Embrace Living with Rebecca Priest: On The Way to Our New Home

Rebecca Priest

As an organization, we are driving down a road to small homes and intimate teams. This is a beautiful journey with scenery along the way, new relationships and pit stops, bittersweet good-byes, and powerful hellos. I want to join you in that journey in a way that restores community, hope, and faith. It is not an easy road, but no place worth getting to is.

A month ago I gave all of our nurse managers and practice partners two baby food jars of rice. One of these jars had “thank you” on it and the other “not good enough.” I also kept a set for our administrative team.

Thirty days later, without opening these jars and simply by speaking words of encouragement to one jar and speaking disdain to the other, we have noticed a really big difference. The loved and affirmed rice is intact and less decomposed. The unloved, “un-thanked” rice is liquid yellow. An untouched “control” jar sits somewhere in the middle. The power of positive energy is not just a nice idea. It is real. As is the power of negativity and hopelessness.

As a human, our brains are relatively lazy. They naturally want to function in the biggest and easiest “thought highways” developed. Knowing this, let’s commit to stop developing the “highways” that harm us as a community. Ungratefulness, frustration, powerlessness, hopelessness, and drama do nothing for us in our efforts to make lives better. I know we are ALL here to make lives better. Don’t grow that negative highway in your brain or in your community on your own accord. The world and media does a good enough job of growing the belief that all things, people, and countries are awful, we don’t need to reinforce it. In fact we should reject it daily.

St. John’s is a different kind of place; I hear it every day. This place is different. YOU are different.

As a St. John’s culture comprised of families, staff members, and the elders who live here, we can all develop wider “thought highways” of encouragement by showing each other kindness, respect, having fun, and encouraging one another. If we do this, the positive highway we expand will create space to sustain us through adversity and move us forward as a community in one piece. It will, even when the journey seems long, keep us on track to overcome and afford us the opportunity to see our silver linings and learn from mistakes (and there will be many).

As spring fights its way through a long, frozen winter, we can stew about the aftermath of darkness, cold, and inconvenience that the weather has wrought or we can brush away the snow and see the crocus pushing up. We can hear the song birds as we walk outside in the morning and we can push open our windows to breathe the circle of life that will always prevail… even when it seems so elusive.

This week, this spring, I ask you to ask yourself and each other, “Am I widening the thought highway of growth and positivity?” or “Am I closing down the road of growth and positivity?” If we narrow that “can do” road, the default highway of negative thought will be a road that recoils new team members from staying with us and that frustrates elders and family members who are here because they know who we can be and who we are; a community of faithfulness and connection. The highway of despair and drama is not a road to stability even if it feels like others are driving on it with you.

I know where my roads lead. I am widening my highway of faith, growth, and positivity as we head toward small homes in an organization that has to grow to meet its’ mission. We must change society’s view of elderhood by nurturing life with vibrant, life-affirming relationships. We do this by creating the next best thing to an elders’ home—home at St. Johns,

Stay on this road with me. Set me back if you see me go off course. Do your part to keep your road of positive growth wide open.

Rebecca Priest,
Administrator of Skilled Nursing

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