“Everything you want is on the other side of fear” -Jack Canfield
To the outsider looking in, it would seem impossible that less than two decades ago, Equitas Health was considering disbandment. Formerly known as AIDS Resource Center Ohio, the community health center was originally founded in 1984 to address an unfamiliar and increasingly prevalent health threat to the nation: HIV/AIDS. With the mission to provide a welcoming healthcare experience that embodies the values of acceptance, dignity, and respect, the organization served Ohio’s public for several years, navigating the murky waters of the disease in the wake of widespread uncertainty and concern.
However, as society witnessed progressions in medicine and technology, so too did the center’s ability to suppress and treat HIV. Although the center was overjoyed in its ability to achieve what it initially sought to accomplish, it suddenly faced a greater question: now what? How could the center adapt to changing societal trends and remain relevant within its service provision? Was the health center even a resource still needed by the community?
It was in this moment that Equitas faced a choice: 1) let the fear of the unknown consume its operations, causing it to disband entirely or 2) innovate and respond to the needs of a changing community to sustain impact. Organizational leaders choose the latter, opting to rebrand the nonprofit (hence the name change) and drastically expand its services to include medical, social, and behavioral care for the LGBTQ community and beyond.
This week as I visited the center with OANO’s board chair and received a personal tour and history lesson from Michele Gregory, Equitas’ Chief Advancement Officer, I was able to gain insight to Jack Canfield’s incredible musing: the only way to overcome fear is to consciously embrace it. When Equitas was able to utilize its fear and uncertainty to stimulate creativity and expansion, it drastically increased its potential for long-term impact. Similarly, several years ago when OANO faced an abrupt change in leadership, the organization utilized the opportunity to reconsider its mission and completely revamp its services, contributing to its present-day status as an effective and well-respected champion for Ohio nonprofits.
Hearing stories such as these forced me to consider the ways in which I personally interact with fear, especially within work and school environments. Prior to my fellowship, I prided myself on my agreeable and easy-going nature. If a problem or conflict were to arise, I would do my best to avoid it, usually conceding to the more powerful and intimidating party whilst using the awkwardness of confrontation to justify my lackadaisical attitude. Well, let’s just say times have changed. Now, if I witness a problem or see an opportunity for change, I embrace it. Moreover, I fight for it.
Above all else, this summer has taught me you must be your biggest advocate and if you want to achieve greatness, you must be capable of embracing fear. In doing so, one is able to free themselves of insecurities, approaching any situation with a fresh mind and capable attitude. In my life, I hope to utilize this lesson to face fearful situations with a confident smile, knowing that whatever lies before me is certainly less scary than the paralysis of the fear itself. I have already seen the short-term benefits of my slight change in perception and I cannot wait to see where this takes me years down the line. In fact, now that I am thinking about it, maybe I will look into those skydiving lessons…