why out-of-sight-out-of-mind isn’t an option

The whole out-of-sight-out-of-mind idea makes total sense. If we can’t see it, we oft don’t care about it. And some things are hard to care about.

Allow me to start with a semi-short account, a tale which prompts immediate glee upon its every remembrance…

I was a young 20-something jetting joyfully out as I embarked on my brand new career. I was in the human resource hotel world, initially placed in Key Largo. It was a beautiful setting — for far more than the climate and coral reefs. It was my first substantial plunge into plenteous ethnic diversity. Close in proximity to Mexico, Cuba and multiple Caribbean islands, multiple persons found their work and home in the alluring archipelago off of southern Florida. One of those persons was a sweet, 30-something woman named Vivian. 

Vivian was a housekeeper at our resort hotel. She was responsible and thorough. She was also incredibly respectful and quiet; it was almost as if she felt a strong, distinct pecking order between executive staff, line employees and hotel guests. She never wanted to violate the perceived hierarchy, and so she kept to herself, kindly answered questions only when called upon, and did her job with excellence. She became the ideal person in charge of cleaning the more trafficked hotel spaces. Such included our HR office.

Two or three times a week, Vivian would enter our office. She would take out the trash, vacuum, wipe down the tables and chairs, etc. She would smile warmly when greeted, almost surprised that we wanted to interact and know her more; she would briefly share stories of her present and past. But alas, after only a few sentences, you could tell she felt it necessary to resume her work; she wanted to honor her employer. No doubt honor was a high value of Vivian’s.

One interaction stood out to me. And beware; I’m going to date myself here. I was alone in the office working on one more of those seemingly endless stacks of HR documents, and Vivian entered to attend to the room. I was typing —  yes, typing —  on one of those egad-ancient, electromechanical machines in which you actually inserted single sheets of paper to be struck by an inked ribbon by an individual alphabet key. I noticed, no less, Vivian take an extended glance at my activity. So I paused. I stopped, looked at her and noticed maybe a hair of embarrassment, back to that code of honor and need to be working. But she also trusted me.

It then dawned on me. “Vivian, have you ever used a typewriter?”

There was an immediate, abundant modesty. “Oh, no,” she said emphatically, shaking her head and quickly resuming her work, a little uncomfortable in the conversation if not for that trust.

“Vivian, I think today is the day.”

And so gently but trustingly, I got up out of my chair and invited Vivian to sit down. Me in my professional attire. Vivian in her floral housekeeping uniform. She reluctantly obliged.

First I inserted a clean sheet of paper. Then I rolled it up, so she could see a little more of what we were about to do. One-by-one, I placed her fingers on the keys, the way they taught us in typing class. I then stood behind her, and with her quiet but intentional ok, I placed my fingers on top of hers also one-by-one. Slowly, but deliberately, saying each letter out loud, together we typed the following:


I rolled up the paper, and Vivian… oh my… she simply squealed in delight… she was so incredibly happy! 

“May I keep?!” she still humbly but pleadingly asked.


My heart warms anew just thinking of that moment… thinking of Vivian and the contentment found in the simple joys of life. There is so much to learn in that.

Vivian is from Haiti. She was not a citizen at the time. She was here on an authorized work visa. We had several employees of similar status at that time. It’s one of the reasons, in fact, Democrat and Republican partisans frustrate me, unable to craft a solution on immigration. I simply don’t believe in letting all in nor keeping all out. Find the commonsense solution.

But lest we digress, let me call attention to what’s happening in Haiti right now. Succinctly stated, it’s a mess. 80% of the country’s capital of Port-au-Prince is under gang control. Over half the population is in need of humanitarian assistance. People are trying to get out. Violence is rampant. Rape is rampant. The unpopular Prime Minister is in exile. And democracy is nonexistent.

Don’t let me act as if solution here is easy. It is not. My desire is solely to create awareness of an awful situation.

And it’s because of people like Vivian — a woman who reluctantly shared her life with me, who quietly shared bits and pieces of the struggles she left behind, who earnestly was attempting to carve out a better life for her family in this country — that I care. I care about the honor of all people. Thank makes it so that out-of-sight-out-of-mind isn’t an option.