Last week, one of my neighbors came to my office with her eviction notice in hand.
It was a pretty straightforward situation. She had to go.
"But we did so much work on our apartment," she told me as she launched into a long list of improvements she and her husband had made, including new flooring and crown molding.
"It doesn't count," I said. "The work you did doesn't matter. You have to go."
Later that evening, my own words haunted me, and I felt ashamed that I told someone who had worked hard and cared to be responsible that she didn't count. That her work didn't matter. My neighbor had come looking for affirmation and I blew it.
As I opened the Bible the next day, I was struck by the words of Jesus in Matthew 6, "… and you count …"
In the passage, Jesus talks about how if God cares for the birds, how much more he must care for us. Now, you don't have to agree with my theology, but you can imagine how convicted and inspired I was to have those words leap off the page at me that morning.
You count. What you do matters.
Last week, at the Costa Mesa City Council meeting, a packed house of folks listened to the questions, comments and strong opinions about the effort to outsource city services.
As we were wrapping up around midnight, one city employee got up to say how the most disheartening part of the whole process was not necessarily losing his job, but feeling discarded and cast aside.
He felt like he doesn't count, that his work doesn't matter.
I already blew it once, and I do not want to repeat the mistake of treating my neighbors disrespectfully and without dignity. It was shared at the meeting that the average length of service of our city employees is 12 years.
Whether or not you agree with outsourcing city services, I think we can agree that those who serve us matter. Their work counts and this time of uncertainty seemed like a good time to tell them that.
Whether folks end up losing their jobs in six months, we can take this opportunity to affirm what they have done for our city over the years.
Our city employees want to know that the service and time they have put into our city matter. And residents who take the time and energy to read reports and come out to engage in our local process at council meetings also want to know that it matters.
After two hours of listening to one another, and many people exercising their privilege to speak out, Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer basically told us in his closing remarks that the wrong people were in the room. We didn't count.
And then he said to us collectively, "I know that you did not mean what you said." What you say and do and know doesn't matter.
Undoubtedly, I disagree, and here's what I'm proposing: Let's write a note of appreciation to our city employees.
This talk of massive layoffs is affecting all the city employees, not just those in the targeted departments. It is around 400 people, so it will take a group effort.
Employees' names are not listed individually, so if you know someone write to him or her directly. If you do not know someone personally, write a general note of appreciation and e-mail it to me at Crissy@mikacdc.org. I will compile them all and send them to individual employees.
If you don't know what to say, simply tell them, "You count. What you do matters."
Let's be the kind of community that respects each other's work and honors our dignity as human beings. I am going to start with the Animal Control team. They have picked up my crazy dog on numerous occasions, and I appreciate them.
I am a big fan of the handwritten note, so I am going to go that route. How great would it be if we get enough people writing to thank all of our city staff! Will you show your appreciation?
Fellow Costa Mesans, you count. Your voices and work matters. It matters that we live in a place where bright residents with knowledge, experience and expertise bring that forth to serve our city. Whether we agree or not, you count, and your work for our community matters.
Someone does notice.
CRISSY BROOKS, a lifelong Costa Mesa resident, is the executive director and co-founder of MIKA. She lives on the city's Westside and is active in community service. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.