Celebrating Pride Year-Round

In June 2023, Asbury CEO Doug Leidig shared this message with residents and associates living and working at our senior living communities and Albright LIFE Centers. We are proud of our Belonging culture.

As Asbury celebrates Pride Month, I wanted to lead our organization’s discussion for a deeply personal reason. If you’re wondering what I bring to this conversation and whether I can truly relate, I’ll share that I’m coming from two perspectives:

  • from my seat on the bus as a leader of Asbury, which is striving to create a culture of belonging for all, and,
  • as someone who has been personally touched by the hatred members of the LGBTQ+ community too often feel.

For centuries and still today, individuals identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender have faced persecution by churches, governments, and others because of who they are or who they love.

Depending on where they live or work, members of the LGBTQ+ community may not feel free to be who they are or to share the challenges they face. They may live in fear for themselves or their families every day. Can you imagine this?

I grew up with several gay relatives, and I vividly remember their stories about the hateful words and actions they faced far too often. They felt safe within the family, but faced terrible demons in the greater community. It took a very serious toll, and I carry their stories with me still.

They were great relatives and people. Frankly, they were some of the coolest people I knew, and I didn’t understand why people couldn’t see what I did.

As a leader, my vision is that at Asbury – and all workplaces – every associate feels fully accepted and supported by their colleagues. Work could very well be their respite from the fear and challenges they, their children, or their loved ones are facing. I have the same vision for the older adults who call our senior living communities home. I was so proud when Asbury Methodist Village became the first CCRC in Maryland to earn Platinum accreditation from SAGECare in 2018.

For our associates, I know we still have work to do.

Some have shared with me that they do not talk about their personal lives or share their full, authentic selves for fear of rejection. They don’t talk about their great vacation or weekend. How terrible is that?

It makes me sad, disappointed, and asking what more can we do. That is why I am passionate about creating a culture of belonging and the important work that our Belonging Council is doing system-wide on diversity, equity, and inclusion.

The other day I was visiting Bethany Village, our community in Mechanicsburg, Pa., and I had a chance to meet a gay couple who had recently moved in. They and other residents who know them shared that they were overwhelmed by how welcome they felt and how wonderful it was to be their authentic selves and to be so warmly accepted.

Kudos to the residents and associates at Bethany Village for reflecting a culture of belonging.

Why, I asked a few residents I know, did they think this was? What made this little corner of the world different than all the headlines we see and hear?

Now, I am paraphrasing here, but this is what I was told – and there are decades of wisdom and experiences in the answer.

“We are contending with health issues, spouses and loved ones have passed, we have been through a lot. And we recognize that having hate toward others is not worth our time nor do we have the energy to waste on it.”

“At our stage in life it is better to have more friends than fewer,” they shared. “We don’t see people as gay or by the pronouns they use. We see them as fun people to have drinks and cookouts with and to have as neighbors. They accept us for who we are, and we do the same.”

Wow. What if this was Asbury’s culture for all 4,000 residents and clients and 2,500 associates?

I’m often asked, “What if I don’t agree with someone’s lifestyle, religion, political views, etc. I don’t want to change who I am.”

At Asbury at least, it is critical for everyone to understand that we are not asking people to change their beliefs or values. We are asking that everyone creates an environment of mutual respect and belonging.

In my mind it boils down to this: we are all humans, and we rely on each other to serve residents and clients. At the core, being human is being civil.

How much energy and time is drained from people you know because they cannot accept people for who they are? How unhappy does this make them and others?

This month and every month, I want our associates, residents, and clients to feel that they do not need to  hide parts of themselves.

We each have a duty to create an environment where people feel safe, accepted, free of fear, and to feel the true joy of belonging.

I ask everyone to join us in embracing the belonging culture and get energized around changing the narrative and creating positive experiences for all who live and work in senior living and beyond.

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