This past week, I had the honor of traveling to Columbus, Ohio, for the very first time. The highlight of my trip was watching one of our own, Daniel Seltzer, executive director at Mayfair Retirement Village, host an auction for his residents.
Daniel is a trained auctioneer, and every week, he uses his talent to emotionally connect with his residents. I watched in awe as Daniel drove up the price of a bag of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups like they were a prized Renoir painting. The dining room at Mayfair was packed with residents, paddles in hand, eager to spend the auction bucks they had earned for the week. It was a serious event, and the residents gave Daniel no room for error.
While I watched, Ellie, an older African American resident, caught my eye. Ellie had clearly used all her money on word search books, and I could tell she was eyeing the enormous bag of KitKat bars which Daniel was poised to auction. Loudly, her friend Marge said, "Ellie, you can have my money. I know you want those KitKat bars!"
Ellie quietly smiled at Marge, and then she replied, "Marge, I appreciate your kindness, but that will not be fair to everyone else. Thank you, my friend."
Marge seemed a bit perturbed, since she was trying to do a good deed, but her friend was not having it. Marge, in turn, eagerly joined the bidding for those KitKat bars, eventually winning the coveted prize. Afterward, she handed the bag over to Ellie and exclaimed, "Here you go, and I paid for them!"
Tangela Johnson wrote in her book, "Relaxed Power," that "Without a personal life mandate, your daily living is clouded. Our mandates are rooted in our core values. If you don't understand your core values, you make decisions from a fragile, ungrounded place. Your mandates act as protective guardrails that keep you progressing toward right choices, self-credibility, and powerful self-discovery."
No one would have noticed Ellie with extra money winning a bag of KitKat bars. In fact, Marge would have been just as happy as Ellie if her gesture to share her "auction money" was warmly received and accepted. But I could tell from looking at Ellie's face and her emphatic resolve that she had her own "guardrails," her core values to live by, and integrity was one of them. She wanted to play the game fair and square, according to the established rules.
Daily, we are all plagued with choices – whether we walk into a resident's apartment and see a $100 bill sitting on the dresser, hear the clinging sound of the call light and pretend it's just another sound to be ignored, or give a colleague special treatment, just because they are our friend, while neglecting the principles of fairness and equity.
These choices define us. It is liberating – and yet convicting – when you know your non-negotiable mandates and stick to them. And just like Ellie, our non-negotiables should not change. They are weighted by our strength of conviction and a deep commitment to our own core values. These values define us, and we are better people because of them.