First Friday Message

It's All About Perspective

After nearly 30 years in the Y serving communities from south Florida to southeast Michigan, I’ve learned to appreciate the unique characteristics of each community that I’ve engaged with and have always respected the immense pride that people have for their community. I say this as a YMCA professional who has lived in nine different homes in nine fairly unique communities since leaving my hometown in Virginia in 1996. As much as I have embraced the challenge of carving out new paths in new Ys, I have admittedly been a bit of a nomad in search of that place to proudly call home.

These thoughts I share with you in this format are my intent, selfishly, to initiate a relationship on a macro level with my “new” neighbors here in Central Florida. I hope to keep you attuned to the pulse of what is and what is to come for our great Y and why I’m driven to lead us along that path. I doubt that every message will be rooted in rainbows and unicorns as the path of any leader or organization is fraught with hills and valleys, but I can promise a fairly unfiltered look into how the sauce is made.

The goal is to distribute this on a monthly basis on the first Friday of the month. Thus, the fairly unoriginal title: "First Friday Message." With all of that said, you’ve endured enough prologue, so let’s get at it.

In Search of Home

We moved into our new home three weeks ago. Great community, beautiful home with all the trappings of the region, and every day that we (i.e. my wife, daughter, and I) get out to do the most mundane of tasks, we’re constantly reminded of just how different our life is now from the life we left in Pittsburgh just months ago. We know we’re blessed (of that, we have no doubt), but the last few months of transition have been HARD. Finding a home in the most competitive buyers’ market in recent history and having to do much of it virtually was emotionally draining and physically exhausting. We lost out on several homes and wondered, if only for a brief moment, if this change was meant to be. But it wasn’t until we were nearing the back end of our transition that I took time to appreciate the blessings in the process and how perspective plays a critical role in our lives.

Our last trip back to Pittsburgh to finish packing our stuff—too much stuff!—was the tipping point. If you’ve made a move of this nature in the past, you know that however long you think you need to pack is likely 24–48 hours less than what is really needed. Over the final two days in Pittsburgh, sleep was a luxury and GrubHub became an invaluable backstop to our refrigerator which only protected those last obscure condiments that no one liked and the frozen oddities and leftovers that should have been thrown out last year.

The movers, of course, showed up exactly on time on that faithful Monday morning and despite our best plans and efforts, we still had loads of things to get into boxes. Ten full hours later our home was empty, the movers were pulling off, and we were exhausted. There was a certain degree of satisfaction that the packing was done, but we knew that unpacking and settling in would be the next hurdle.

After several flight delays, we finally returned to Orlando late the following evening. Rhonda and our daughter were sound asleep just minutes into the car and I dutifully fulfilled the dad role on the back end of this trip: drive safely home while everyone else snored. On the way home, I ran across a lady who appeared to be homeless at an intersection with a sign asking for help. It was 11:30 pm, raining, and relatively cool for Orlando and she stood there, holding the sign, gaunt, with no jacket and tattered clothes staring at each of the drivers queued up at the light asking for help.

The light changed and I drove on.

As the leader of a nonprofit charged with helping “the least of them” and someone who personally believes that we are all put here on this planet to make a difference in the lives of our fellow citizens, I wish I could say that I extended her money or food that evening. I didn’t live up to my own values. And as I drove away, I recall thinking that I can’t be alone in wondering, at times, if the people that we all see on the streets are there by intent or by circumstance. But I knew in my heart that this lady definitely did not choose to be there on that night, in that rain, at the I-4 underpass. There was no doubt that she also would want a place to call home.

Seeing her there made me realize just how small and petty our relocation challenges have been.

We all bring a unique perspective to what we do in our short time here and none of us are perfect. If we’re wise, we create room around that perspective to continue to learn, grow, and be better.

In our Y, we are committed to creating welcoming spaces for everyone…no matter your path. Moving forward, we will be working to expand our mission work in the community beyond the four walls of our buildings to reach people where the needs are the greatest. We know we cannot do it alone and we cannot rely solely on our prior strategies for community impact. We will broaden our collective perspectives in hopes of supporting a region that seeks to create safe and nurturing spaces for all.

Thanks for being with us on this journey.

Kevin Bolding, President & CEO
YMCA of Central Florida

The Y. For a better us.®