Serving Others Enables Me to Lead a Fulfilling Life

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by Calvin Harris |

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This month marks two and a half years that I’ve lived in New York City after moving here from Maryland. Although we’ve been living amid the COVID-19 pandemic for much of that time, I can certainly see why there are so many songs about this city. It is a truly unique place to be.

Despite the struggles of sarcoidosis and the pandemic, I have a fulfilling life. I’m blessed to be able to do meaningful work in a city like New York. Beyond work, I often exercise, read, watch television, and practice meditation. One odd benefit of quarantine is that I have lots of time alone to think about what’s important in my life.

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Driven by a desire to serve

Serving others is very important to me. From an early age, my parents stressed to me, through both actions and words, that service should be a normal part of our lives. So, I have naturally gravitated toward service both personally and professionally.

My desire to serve grew after I was diagnosed with sarcoidosis in 2014. I’ve had access to great doctors at the Johns Hopkins Sarcoidosis Clinic in Maryland, as well as health insurance that covers most of my medical treatments. However, I am aware that many with my disease don’t have the same options. I welcome the opportunity to give back to my sarcoidosis community by writing about these challenges and serving on the American Lung Association’s audit and risk committee. It’s an honor to work with organizations that focus on lung diseases like mine.

Professionally, I have worked for very different organizations, from a housing-focused nonprofit to colleges, to a vaccine development organization (an interesting background to have nowadays), and now the National Urban League. All had “helping others” as their mission, which matters to me. I will always do my best to ensure my organization achieves this goal.

The Urban League existed long before I was born, and I trust it will exist long after I am gone from this earth. My goal as chief financial officer is to first do no harm, and then, even though I inherited a strong organization, make sure I leave it in even better shape than I found it. I consider myself a financial caretaker for the time I am honored to serve. The Urban League movement is far bigger than me, and I serve it, and not the other way around.

I have often struggled to understand those whose personal ethos doesn’t include serving others. But perhaps this is related to valuing hope and hard work. I’ve worked my butt off to attain this role. My job is much harder than it looks (though I like to say that it’s hard work making my job look easy), but I love the challenge, and it’s definitely not boring.

I wasn’t even aware the position was available until a good friend and former colleague forwarded the opening to me. My first thought was, “I’m not leaving Maryland to go to New York.” For one, I had an incredible team of doctors at Johns Hopkins! But because it’s the National Urban League, I felt I had to apply. I knew of their good work, and the opportunity was unusual. My predecessor was in the role for 20 years, so this type of opportunity doesn’t come around often.

Ultimately, I moved here after asking myself, “If I don’t go to NYC, will I regret it?” I didn’t want to wonder “What if?” and I knew the question would haunt me if I didn’t go. As a bonus, I’ve been able to continue seeing my providers at the Johns Hopkins clinic.

I’m so glad I moved here. Even though I’m living with sarcoidosis amid a pandemic, I get to serve others in many ways. Life is as fulfilling as ever.


Note: Sarcoidosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Sarcoidosis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to sarcoidosis.


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