Notes from the Road: Who Are You, Really?

Notes from the Road is an occasional column by SEA/SEIU Local 1984 President Rich Gulla. 

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SEA member Gillaen Nadeau hugs her son, Brandon, at the Punch Autism in the Face fundraiser. Brandon has autism, and Chapter 52 President Adam Rivera organized the fundraiser to help the Nadeau family cover the cost of medical treatments for Brandon. Gillaen’s husband (Brandon’s father) Leonard is also an SEA member in Chapter 52.

Last Saturday I attended an amazing fundraiser in Somersworth sponsored by Chapter 52. Chapter President and Strafford County House of Corrections corporal, Adam Rivera came up with the unique idea of “Punching Autism in the Face,” literally.  Two fellow chapter 52 members have a son who has autism.  Rivera knew the couple could use some financial assistance due to the medical bills associated with their son’s diagnosis. His plan was to raise that money by allowing individuals to take their best shot at him in the middle of a boxing ring.

The event was well-attended and full of fun and laughter. The sense of community and purpose filled the room and every contestant received a boxing nickname and resounding cheers for entering the ring.  SEA members were prominent participants and it was such a pleasure to meet them and root them on, knowing that our cheers were as much for the family as for the contestants. It was truly amazing and, I must admit, quite emotional to be a part of the connections and the purpose of the fundraiser.

As I reflected on the event afterward, the question, “who are you?” kept popping into my head.

As people, especially in the context of our union, we are prone to answer the question of “Who are you?” with what we do for a living.  We answer with our occupations. There at the fundraiser in the gym, I was witness to our members as NH citizens, community members, friends, fathers, mothers, children, and many other roles. They are far more than a job title.

We seldom get to fully answer the “Who are you?” question, and we do not often get the opportunity to explore the answer of others, sometimes including our closest colleagues.  How do we share this with policy makers?  With the public?  With each other?  It seems so important to me.

I am grateful to Adam Rivera and the fine members of Chapter 52 for giving me a brief glimpse of who they really are – amazing members of our union who inspire us with their actions in service to others.  I thank you, Adam, and all who participated in this event, for inspiring new relational possibilities.

For all my fellow union brothers and sisters, let’s explore the question of “Who are you?” together.  Stepping out of the comfort zone of our automatic responses will help us create the mutual trust we need to develop amazing new possibilities in working together.

Richard Gulla
President

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