PRESIDENT'S CORNER: Will You Do the Work?

Crystal Hawkins Syska | January 20, 2021

Crystal Hawkins Syska, HGAR President 2021

I open my computer to begin my very first article for Real Estate In-Depth, and in true avoidant behavior, I open up a new window and begin scanning the Internet. First is Facebook (of course) where being a peeping Tom is totally allowable and desired. Liking your friends’ pictures and making a comment on a few. Gif’s and emojis preferred. A Shutterfly ad comes up, oh goodie! (Squirrel) click the button, and now I’m logged in looking at what new photobook I want to create. There are ONLY 17 hours left to get 50% off of basically everything! So, says the banner at the top of the page. I go to the cards and stationary section and the first thing that catches my eye is a New Year’s card that reads, “Well, that was crazy! Happy 2021.” Instantly the edges of my mouth curl up into a smile. “This is hilarious,” I think as I look at the card.

Slowly the happiness on my face fades as the reality of the wake of COVID-19 hits my heart. In the United States,  400,000 lives have been lost. Families forever changed. Mine included. I don’t feel so excited anymore. Who at this very moment is sitting at a table with an empty chair where someone they loved will no longer be in 2021? I pause to give myself a moment to process the magnitude of this reality. My heart is with all of you who read these words and they hold true for you, or someone you know. It’s so easy to get lost in numbers on a screen, graphs and debates, all the while forgetting the human currency of souls no longer enjoyed.

As we begin this new year, how do we hold space for what was lost, yet press on for a stronger tomorrow? Even more so, how do we do this with unity and hope? It is really easy to be enticed into a space that is passionate, but it helps us all when it is guided by positivity. This is not naive, it’s helpful, it’s American. The words of the Declaration of Independence are called to mind:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Do we unanimously agree that this is true? If we believe that it is, can we affirm that through word and deed? Thus, by doing so we move from the “American Dream” to the “American Promise.” The term “American Dream” was coined from the book “Epic of America” by James Truslow Adams. The “American Dream has come to be defined as: “The belief that anyone, regardless of where they come from or what class they are born into, can attain their own version of success in a society where upward mobility is for everyone. This is achieved through sacrifice, hard work and risk taking rather than by chance.”

I agree with the definition. What I don’t agree with is that it should be called a dream. It needs to be real. It needs to be the American Promise. That is the embodiment of holding the assertion of the Declaration as “truth.” And it is incumbent upon us as leaders to make it so.

I assert that we are all leaders. Former Brigadier General Rebecca S. Halstead made this salient point, “we all must lead ourselves first.” Therefore, we should all take the lead in promoting peace. In order to have peace, there must be order. To have order, you must have trust. To have trust, there must be a fundamental ubiquitous belief and understanding of truth. This connection was studied and established by Nathaniel Braden, a psychotherapist who did extensive research on the functionality of self-esteem.

Self-esteem and public confidence are two sides of a coin. There is an embedded connection between how we believe and see ourselves and how a nation, family, culture and organization functions. There are internal and external truths, both of which, for the purposes of this discussion, should be constructed from the fabric that makes the “American Promise” possible.

Braden established that in order to have self-esteem there are six pillars that are necessary for its establishment and maintenance. One such pillar is the Pillar of Self-Acceptance. Self-Acceptance as defined here means: the practice of owning truths regarding one’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviors; of being kind toward oneself with respect to them; and of being “for” oneself in a basic sense.”

Therefore, the concept of community-acceptance can be therefore be defined as: Community- Acceptance or Public-Acceptance: the practice of owning truths regarding public ideas, emotions, safety and conduct; of being kind towards the public to respect them; and of being “for” the public in a basic sense.

Following this model, what is truth for the self and the public? Truth: That all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that by such, through hard work and self-sacrifice, all can attain their version of success. Any design that would hinder this or make it impossible should be removed.

My comments are not about being left or right, Democrat or Republican, Conservative or Liberal. Those are labels and they can and have been used to divide. The call of duty to self and public calls for something far higher. It is the commitment to uphold the “truth.” To support the foundations of trust in that “truth.” That is the focus. We may not be able to gain consensus on the how, but we should be able to agree to the work of the truth. The force of our will gives birth to the way. If any action or behavior challenges those things we must rally to reject it and recommit to our objective.

Hey, I don’t have all the answers. However, as the leader of this organization, I commit to finding them. It starts with thoughtful questions, open dialogue and a system of vetting ideas and protocols that protect our humanity and our principles. Why? So, I can keep liking “shiny happy people having fun” on Facebook and where on Shutterfly I see a New Year’s card template that reads “Holy Cow! 2021 Rocked!! 2022 is Going to Be Freaking Extraordinary!

Will you accept the challenge in helping me accomplish this? I hope you say, “Yes,” because this will help us fulfill the “American Promise.” Let’s stop dreaming. Rather let us make the ideal real, by which equality of opportunity is available to any American, allowing the highest aspirations and goals to be achieved. That is the work.

Crystal Hawkins Syska
is the 2021 President of the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors, Inc