President’s Message

by Dr. Michael Taylor | Spring 2024 Living Power Magazine

Desire to Serve Others

The Japanese have a concept called IKIGAI (ee-kee-gay), which loosely translates into the happiness of always being busy doing something you love. IKIGAI combines your passion (what you love doing) with your vocation (what you are good at), with what the world needs (the job market), and finally, what you can get paid to do!

As retirees, we all followed different paths into the public sector. Maybe it was a family history of public service or perhaps somebody who inspired us. A teacher told me a kind and caring high school teacher inspired her to spend a career in the classroom. As retired public servants, we are fortunate because there were so many opportunities in the public sector that allowed us to find a calling that fits our passion and our mission.

One size does not fit all when it comes to our enthusiasm for public service, so the Japanese concept of IKIEGA sounds right. In the days of black-and-white TV, Frank Lovejoy was the lead detective in a crime drama called “Naked City.” No, it was not a show about a nudist colony; instead, it was a story about crime in a city with eight million people. The show opened with, “There are eight million stories in the naked city.” There are that many stories and more about why our members devoted their careers to public service.

One association member, who served in county government, explained it this way: “This was an opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives and to help provide them with opportunities to be successful. And not just individuals, but the job impacted the quality of life in entire communities.”

Another retiree, who worked in technology in county government, was inspired by her father to go into public service. She explains she was a second-generation public servant. “My father was a postmaster, and I grew up watching his devotion to serving the public.”

Family played a role in the decision of another NCRGEA member who was a social worker. “Having experienced a challenging childhood with divorced parents and relocation of the family at a critical age for me, I felt the best way to help children and families in crisis was through social work. The reward was certainly not financial but absolutely the satisfaction of enhancing healthy families.”

Still, another member who retired from the community college system explained it this way. “I have loved every aspect of my career because I was helping to build something or helping people have a better quality of life.”

And finally, a public education retiree noted his grandfather was a Chief of Police, and his mother was a first-grade teacher. He explained, “Those of us who began work in the sixties understood the theme of the time was more about ‘we’ than ‘me.’

That’s what public servants do; they aspire to help the ‘we,’ WE wanted to help.”

President’s Path

As for me, the road began as a student at Lenoir Community College in Kinston, where a group of dedicated and hard-working faculty and staff convinced a kid who graduated from high school in half of the class that made the top half possible, he was capable of so much more. Not only did I get my first degree there, but the desire to be like those who inspired me. This led to a 32-year career in our great community college system.

NCRGEA has over 65,000 members. If I could talk to all of you, I am certain I would hear many different stories about the roads you followed into public service. Yes, different stories, but somewhere in each of those stories would be the same passion to serve others, to make a difference. As one person I spoke with said, “My job was a higher calling.”

One of my duties as President of NCRGEA is to pen a column for every edition of Living Power. This is my final column, as my two-year term as NCRGEA president is over in June. During these two years, I have had a chance to visit with many of you at district conferences (Winston-Salem, Hendersonville, Shelby, Durham, Fayetteville, Morehead City, Greenville, Concord, and Raleigh) and at our legislative days in Raleigh, and even on Zoom. It has been an honor to represent such a great group of people who have dedicated their careers to the service of others.

In thinking about the subject matter for this final column, I considered several topics, including all the changes at your association over the past two years, along with the challenges we face as an organization. But finally, I thought the best topic would be to consider exactly what we all shared during our careers: a desire to serve others.