time in advisory committee meetings, work groups and internal meetings associated to the workings of the licensing branch. I liked the work. I remember that as deadlines loomed for new drafts of this and that, I’d often spend most of my waking moments writing it all down. I never missed a deadline, but sometimes I got it done just under the wire.
How did I do that? We didn’t have computers back then. I had an administrative assistant that I shared with a couple of other employees. The administrative assistant probably typed whatever I provided for her to type, but how did I craft the initial draft? I’m sure it was something a little more sophisticated that a Big Chief Tablet and Crayola, but for the life of me I don’t remember.
I may have even had an electric typewriter at my desk. I’m thinking I probably did, but I don’t recall. Actually, I’m sure I did because I remember there were times I sometimes worked late into the evening or on a portion of the weekends. That is puzzling. Whatever I used, I’m grateful that today’s technology affords an easier process.
Getting back to the important meeting that I missed on Tuesday, at noon on Wednesday I went to a birthday luncheon for employees who were celebrating January birthdays. We had just ordered our drinks and were waiting for the waiter to return to take our order. I looked at my iPhone and saw that the person from the State that I’d sent my apology too earlier that morning had responded. I couldn’t pass up looking at the response. The response startled me: “Don – The meeting wasn’t yesterday. It is scheduled to begin at noon today. Are you not going to be here?”
I’m sure that I had that “deer in the headlights” look as I told my boss, “I’ve got a problem. The meeting I missed yesterday really is today. It starts in twelve minutes.” He responded: “Do you need to go?” Acknowledging that I did, he asked the person next to him if he had room for him to ride back to the office. He then handed me the keys to his truck so I could get back to the office and get my car.
It is embarrassing to walk into a meeting late, but it appeared that although I was fifteen minutes late in arriving, I hadn’t missed much. A few folks were in the process of having lunch. However, most appeared to be visiting or focusing on their electronic gadgets. I hurriedly took a seat, was offered to get something to eat, declined and engaged in conversation with the person on either side of me.
As the minutes edged into ten or fifteen, I finally was comfortable enough to look around the room to see who was in attendance. I recognized about half of the people in the room including a number of employees that work for the State.
Interestingly, as the meeting began and discussion took place, it was with a sense that I’ve done this before. The issues may have been a little different, but the sense of urgency and the commitment of every person in the room to orchestrate things differently had a familiar ring to it.
At one point someone asked the attorney for the State if rules were ever proposed and then not adopted. He said, “Yes”. I added, “There was a time when the State proposed the use of faradic stimulation with autistic children”. The guy sitting next to me asked: “What’s faradic stimulation?” I responded: “Cattle prods”. At that time in Texas, there were only one or two residential facilities in Texas that provided care exclusively for children with those special needs. It was at their request that faradic stimulation be permitted for use with that population. Fortunately, the medical community in Amarillo, of all places, came out of the woodwork and convinced the department the proposal was not in the best interest of children.
At any rate, Wednesday afternoon proved to be a full afternoon with lots of discussion and the sense that everyone was available for “such a time as this.” The same was true the following day at a scheduled meeting of the Committee for Advancing Residential Practices (CARP) at the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. It was the first time that the general public had been invited to be in attendance. There are only twenty-four of us in the CARP group. I was startled by the size of the yesterday’s crowd. There were over fifty people in attendance. Once again, I had the sense that although things change, nothing really changes. Folks voluntarily show up “for such a time as this” and perceive they could be the change agent to solve the problems and flawlessly move forward.
Did I mention there is not an easy solution for many of the issues that surface? I looked around the room yesterday with the thought that many of the people in the room weren’t even born when I began participating in these same kinds of meetings. Have I really been doing this for forty-six and a half years? It really is true, though things change, nothing really changes.
All My Best!
Apple Computer, Inc.
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