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My heart is in the work

November 1, 2009
by Dennis Grantham, Senior Editor
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While completing a graduate degree at Carnegie-Mellon University some years ago, I learned much about the school's principal benefactor. Andrew Carnegie amassed a half-billion dollar fortune in the steel industry by 1900, then gave $350 million of it away before his death in 1919. In a November 1900 letter offering “$1 million, in gold bonds” to endow what became the university, he concluded with a pledge-now the CMU motto: “My heart is in the work.”

Notwithstanding his post-retirement generosity, the beauty and sincerity of such words strikes me as incongruous given history's portrayal of him as an iron-willed, sometimes iron-fisted corporate titan. However, they rang true for me, again and again, as I spoke with the six individuals selected by our team as Behavioral Healthcare Champions for 2009.

What's surprising about our Champions-and you, their colleagues, I expect-is not their heartfelt passion for the work, but the fact that they, in their own gentle ways, are remarkably tenacious, entrepreneurial, and determined. They have invested patient decades, urging and helping their respective organizations to grow. They have taken risks, championing investment in once-unproven ideas. They have been decisive, sometimes moving with great speed and a bit of daring. And, they have modeled the kind of hopeful, determined courage that any individual in recovery would recognize. As one Champion put it, “We couldn't walk away, so we jumped in.”

Following our call for nominations earlier this year, dozens were received. Each nomination reflected an outstanding individual who knows that he or she stands with, or on the shoulders of, many others in developing, funding, and providing vital and often noble service to those who need it.

So, whether or not you enjoy a Champion's share of publicity, whether you lead or follow, move mountains or just more paperwork, know this: There are a lot of grateful people who depend on the communities you build, the lives you save, and the souls you renew. They, and all of us, know exactly where your heart is.

Dennis Grantham, Senior Editor Behavioral Healthcare 2009 November-December;29(10):6