Roy is a supervisor for Child Protective Services. The new budget was just announced for his department. Last year, the budget was flat and no one got a pay raise, so hopes were high that this year would be different. Unfortunately, additional budget cuts translated to another year without raises. Employee morale was clearly lowered by this news. Roy realized he needed to address this issue. He called his team together and gave the following speech:
We do not have easy jobs. In fact, I would argue that we have one of the toughest jobs there is. It’s not easy to see the pain and abuse we witness day after day. It’s not easy to go home and relax when your heart has been ripped out at work. And it’s sure not easy to endure all this when you feel as though you have been slapped in the face by your employer, who is not even willing to give you the raises you have earned. So today, I don’t want to make excuses about budget cuts. I just want to share with you a story that helps me handle my anger and keep my morale up in times such as these.
Almost 20 years ago, I was called in to investigate a case of abuse. The situation was not unique. Both parents had drug problems, and the stepfather was abusing both the mother and the children. At one point, I had to physically pull the three boys away from their mother, who was screaming for her babies, while the oldest boy, Samuel, spit in my face. I had to see the fear in the boys’ faces as they were placed with strangers, and I wondered if it was all worth it. About a year later, I ran into Samuel at a movie theater. At first, I did not recognize him. He looked so much healthier. He told me that his mom had gotten away from her abusive spouse, she had gone to rehab, and she had gotten her boys back. And then, something I will never forget, he said, “I am so sorry I spit on you that day. I think about that all the time. I was so scared that I didn’t realize you were the hero who came in and saved us.”
I know that each of you can share a similar story. We all have met a Samuel or two in this job—kids who may hate you in the moment but later see you as the hero. The problem is, it isn’t easy being a hero. It’s not like in the movies, with superpowers and accolades. It’s about a lot of hard work and very little recognition. It’s not easy being a hero, but for those kids we save from neglect and abuse, our efforts do make a difference. I wish I could give you all the raises you deserve. But I can’t. All I can do is let you know that I’m proud to work with such a fine team. And to me, each and every one of you is a hero. I realize that does not pay your mortgage or put gas in your cars, but to the Samuels of the world, it means a whole lot more. It’s okay to be angry about your raises, but don’t forget why we are here. None of us took this job for the money. We aren’t the kind of people who choose the easy life—we have chosen the lives of heroes. It may not be easy, but I believe, I know you believe, and I am certain the Samuels of the world believe that it’s worth the sacrifice.
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