In my new role as a Veteran Supportive Services Specialist (and in my new office), Mother Goose is making many new friends and forming collaborative social work connections. And one of my new heroes in this world is Kevin.
Kevin served as a medic in the Vietnam War Era.
Self-explanatory statement, right? We can only imagine the horror he witnessed on the battlefields and rice paddies of southeast Asia. And then he served in a burn unit hospital in Texas when they brought him home. He doesn’t talk much about those days…
But look at him today.
Kevin knows everybody. He’s one of those amazing connectors who attends meetings, meets everybody in the room and then reintroduces them to others. His friendship is priceless, and his love for people is contagious.
When he speaks, everybody listens. He speaks quietly and purposefully and never wastes a word.
Wherever he goes, he smiles. He smiles at each and every person and makes each one of us feel like we are the most special person on earth. When Kevin walks into the office, he is beaming! And he’s got those smiling Irish eyes — you feel like he’s got a great secret and if you spend ten minutes with him, maybe he’ll share it with you.
In our office, Kevin’s specialty is helping other veterans find jobs. He spent a long career with the state’s employment resources government office. We are blessed to have his expertise in our office and he’s a major resource for us.
Kevin knows well the arts of negotiation and mediation. He has a history of making peace. Mother Goose would love to relay a truly amazing story about Kevin’s ability to bring about peace in a war zone.
More than twenty-five years ago, Kevin and other residents living in the west side area of Chicago known as the North Lawndale community wanted to organize and manage a baseball league for the young kids in the neighborhood. In most towns and villages, this would not be a problem.
But in North Lawndale, as in other parts of Chicago, gang territories are known by the residents and lines are drawn in the sand and graffitized on buildings, billboards, street signs and lampposts. Gang violence in this neighborhood is a horrible fact of life. Almost every kid growing up in the ‘hood knows somebody who has been shot, somebody who has been killed and quite possibly has lost a family member to a gang shooting.
Kevin grew up in a suburb of Chicago known throughout the past century as a village where “classic” Chicago mobsters resided with their families. He grew up knowing that crime was big business, but the leaders of the mobs did not want their children growing up to follow in their footsteps in the business. (Mother Goose suggests you revisit the Godfather movies/books to refresh yourself with the storyline happening in these suburbs…)
In 1987, Kevin called a summit of gang leaders in North Lawndale armed only with this valuable concept: let’s put business aside and let the kids play baseball. All parties agreed, and for more than a quarter of a century, young boys and girls have been playing organized baseball across gang borders with no incident.
With no incident.
The kids know that they can come to the baseball fields and be safe from gang violence and harassment.
Thanks to my friend and hero, Kevin.