“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” — C.S. Lewis
I have this quote on the wall in my office. I try to live by this quote and remain humble and grateful for the opportunities I have received as well as extend my expertise, knowledge, skills, and abilities to others seeking upwardly-mobile careers. I had the pleasure of attending this year’s Escalade Leadership Development Program (ELDP) last August (I intend to share this adventure in a later blog post).
I met many amazing and talented individuals there; the Food Safety and Inspection Service employs some of the most highly-qualified people in USDA. Among these amazing individuals was an SCSI (supervisory consumer safety inspector) from Cactus, Texas — Mr. Michael Cano. Every time I glance at the quote from C.S. Lewis, Michael comes to mind. He is such a thoughtful man…when talking to him, you get a sense of integrity and professionalism that supersedes just “doing the job”. Part of ELDP is to open yourself to new ideas and theories, to stop viewing your position (and assignment) singularly, but rather as an intricate (and important) part of the mission of FSIS and USDA. When I met Mr. Cano, he was a consumer safety inspector on an assignment where he spent a lot of time working independently. If you are one of these inspectors (and I was!), you spend a large amount of your time seeking projects to immerse yourself in….it’s very lonely in some of these assignments, especially in remote areas….you are always seeking ways to stay in touch with the rest of the world. Commendably, Mr. Cano found a solid way to reconnect and stay connected.
According to Michael, he had an idea to improve the leave donation program in his district while reading an article in the newsletter. There was a story submitted by the wife of an inspector who had been ailing; the story was accompanied by the photo of the inspector receiving dialysis and a heartfelt plea from his wife regarding leave donations on his behalf. Mr. Cano stated he couldn’t recall how many times he had walked by a printed list of leave donor recipients and never gave it a second look….you know the list. It’s usually on the last page of the Beacon and it may be in one of your district’s newsletters (or not), but no one ever talks about it and the only time anyone mentions it is when someone they know is on the list. Michael had recently become a member of his district’s Equal Employment Opportunity Committee and was seeking ways to make an immediate impact. He noticed their newsletter contained stories about employees’ hobbies and pets, but nothing that would impact the lives or circumstances of their readers. He also recalled his own personal experience with the leave donor recipient list and how it was ignored almost completely and began to formulate an idea.
Michael proposed a plan to bring the people’s stories out from the piece of paper and into the hearts of their coworkers by sharing the stories of the employees in need. Mr. Cano’s idea was approved by his district and he was provided the name of a frontline supervisor who had recently been diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma Cancer. He contacted her and the rest is, as they say, history. She shared a very personal tale of her struggle, her fight, and her family. Many in his district were touched and donated….her story opened the avenue for others to share their stories. What is most touching to me is I was sitting in a room with 25 other strangers; we all worked for FSIS in various capacities, but most of us had never met each other. The frontline supervisor in Michael’s story had a sister who also worked for FSIS, but in another district…..when Michael told us the name of the frontline supervisor, Diana Hayes, an SCSI from Montgomery, AL, exclaimed, “That’s my sister!” There wasn’t a dry eye in the room.
So, this holiday season, the season of giving, as you’re looking for ways to change someone’s life or improve their circumstances, consider donating some of your leave to someone in need. You can’t begin to understand the impact you might have on someone’s life. Thanks again, Michael Cano, kudos to you!