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Monday, February 18, 2013

Makings of a Best Friend

Makings of a Best Friend

During 1978 I was into a new job as Executive Director of a non-profit organization, I won’t say that I was out of my element but I was cautiously treading the political landscape.  My previous jobs had been very high level and well defined responsibilities, without the political element.  I attended many Planning and Funding meetings all ultra-political.  I was literally swimming in shark infested waters.
I was competing with many organizations for the funding, there was even recruiting of my staff going on behind my back.  At times I couldn’t even trust my own staff because I wasn’t sure who was being lured away, and who was really on my team.  Remember that I was new to the organization so while I didn’t know the staff, they also didn’t know me.  They really didn’t know if I was out for myself or if I would take a stand on their behalf and go to bat for them.

My actions in private and public began to speak volumes about me to my board of directors, my staff, the community, and even to a well-known and effective community activist.  As I began to gather strength and reputation in the arena that I was involved in, I noticed that Joe L. (the community activist) was siding with me on issues that involved and benefited my organization.  One evening after a long and hard fought funding meeting, he approached me as I was preparing to leave and he shook my hand, and said I am starving and would be willing to treat you to dinner.
I agreed to join him, and didn’t realize that 4 other community leaders would be joining us at one of Joe’s favorite restaurants.  Joe introduced me to his circle of friends, and in the process said to them, this is the man I’ve been talking to you about.  The four individuals were an impressive group; one was a lawyer, another a medical student, yet another a professor at the UoW, the fourth was the executive of the County we operated in.  I was proud to be included, but while I could survive swimming with sharks all of a sudden I felt like a fish out of water.
After a very pleasant dinner, and conversation we parted company but not before Joe explained to me that this group of people and handful of others would work alongside of me to make sure that our non-profit agency would survive and thrive.  I went on to lead the agency for just over 7 years and in that period of time we grew by leaps and bounds; our funding was quadrupled during my tenure.  Once again this is material for a different posting.
That night I went home and told my wife that I had met with a group of people that offered me their community expertise and support, and that based on those actions I felt that my contact Joe L. wanted to be my friend.  I then went on to make a misstatement like I had not made before or since.  I told my wife that I wasn’t sure that I wanted to befriend him because he was 26 years older than me, and he would die on me and I would end up mourning the loss of a friend.  My wife being much younger than me once again showed her superior wisdom and said; better to have him as a friend and lose him than not have him as a friend at all!

 Joe L. was my very best friend for 23 years.  He passed away at the age of 82 (retired Navy, and retired Teamster - Tough as Nails).  Periodically I will post a story on my friend Joe.  The best is yet to come……

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