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CW 50: David Hopkins

In the immortal words of Kool and the Gang:
There’s a party going on right here.
A dedication to last throughout the years.
So bring your good times and your laughter too.
We gonna celebrate your party with you!
Host David Hopkins brings a leadership lesson for community administrators.

Welcome to Bridge The Gap Contributor Wednesday. I’m David Hopkins. To quote the immortal band Kool and the Gang, “There’s a party going on right here. A dedication to last throughout the years. So bring your good times and your laughter too. We’re going to celebrate your party with you.” Happy May everybody! Today is May 5th. May is the greatest month in all of the months. Why do you ask? Because it’s a celebration month. It’s a celebration month because May is my birthday month. Yes. All month. In fact, April is the countdown to my birthday month. You ask any of my friends or my coworkers, and they will know exactly how many days to my birthday. It’s not that I’m expecting presents or notoriety. I’m just expecting to be celebrated. I’m one of those. I love my birthday. Kool and the Gang, sang a song about celebrating. We do it for birthdays and anniversaries, mother’s and father’s day, Thanksgiving, Christmas Hanukkah. My friend Obie just adopted a little baby boy, and they have a gotcha day that they celebrate.

Heck my wife even keeps track of our dog’s birthdays. We celebrate at weddings where incidentally, the immortal band Kool and the Gang are most of the time being played at them. So this leads me to the question, celebrating. Celebrations. Are you intentional about them? Are we good at them? Do we even know how to do them? You know, we’re sometimes not good at celebrating. Sometimes we don’t pay attention to the details that we need to, and that gets a little disturbing. I got to tell you, we failed miserably on one that I tried to celebrate. Now, like most of you, we always do that month birthday celebration, get the sheet cake out and the party hats. And we sing happy birthday and acknowledge everybody that had a birthday in that month. I like that month. It’s the month of May. That’s the birthday month for me.

But you know, we celebrated our staff and our residents and we set up the cake and the party hats and we had a little gift card and a card for them signed by the entire staff. Sent out the email, had a lot of people in the room and were focused on celebrating. Gave out the cards, gave out the birthday gift certificate, set it down. A piece of cake in front of people, put the party hat on and take pictures. And after that was all done, I noticed one of my employees was not eating. And so I walked up to her and I said, “happy birthday.” And I said, “did you not like your cake?” And she looked at me and said, “I don’t eat cake.” Uh, as a leader, that was a fail with a capital F! How did I not know she did not like birthday cake?

Here I am trying to be so intentional about recognizing and celebrating somebody. And I didn’t even pay attention to what they wanted. I only assumed that everybody likes a big birthday. I had an epic fail as a husband. I planned a great big surprise birthday party for my wife. Friends flying in, long-term elementary school, family driving in. I was excited. We were going to celebrate her and all the people that she knew and loved were going to be there. And it was going to be lots of food and good times. She found out about it the night before. And I could see the disappointment across her face. See my wife doesn’t like big celebrations. She likes a quiet celebration with a small group of friends or family. And I didn’t pay attention. I celebrated her the way I want to be celebrated. I want the spotlight and the stage and everything else that goes along with a big fun celebration.

But in my definition, when you have somebody like me, I’m telling you exactly how I want to be celebrated. If you listen to people like my wife, she’s telling me how she wants to be celebrated. Are you listening? People tell us how they want to be celebrated, pay attention. Listen, ask the questions. It’s even a great interview question. How do you like to be recognized or celebrated? In many times we feel obligated to throw a big party, whether it be for the office or for family and friends, when the person being celebrated doesn’t want that. Or worse, we give them a piece of cake and maybe they don’t like it, or they have a food allergy. So we have cake for everybody else, but we have, uh oh, we forgot to get something. So a piece of cheese or fruit or something like that. Wow. So now you’ve got me being celebrated the way I don’t want to be celebrated.

And on top of that, you’re not even going to get me the food or the item that I like. We have got to do a better job at celebrating. As I was doing research into celebration, it was very eye opening. As I even put in the name celebration into Google. Now I’ll tell you the town of Celebration popped up for me, but it’s just outside of Disney. That was the town that Walt had originally envisioned Epcot to be a place where you would work, play live, go to school and have everything at your resources and disposal. Under a nice bubble. Epcot was never designed to be countries around the world with great food and drinks and rides and the ability to explore different cultures. It was a place to really work and live. That was his intent of Epcot. The experimental prototype community of tomorrow.

Disney knows how to celebrate. On your year anniversary, you get your first pin to add to your name tag. And there’s very few things that can go on your name tag. And it’s a Steamboat Willie, the first Mickey mouse cartoon that says I’ve celebrated a year. In five years, it becomes Donald Duck. And it grows from there. I’ve seen people with a 50 year plaque, 50 years of working at the same time company. It’s kind of hard to find that these days, but the celebration is immense. Once you pass 10 and 15 years, they actually closed an entire park for you to celebrate. You walk the red carpet on the entrance, your name badge denotes how many years you have special venues and rides are open. There’s a special fireworks display. Characters abound throughout the entire park. And it’s just for cast members that are celebrating their milestone anniversaries.

It’s a great time to see people that maybe you were in traditions with and have lost touch with over the years. And you may be walking down main street and run into somebody that you met 20, 30, even 50 years ago. What a great way to be intentional about celebrating. Disney definitely does celebrating right! No matter what you’re celebrating, when you walk into the park, you’re adding a name badge or a button onto your clothes to tell you what I’m celebrating. Anniversary, birthday, family reunion, but there’s so many other organizations that do a great job of celebrating. And we need to take lessons and notes from them. This past year has been challenging on mental health, mental health and celebrating celebrations for people that is customized releases endorphins, endorphins help depression. Celebrating somebody could almost save their life. And I’ve got to tell you, I’m very fascinated by alcoholics anonymous.

They really have celebration down. When you’re doing the hard work to kick an addiction to alcohol, the coins and their certificates they give you that are so intentional that most will keep in their pocket and never show anybody. But that coin of sobriety for 30 days, six months, a year is so important to them. And it’s a constant reminder of their struggle but also their victory and their celebration. I am truly amazed at how well one single coin can provide somebody hope by establishing the meaning behind it. It’s important to celebrate. Even in the Bible, celebrating is mentioned 52 times. I found that quite ironic that we have 52 weeks in the year, but then I thought only celebrating once a week? I don’t know that I could do that. I need to celebrate quite often. You know, I was working on a large scale project in senior living and it had to do with coordinating a bunch of government agencies and getting approvals.

And it took much longer than we expected and really stayed on this project. It was so exhausting. And when we finally received the letter that we had been approved, I was overjoyed. I sent out the email to everybody that had been involved at some point in the other. And was so excited to finally say, “we’ve got approval.” I received emails of congratulations and even one stated, “great, now let’s move on to the next step.” We have to take time to stop and celebrate our successes. If you don’t celebrate those successes, when the losses hit, you got to remember what you’re doing it for. We always want to have more wins in the win column than we do in the loss column. So we have to celebrate. You have to celebrate. And you have to celebrate the way you need to. If you’re like me, who’s kind of loud and obnoxious when it comes around his birthday time, people are telling you how they want to be celebrated.

This might’ve stemmed as a kid. When I was having my birthday, it is the original Memorial Day, May 30th. Before we started this kind of absurd notion of celebrating every holiday on a Monday, so we could all have a three-day weekend. It was the true Memorial Day, and we would have a Tuesday or a Wednesday off during the middle of the week. We would go down to my small town square, where I grew up, and in my early years, until I was seven, we had a parade because it’s Memorial Day. They had my favorite colors, red, white, and blue fire trucks rolled out. Police sirens, ice cream was being sold. The military came out and marched and all their grand splendor of a uniform. And as I stood on the sideline early on, I had asked my dad, what is this parade for?

Without missing a beat, he promptly responded, “it’s for your birthday.” I now know that that’s not true. Eighth grade or eight years old, turning eight, when I found out that the parade wasn’t for me was a difficult year. But the remembrance and memorial of our veterans that have been lost is so much bigger that I love my birthday is on that time. So I get to stand up, put my hand over my heart and salute our veterans. We have to celebrate. We have much to celebrate. We’re coming out of probably the most trying year senior living and healthcare has ever seen. So we need to start celebrating that we made it through. So when I say celebrate what’s that thought that creeps into your mind? That opportunity that you missed that you didn’t celebrate? You know what it is, it’s right there sitting on the front of your head going, man, I should have done that.

Or I should have brought donuts to celebrate the team for accomplishing a deficiency free visit or recognize them a little bit better. Let me let you in on a little secret. You have permission to go back and celebrate that. You have permission to go back and say, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe we missed this. We’re going to celebrate it right now, throw down a dance party, break out the balloons, break out the cake.” Celebrations can be big and small and you can customize it to the person you are celebrating, like me, let’s go big! Parades and all. If it’s my wife, let’s go small and quiet because she’s going to appreciate that more. It’s not something I understand, but for her, it’s speaking in her language. The feeling you get when you’re celebrated, it fills your tank. It’s something that you can call on and it’s something that will refill your tank over and over again, to know that somebody was proud of you, responsible for you and appreciated you.

It perpetuates happiness. My dad passed away 11 years ago and as I was sifting through some of his things, one of the things that I always desperately wanted to hear from him was that I appreciate you. Through the last year or so of his life, I made many trips to his assisted living and to the hospital. I never felt like I got appreciated for it. And when he passed, I felt guilty for feeling that way. But as I was sifting through things, he had a stack of my old high school and elementary school notebooks, spiral bound. And if there was a page empty left on it, he left it in there. And as I was flipping through one notebook had something written in it and it was one line in his hand writing in pencil.

And it said, Dave, I appreciate you. Well, that’s now framed and in my house as a constant reminder. So it’s time to celebrate folks. I’m going to celebrate. Are you going to join me? I’m celebrating that I’m completing this podcast on my birthday month. And I’m so excited to share it with you! So you get to celebrate with me. So I’m going to get a cupcake and a balloon and proceed to walk around my entire community so that people will ask me, why do I have a cupcake and a balloon? And then I can tell them that I am celebrating my birthday month. So on May 5th today, I encourage you to go get a balloon and a cupcake, send me a picture, send it to so that we can post it up on our social media, because I want to see you celebrating. Thanks for listening to this week’s BTG Contributor Wednesday, please connect with me

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CW 50: David Hopkins