This is the “Kindness Wall” at the office of the Epilepsy Foundation of Michigan, including letters and cards of encouragement and gratitude.
[Image Description: A number of cards and letters are displayed, taped to a white dry-erase board. There is writing on them, though they are not legible in the image. In the center, there is a a message in cursive, black writing that reads, “throw kindness confetti,” and it’s framed with a black frame. Diagonally and below to the right, there is another cursive message in black writing which reads “Hooray.” It’s underlined and also framed with a black frame.]
Yesterday, I said, “I need to believe that small groups of people can change the world.”
Then a few hours after writing that, I drove to Southfield, Michigan and had my first full day working at the Epilepsy Foundation of Michigan. I had a training day on Friday, but most of the staff was out of the office due to big events that would happen over the weekend. This was my first day present with the majority of the staff.
“When the first person is hungry, they just declare it and go down the row of offices and say, ‘We’re having lunch!’ and everyone comes out, and we eat together,” I was told. And a few hours later, that’s exactly what happened.
During lunch, I sat down with staff members who have such longevity working in this place. They are deeply passionate about the vision, dedicated to the community they serve, and supportive with care toward one another too. 34 years… 22 years… 20 years… 18 years… 14 years… 11 years. That’s how long some of the staff members have worked here, along with some very instrumental people who are in their single digits. And here I am, having lunch on Day 1, eating with a small group of people who are welcoming, inclusive, and not at all clique-y despite their many years together.
And you know what? They are participating in changing the world.
108,000 people in Michigan have epilepsy. In this work, we get to meet these community members, affirm their dignity and worth, and receive from their gifts and talents. We help people find transformative medical care, provide connection and emotional support, raise money for resources and research, promote public policy, create camp experiences for children and teenagers, hold community events, educate the broader public, and provide advocacy (both individualized and community-wide) in education, employment, and a number of other important settings.
In this work, we address stigma and discrimination, coming alongside people who experience these unjustly. We interface with larger, systemic challenges and injustices and work to move the needle there as well. Our work brings us into contact with needs for accessible and affordable healthcare; effective public transportation; just employment laws; dignity, care, and safety in public institutions; and accommodations, access, and full inclusion for people with disabilities.
This small group of people is working in all these directions, and they are doing this while creating one of the most supportive and sustainable workplace cultures I have ever encountered.
So here’s to this small group of people!
And here’s to the Board, the Professional Advisory Committee, the Clinical Ambassadors, the donors, the supporters, and the friends, and more.
And most of all, here’s to 108,000 people in Michigan living with epilepsy, all that they bring, offer, and provide with their talents and contributions. And here’s to their families, and their friends, and wider communities.
This is world-changing!