Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Felix Fraga Lesson - Can't We Just Try?

Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.
- Buddha

When I was in social work graduate school, I had the great fortune and plain dumb luck to serve an internship with legendary social worker Felix Fraga. Felix is well known and admired for his decades-long commitment to public service.

By example, he taught me the most basic tenets of good public service:

Be nice.
Be respectful.
Value other people.
Believe in the good in others.
Leave your ego out of it.
Work hard.
Keep trying.

Felix would have an idea for a project. He would gather us – his staff – around and tell us his idea. We’d think of all the obstacles. He’d listen, not very patiently, but nicely. Then he’d say “Can’t we just try?” It was impossible to tell him no. Who would say we couldn’t at least try? Such a simple request. And, he’d always be so earnest and sincere. So, we’d try. And, most of the time, we were successful. I watched him use his same gentle, persistent, and impossible-to-refuse style on many, many people. He usually achieved his goals, which were never about him, always about doing something for someone else.

His voice and that phrase are part of my primal social work psyche. He’s in my brain, especially when I feel overwhelmed – Can’t we just try? Can’t we just be part of doing something good? Or being better? Or expecting better?

Yes, we can. And, yes, we’ll keep trying.


Anonymous said...

CJ, My name is Manuel Barrera a good friend of Felix on February 26th, there will be a proclamation for Felix by Houston Community College. I would like your permission to use some of the language in this blog. If it is decided to be use, I will submit. I can be reached On that day at the HCC Administration Building at 4:30 pm Felix will be honored in more ways. We would also love to have you there. thanks

Anonymous said...

We can try...but how do we sustain? How do we motivate? How do we hand it back to the next generation and inspire them to keep it going? How do we try?

CJ Social Worker said...

Good question. I think by trying, we can succeed - and if we succeed, then it helps to keep going. At least, that has been my experience. I know it may sound simplistic, but it has really worked for me. For the next generation, it is pushing them like Felix Fraga pushed me (and probably hundreds of other people). I think it is working along side them too - showing them they can do things - encouraging, supporting them.