In Greek mythology Sisyphus was the king of the ancient city of Ephyra. In punishment for cheating death, he was forced to roll a boulder up a hill only to have it continuously roll back every time he neared the summit. Sisyphus' ultimate punishment was being cursed to repeat the action for all eternity.
Sometimes our work feels a bit like rolling a rock up a hill, only to have it tumble back down before we can reach the top. This week we learned one of the young men in our Tigres Program died. He died from complications associated with poorly managed tuberculosis.
For months we worked with him to get into care. We used every public health incentive we could think of - even resorting to paying him bonuses for every week he remained in treatment. At some point the side effects of the medications, the challenges of treatment, and the uncertainty of his future - they became too much and he left care.
Our team didn't give up. We stayed in contact with him and made every effort to engage him in restarting treatments. It wasn't enough. He just didn't see the point.
He died barely into his twenties. A young man who lived in the Casa Girasoles after escaping a life of tremendous trauma. A young man with so much living still ahead.
Sometimes it feels like we are pushing rocks - working so hard to keep them from rolling back down. Regardless as to what happens, this is important work. Everyone deserves access to a life. A life of hope. A life of purpose. The rocks, they keep rolling back . . . that's okay, we're not giving up.
Without a doubt, anything I have ever done that is complex or challenging - always gets messy before things get straightened out. There is a point in any work or process where things feel like they are falling off the rails. It doesn't matter the project - it always happens.
This weekend we painted our daughter's bedroom. After spending what felt like the better part of a whole day taping the trim and covering all the flooring, we got to painting. Soon enough, it was a mess. The paint on the floor was more than that on the brush - or even the walls. It was a disaster.
It was in that moment where it felt like we'd never finish, where we would be stuck with paint stains and poorly cut trim forever - that I realized, this is just a phase . . . it will be over soon enough.
Our work, helping to take complex and challenging issues and circumstances related to health access for marginalized women and children, and build sustainable models of care - it's the same thing. The work always reaches a point where it feels overwhelming, where it feels just too big to complete. At that point, things get messy.
We're working on a large, 5-year research study. The goal of the Center of Excellence study is to identify, define, codify and package a model approach to serving the needs of children living in residential care. It's a complex project. There are many moving parts. It's just at the phase where it is starting to get messy. And, it couldn't be better.
We know that sticking with the complex and being comfortable in the messy - is the path to true innovation. We also know that holding true to our commitment in spite of the messiness, is the best approach for helping all children gain access to the lives they deserve.
It's starting to get messy - and we're all in.
I worked in the garden yesterday. No, not our garden - my father-in-laws small vegetable garden.
Getting my hands dirty and working the soil, it was a powerful experience. There is a lot that goes into gardening. I know - this is where you can collectively say, duh . . . wayne.
My time in the dirt reminded me that our work, the work of helping children and families gain access to the services and supports they need to build the lives they deserve . . . well, its a lot like gardening.
Tending to the soil means prepping the ground, preparing the dirt, nurturing the plants, and cultivating a connection with nature. All of these little steps are critical to the success of the garden. Its not any one thing, its the impact and influence of a synergy of intentional steps.
That is the work of Health Bridges. Our work is not the impact of any one program or project, it is the cumulative influence of our years of dedicated efforts. It is the intentional steps we take to work with local experts, thoroughly understand the challenges and opportunites, deeply understand and continually be humbled by culture, and connect with people.
We can't measure our work in days or weeks, or even years. We must be committed to the long-term. We're cultivating change that allows people to identify and utilize the support they need to build the lives they deserves. It is a lot like growing a garden . . . one turn of the shovel at a time.
The HBI Blog is a rotating journal from our staff. Our Blog is a series of messages from the field, insights from our work, and lessons in service.