What if Kindness was the Norm?
- By Quint Studer
- Oct 31 2013
For more than 17 years, I have lived in Northwest Florida.
I have spent more time here than any other location in my 62 years of life. According to the online dictionary, a hometown is defined as someone’s place of birth or main residence.
That makes Pensacola my hometown. I am grateful for this.
My main role when I moved to this area was as the administrator of Baptist Hospital, Inc. The experience was a good one. The employees were wonderful to work with. We had a fine medical staff and after a few short months, the satisfaction with the care provided to the patients was rated as some of the best in the nation. When there was a patient complaint, it was handled, it was face-to-face and with an eye toward how the issue could be improved, rather than in a mean-spirited way.
While starting the Studer Group in 2000 was exciting, I quickly found out I missed the interaction with the people I worked with at Baptist. Traveling the country and making healthcare better was fulfilling, but I missed those interactions with the staff.
In 2002, my wife and I purchased a struggling minor league baseball team in a newly formed independent league. By independent, I mean it had no relationship to or affiliation with a major league organization as the Blue Wahoos have with the Cincinnati Reds.
Why buy a baseball team? I felt it could help reconnect me with the thing I missed most on the road — the people.
In hindsight, I am sure there was an easier way to do that.
In 2004 Hurricane Ivan came. After the hurricane, many rebuilding meetings and actions took place. At one of these, retired Vice Admiral Jack Fetterman had been invited to discuss the vision of a maritime museum.
I was invited because then-City Administrator Tom Bonfield and I were in discussions about moving the Studer Group to downtown Pensacola. Also in those talks came the idea of building a stadium and moving the Pelicans, which then were playing at the University of West Florida, downtown.
Admiral Fetterman and I combined plans and met with many people, including the members of the Pensacola City Council. The feedback from all but one of the council members was very positive and we went before the City Council.
That was the day my life changed and I saw a side of this area that was mean-spirited.
While it is fine to disagree, it seems to me that in Pensacola, personal attacks are commonplace.
I am on the road most weeks and visit many communities. I hear at times local people say all cities are like this. In my experience, though, most cities are not like Pensacola in this regard.
We seem to have a majority of very kind people. In fact, I feel our community is generally friendlier than most areas. Maybe this majority is what causes a small minority to be so aggressive in their meanness.
This is not about disagreement. Disagreeing is fine and many times healthy.
This is about name-calling, slander, misuse of data or just plain untruths. Personally I have read on blogs I was going to be arrested any day for the deaths of Admiral Fetterman and Mayor Vince Whibbs.
Or other postings that claim I only wanted a YMCA on the Community Maritime Park site so that I wouldn’t have to build a fitness facility in the new Studer Group office building or so that the Wahoos would have a place to work out.
There are a lot less expensive ways to accomplish that then spending $5 million on a new YMCA open to the community.
Or the idea that the Wahoos’ stadium use agreement is somehow unduly favorable to them. The truth is, the use agreement is one of the most city-friendly of its kind when compared to agreements held by 168 other affiliated teams.
These attacks are not just about me. Too many people instead of just disagreeing throw out rumors and call names.
We need set a better example.
If this area is going to attract more investments and create an even better quality of life, it must have mature conversations based on principle instead of personality. Healthy families, workplaces, organizations and communities do this.
We must not tolerate such behavior. If you hear someone make a statement about someone that you don’t agree with, what do you do? If you observe someone physically or verbally abusing someone, what do you do?
If you remain silent, you are saying I am OK with it.
What we permit, we promote. When a person no longer gets support for this behavior, it may stop or become less frequent.
It takes courage to confront inappropriate behavior whether in person, in a letter or in a blog. The most common excuse or rationalization I hear is,”that is just how they are. They have always been that way.” That does not make it right. To those who would say, “just ignore them,” ignoring something does not make it better.
There is so much great progress being made in Northwest Florida. There is so much potential. Progress and potential progress can be scary to some who want things to remain the same, or certainly don’t want others to get credit for the change. To stop the progress, cruel and unkind actions take place.
We may not agree with each other, we may not like each other, but we must be kind to each other.
Our children are watching, reading and learning.