As a kid, I was hired by my small, western Kentucky town to “weed eat” around the hundreds of tombstones in the local public cemetery. It took two weeks to trim around every single marker, which just so happened to be the exact amount of time it took for the grass to grow back and for me to start all over again. It was a dirty, monotonous job, but I was earning a minimum wage paycheck and glad to have a little spending money. One day as I quickly passed by each stone, I came upon a couple of familiar names. Names of people who consoled me as a baby, always gave the best gifts for my birthday, and loved me unconditionally. They were my grandparents. As I thought about all of the good memories, I began to trim each blade of grass carefully, making sure their memorial site was in immaculate shape. Later that day, I came upon my other loving grandmother’s marker and meticulously trimmed around it as well. It was at that moment that I discovered purpose in my toil. I knew the what, when, and how of my small job, but learning the “why” transformed the way I viewed that job and every other job after that. Suddenly, it wasn’t just about earning the pay check. I had taken great care of tombstones of my loved ones, but I realized every marker in that cemetery was someone’s grandmother, father, daughter, son. My job became more interesting and fulfilling as I took the time to read each tombstone and tended to their sites as I did for my own family. The marker of our county’s first Vietnam War casualty received the respect it deserved. Having purpose and meaning in my labor, beyond earning a paycheck, made me better in my labor.
Mission Greater Than Ourselves
To be successful in any job, meaning and purpose are crucial. When we work toward a mission greater than ourselves, we become greater at achieving our mission. Kentucky Housing Corporation’s mission is to invest in quality housing solutions for families and communities across Kentucky, and we achieve our mission through a broad and valuable network of partners. The meaning and purpose of that mission really comes to life when you assign faces and names to it. When a homeless person finds the shelter he needs during a cold night; when a single mother earns a college degree, gains self-sufficiency, and becomes a contributor to society and pays taxes because of services received in a Scholar House program; when a former addict hugs his children after arriving home from a new job because of the support he received in a Recovery Kentucky program to achieve and maintain sobriety; when a young newly married couple goes into their local community bank and become homeowners through KHC’s down payment assistance program; we have achieved our mission. Meaning in our work leads to better collaboration when self-motivation gives way to team motivation toward a common cause.
Holistic Approach to Housing Finance through Collaboration
I believe that we must take a holistic approach to the way we finance housing. Let’s not just provide a roof over someone’s head. Let’s address other systemic issues that are positively correlated to affordable housing issues while providing that roof. We have a great head start with the Scholar House and Recovery Kentucky programs, but we can do more. This will require innovative thinking and collaboration with our many private and public partners. As a means to collaborate more effectively, we are launching this blog and podcast called Strategic Housing. This will be a place of dialogue, where KHC and our partners can read, listen, and participate in the discussion of new ideas, best practices, policy tools, and financial strategies. We also offer you the opportunity to contribute to the ongoing discourse on affordable housing solutions through social media. Use the hashtag #bighousingideas to share your ideas, successes, and photos. Our goal is for KHC and our partners to become thought leaders and thought facilitators in affordable housing in Kentucky and across the nation. So, I invite you to connect, collaborate, and let’s innovate together.
**If you would like to participate as a guest blogger or podcast guest, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration.