A Matter of Trust
A few weeks ago, right as the COVID-19 pandemic was beginning to explode in the U.S., I was asked by Latina Style to write a column about how SHPE plans to meet this unprecedented crisis. You can read the full article in the April issue. In it, I talked about what I think are the two most important values that our community—and SHPE specifically—needs in order to get through this.
The first is resilience. Throughout our history, Hispanics have exemplified what it means to be resilient. War, conquest, economic turmoil, social injustice, political upheaval: We’ve survived them all, just as we’ll survive and overcome this.
The second, equally critical value is Familia. As Hispanics, we value community. We honor the importance of family. We don’t just look out for ourselves; we look out for other generations, both the ones to come and those that came before.
At SHPE, I’ve seen these values embraced firsthand. Our national team transitioned to working remotely in a matter of days. In a similar timespan, we designed a virtual career fair for all members, which we’ll be hosting later this month. We launched a comprehensive online learning platform with various certification programs specially curated for our professional members. We made our monthly latinXfactor webinars more robust, with dynamic topics designed to give student members and young professionals a leg up in today’s ever-changing environment/economy. I’m not merely proud of the work our team is doing; I’m inspired by it.
The more I reflect on that flexibility, the more I keep coming back to another word, one that will be just as vital to our health and wellbeing—as individuals, as an organization, as a Hispanic community, as a nation, and as one global Familia.
That word is trust.
One reason my team and I were able to pivot so seamlessly is because of the trust we’ve cultivated over the last two and a half years. Full disclosure: Trust is something that hasn’t always come easily to me. At least not professionally. Personally, I’ve always been inclined to trust others. (My mom thinks I trust too easily. “Raquelita,” she says, “how can you be so smart and yet so naïve about people?”)
As a trial lawyer and litigator, I was taught and trained to question everything, all the time—and then question some more. To push back. To be skeptical. My default is to be defensive. Sometime this is good. And sometimes it’s not. My team has seen all this firsthand.
Since coming to SHPE almost three years ago, I’ve had to build trust from scratch; rebuild trust where it had been betrayed; and even extend trust where there might not be any. But I also knew (and know now) that the qualities that define this organization—resilience and Familia—provided the foundation necessary to build a more profound and sustainable sense of trust. The more my team and I are tested, the more obstacles we overcome, the more we practice resiliency together, the deeper our trust grows.
Now, as we confront one of the biggest challenges SHPE has ever faced, our team is showing what’s possible when we look to and lean on one another—when we march forward as one unit, rather than a collection of individuals—to find the best possible solutions for our members and stakeholders.
Let’s face it: Trust is easier when things are going well. One of the reasons our team has grown so close these past few years is because SHPE as an organization has been thriving: increased membership; record convention attendance; unprecedented engagement in our programs. Trust becomes harder to build when times are tough, when every decision starts to feel like an existential one. And believe me, we’ve had to make some hard decisions, including having to cancel the last four of our seven Regional Leadership Development Conferences. We’ve had some difficult conversations (what I call the necessary “healthy messy discussions”). But nowhere near as difficult as they might’ve been if we didn’t have that reservoir of trust to draw on.
In the weeks and months ahead, decisions are going to become even more complex. All the more reason to see this as an opportunity to shore up the bridges of trust throughout the organization—from our National Board to the National Staff, from individual chapters to our various partners, sponsors and stakeholders.
Right now, for many of us, it probably feels like everything’s at a standstill. But slowing down doesn’t mean giving up. Far from it. That’s because, like millions of organizations and families throughout the country, we here at SHPE are making the necessary and real-time adjustments needed to support our members in every way we can—and doing so in an expeditious way, with the big picture and long-game in mind.
If you have ideas for how we can stay connected; for how to improve our programs or services; for how to better support our members; for something totally new and different—please share it with us. That’s what Familia is all about, after all: caring enough to share.
When we get through this—not if, but when—SHPE and our Familia will be stronger because of it. How do I know this? Because that’s how we do. We are resolute. We are resilient. We are resourceful and creative. Like any tight-knit Familia, we support each other and pick each other up when necessary.
Even if we as individuals don’t have the answers (and in these trying times, no one person does), that doesn’t mean the answers aren’t there. It just means we can’t find them alone. Rather, we should seek those answers and solutions together. Even if it takes a little time—and a whole lot of trust.
Cesar Chavez once said, “We draw our strength from the very despair from which we have been forced to live. We shall endure.”
COVID-19 has thrown our world into despair. But now is the time—more than ever—when we find our strength. As an organization, as Hispanics and as a global community. And we shall endure.
So long as we stick together—six feet apart, of course.
Big virtual hug coming your way.
Raquel Tamez, SHPE CEO