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CW 59: David Hopkins

Tradition, Tradition! Just like Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, Traditions keep us balanced. Traditions can help us shape our future while remembering the past. 

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Welcome to Bridge The Gap Contributor Wednesday, I’m David Hopkins. Tradition. Tradition. If you’re loving the theater like I do you’ll know that that starts off one of the greatest musicals of our time, Fiddler on The Roof. And I thought it was fitting that today being July 7th, we would talk about traditions. We just celebrated the birth of America on July 4th, 1776. And we have a lot of traditions that we follow through this time. And as America has grown, we’ve developed new ones. We’ve gotten rid of old ones and we’ve continued to grow and become a nation that is truly, truly for freedom. I thought about the independence day of July 4th, and I thought about the traditions that we’ve had and have started. We have our pledge of allegiance. We have the Boston tea party. We have the midnight ride of Paul Revere and we have a lot of traditions in the United States.


And we have a lot of traditions just as humans, for instance, handshakes, why do we shake somebody’s hand? That actually comes from medieval times when knights would offer their hand to show that they are not armed and they’re not going to harm somebody that they didn’t have a sword in there. Throwing coins into the fountain and making a wish. The Greeks thought that was the way to elevate their prayers and their blessings to their gods so that they would be heard. We have Black Friday people get up at 0 dark 30 and go shopping on Black Friday. And for most of you, you know that Black Friday is the day that retailers actually make money. Church is typically on Sunday, but if you read the Bible, you heard that was the Sabbath day. So if we start our weeks on Sunday, shouldn’t that be Saturday? Our friends in the seventh day Adventist church celebrate on Saturday.


It got me thinking. And as I thought about traditions, Disney has a tradition. They have a class called traditions. In fact, once you get hired, this is the first class that you attend at Disney University. It’s for all new cast members. And this is the start of your journey on your Disney career. The class is taught with traditions of Disney in mind of how Walt came into drawing Mickey Mouse, creating Disneyland, and ultimately developing Disney World that has now spawned into five parks all over the world. But everybody starts with why they do it, how they do it, and then what do they do from a Disney perspective? And that first class is to teach you and cast your vision so that you know clearly what you are developing and how you’re portraying yourself as a Disney cast member. Walt was very big on making sure things were clean, neat, and tidy.


And you’ve heard me mention several times on this podcast, that safety, courtesy, show, and efficiency came directly from him. Those are taught, retaught, shared, and then taught again because it is so important that every Disney cast member know that. So when you think about traditions and you think about the United States declaring the independence, the shot heard round the world, the history of Walt Disney World, you think about independence and I pause and reflect on that word. Independence means that you are for or against something. You are free. If you disagree, you have that right. In the declaration of independence, Thomas Jefferson who’s most notably quoted, but there are a few others who lent their skills to crafting that message stated, “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal and that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”


It got me thinking as I was reading that, do you think Thomas Jefferson realized that he was writing about senior living? Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? Isn’t that what we offer? I think about our residents. We want them to have a full and abundant life. We want them to be free to make their choices and we want them to be happy. If you have that trifecta, you have a very happy resident. And I think about our residents in memory care, we are still trying to provide every choice and every opportunity for them to lead a happy, fulfilling life with liberty, but in a protected environment. I think about our veterans who fought to keep those ideals alive and now are retired and enjoying their best life. The spouses who kept their family going, writing letters, even though they might not have ever heard back from them. I think about our staff and the importance that we have as leaders in senior living to provide them and help them with their ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We give them an opportunity to serve in a mission that is much greater than ours and much greater than only one person.


I think about the ability to be able to give and give back on those three ideals. Do you have personal traditions? Like when an athlete comes out and hits a sign in the locker room before the game, or they run out onto the field and kneel down in prayer or they rub a rock or they stream into the field and break through a barrier of paper, igniting the crowd in new excitement. How do you start your day? That’s a tradition. Do you start it out with meditation, a run, coffee? Or are you like most people who flip over, turn off the alarm, hit the snooze button, or check your email? And you realize, oh, today’s going to be a doozy. One of my most fondest traditions is July 4th. Growing up, I grew up in a very small town called Sandwich, Massachusetts on Cape Cod.


My dad was on the recreation committee and he was instrumental in helping to organize our town’s parade. We rolled out all three fire trucks, the kids decorated their bikes, and we started off from a church to our elementary school field. We had veterans, we had the town selectmen, because we’re not big enough for a council or for a mayor, we had police cars and fire trucks. And all the town showed out so that they could receive some candy, wave at the kids, and then everybody met at our elementary school field. And it was a big grass field in which we played the typical 4th of July games. Sack races, we had one for the married couples and adults that they would have to balance a beach ball in between the two of them run up around the cone and come back. Many different ways to do that.


And that always ended up in a lot of laughter. The lions were out selling hotdogs and ice cream, and we capped it off at noontime with a great egg toss. We used dozens and dozens of eggs, and eventually people would start whittling down as their egg broke or dropped or cracked in their hands. And then pretty soon, some of the baseball players were hucking an egg as far as they possibly could throw it to see who was going to be the victor. When that all wrapped up and people started heading out, the fire department came out and mustered out a bunch of foam onto the field that the kids could go sliding through. It was at this point, we headed back home and headed up to our friends, the Matties. They always had the best 4th of July picnic. It didn’t hurt that they also had a pool and we’d cookout and grill out and swim and then wrap up before the sun started setting.


So we can all head down to our local pond. The tradition of our boat parade in our town was pretty famous. You’d get the same kind of materials and then out of a rowboat, you would need to create something in a 4th of July motif. We’d have a band down there and they’d be playing music all night until the sunset. At that point in time, the boats would come out with their lanterns lit to showcase who would be winning the boat parade. After that it was over to the beach and we would watch fireworks into the evening. I can still smell the air. I can taste the hot dog. I can feel the cool water on my skin. I can feel the sun as I’m walking down main street, helping corral kids in their bike parade. This tradition is something that was very special to me as my dad helped to lead that.


And I got to be part of it. Christmas is another great tradition. I’ll tell you anytime I hear Bing Crosby sing White Christmas, I’m currently transported right back into my childhood home, into my living room with a fire going and snow falling outside. Why do we celebrate traditions? Is it history? Is it family? Is it a certain meal on a certain day? How does it make you feel? Can you recall those sights and sounds when a tradition is made or something that you miss? I had the privilege one year of eating Thanksgiving meal in Plymouth plantation outside, like the pilgrims did. They don’t have forks back then so you had to use your fingers, which meant no gloves in Massachusetts. It was quite chilly. And all they give you is a knife tearing off a hunk of turkey to eat it, fingers being so cold, listening to the wind whip through the channels that the house has created in Plymouth plantation.


Still one of my greatest Thanksgiving memories that I hope to share with my kids someday. When we have a tradition, it’s something that inspires in us that we can transport ourselves back in time and be part of instantaneously. It’s a great piece that we can hand on to generations coming forward. So that got me thinking, do we have any traditions in our residents and our communities that we’re not using? Currently, in my community, we have a lot of Christmas trees at Christmas time. Last count was 36 for last year. I have trouble getting up one tree in my house and fluffing branches. And I really don’t enjoy that. So I can’t even imagine 36 Christmas trees. But as that develops over time, that tradition is going to be meaningful for many people. As they remember the different trees on the different floors, some themed, some animal themes, some old games that create memories and nostalgia.


I always liked the communities that I walk into and their tradition is to always have warm chocolate chips going. Now, granted, I am a fan of chocolate chip cookies with a nice glass of milk, but the smell that permeates through the building is such a warm and inviting smell. Most of us had chocolate chip cookies growing up and creates a memory from being a child. But knowing that that is the smell in your building, that’s a tradition becomes even more meaningful. Thank God it’s not another smell that we would smell walking into a community. We don’t want that to be our tradition. So I want you today to find a tradition and really look at it. Find out if it’s a healthy tradition for you. Chocolate chip cookies are a healthy tradition, I’m here to tell you. But if you don’t have one to develop one for your community, this is the way we fill in the blank.


Casting that vision, casting that tradition for your staff, for your residents, and for your families will help them bring them in a little bit closer to you and help you all getting going in the same direction on the ship. And then I’d love for you to share that with me to find out what you’re using as a tradition in your community, whether it be personal or professional because as the great wiseman Tevya said in Fiddler on the Roof, “tradition, it is what keeps us balanced.” Thanks for listening to this week’s Bridge The Gap Contributor Wednesday, please connect with me on


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CW 59: David Hopkins