AND HOW BASEBALL SAVED A MOTHER’S LIFE
In some families the expectations are for the children to be doctors or lawyers. In our family the expectation was always that we give back to our world and our community. Not that giving was your primary job, just that giving should always be part of anything you choose to do.
This message growing up wasn’t an external message, it was just part of who we were and how we chose to use our time. As a kid growing up I never really thought much about it but I guess it was more obvious than I realized because when I graduated from high school I wasn’t voted most likely to succeed or become a movie star, I was given a award for “Potential for Public Service.” Because I had never really thought about it before this title made me stop and think. What did it mean? What was I supposed to do with it? Truly I had no ambition for public service and was somewhat confused about this and it made me wonder what they saw in me that was different from those around me.
In college I studied business and political science and graduated with the opportunity to go work with my husband in a small woman owned real estate corporate housing business in San Francisco. Over the next few years we helped this company grow from $400,000 in annual revenue to over $10,000,000 in annual revenue.
Two years into this adventure my father who was only 53 years old was diagnosed with cancer and passed away within a few months. His life story was one of overcoming adversity and giving back. So it was quite a shock that at the young age of 53 his life would end so abruptly. I got angry at our imperfect world, but I also thought if I am here on this earth for 27 years, 53 years or 100 years I better make sure I make a “contribution” to this world. Once again I was faced with an idea that didn’t have a specific definition and something I was not sure what to do with.
Over the course of the next year I abruptly quit my job, decided to move back to Denver and my husband and I decided to start our own real estate corporate housing business. As a young 26 year old entrepreneur I had dreams of greatness, of ways to grow the business, to create wealth and then have the opportunity to “contribute” to the world. We had some success with the business which was then followed by the economic crash of the Dot Com bubble and then shortly thereafter the economic slowdown following the September 11th attacks. As a small business we made cuts to survive and then focused on growing the business again.
Over the years we did better than most, started two more businesses and continue to run those now 15 years later. But the large cash bucket we had originally envisioned never materialized. What I did realize during those years is the importance to give what you can now and not just wait for some big event in the future. So I challenged myself to figure out what I could do to support my community and my world at each stage of my life and not just at some future point in time. I am happy to say that as I look back over these years there were a lot of ways we were able to make a positive impact on the world around us.
A few years ago I was at our family lake house in northern Ontario, Canada when I attended a going away party for a family down the road. It was at this party that I met Susan Dix Lyons, the founder of Clinica Verde. It turns out the Dix family house was just a few doors away from our family home and we had both spent our summers on the same lake but had never met. Susan and I just connected and seemed to have a shared vision for the world and love for making it a better place. Over the course of the next few months I came to learn about Clinica Verde and was invited to join the Board for their annual meeting in Nicaragua.
As a mother of two young boys my free time was limited, but I decided a 4 day trip to Nicaragua was something I could do and was the best gift I could give to myself. The next challenge for me was what could I do that fit my limited budget but might be helpful. Not a doctor, I didn’t know where to find medical supplies and I thought there had to be something I could bring with me. I learned that in Nicaragua the kids played baseball and there was even a local baseball field and team. As the mother of two boys who played baseball this was something I was familiar with.
I started by calling Sports Authority as they had their corporate headquarters near my home. They donated a bucket of balls and a few other items. This was a great start, but didn’t seem quite enough. My next idea was to send out an email to my local community asking for extra items that people might have and I left a big tub on my front porch. When I did arrived in Managua, Nicaragua I was carrying over 100 pounds of baseball equipment.
During our trip to the clinic Susan arranged for me to meet with the baseball team and have the opportunity to share the items directly with the children. We all had a great time tossing the balls, wearing new hats and laughing a lot.
During this time I was traveling with the Board of Directors for Clinica Verde that also included a number of doctors. The meeting site chosen for me to meet with the baseball team was in front of a family’s home in a rural community outside Boaco where the clinic is located. While I was playing baseball, Susan and the doctors went inside to meet with the family. In the home there was a young teenage girl who had recently given birth via c-section and the doctors discovered her incision was deeply infected. The doctors we able to help care for the infection and coordinate for her to visit Clinica Verde.
Some time later I was speaking with Susan and inquired after the girl’s health. Susan let me know the girl was doing fine. She had come to the clinic and the infection was gone. However, Susan went on to tell me the girl had stolen some surgical gloves during her visit. Shocked I was very confused at why someone who had just been given so much would steal something as small as surgical gloves. Susan went on to tell me the girl had stolen the gloves to fill up with clean water from the clinic to take home to the child. Wow, in that one moment I got some glimpse of how important Clinica Verde was to that community, how even a small amount of clean water could make a difference in someone’s life.
What I first was attracted to with Clinica Verde was how they were able, in just a few short years, to conceive an idea, develop that idea and create a vibrant structure, health system, community center and vision for the future. As we progress with the development of the Boaco facility I develop an even greater appreciation for all the details that the founder’s vision for Clinica Verde incorporated from the water system that now waters the organic garden to the open courtyard that supports educational events. I appreciated that the vision for the first Clinica Verde clinic was to create a “prototype” on which to develop a larger system of clinics that can deliver “Heath and Hope” wherever they are built.
I know the Boaco Clinic is the first, but really it is the foundation on which successful clinics and health cares systems and services can be developed. I appreciate now that “contribution” to our world can be done one small step at a time.
Kimberly Smith is CEO of Corporate Housing by Owner and a member of the Board of Clinica Verde.