What Really Matters

There’s nothing like a trip to the developing world to get a good lesson on what really matters in life.  The moment my plane came to a halt at the airport in Jordan, a man sitting across the aisle from me smiled and said, “Welcome to Jordan.”  His words and the spirit behind them mattered.

Akram diligently waited for more than an hour and a half without knowing whether we were in the airport after our plane arrived while we attempted to locate some lost luggage.  He cheerfully greeted us and said, “Welcome to Jordan,” before driving us to our hotel.

The nighttime journey from the airport to the hotel included whizzing by the new Ikea Store in Amman as well as some quick glimpses of Bedouin tents and goat herds located in the spaces between high rises and roadways.  We also passed the new Taj Mall that looked something like a modern version of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

Within a day of our arrival, we were directed to Sufra, an outstanding restaurant featuring local cuisine.  We were rewarded with a great traditional mensaf (lamb and rice) and another “welcome to Jordan” from a group of young men we passed after leaving the restaurant.  I have worked in many countries around the world, but I have never been made to feel more welcome than I was in Jordan.  It is an understatement to say that I enjoy working in the Middle East, and the principal reason that’s true is the many friends I’ve made during my assignments.

The region is also home to some of the world’s most spectacular historic sites, and we saw several during our trip.  I’m not sure I had ever heard of the Roman ruins in Jerash before our trip, but they rival any I have seen in Italy or other parts of the old empire.  We were also able to visit the Dead Sea, the River Jordan, the mosaics in Madoba, the ruins at Um Qaas, the Citadel in Amman, and, of course, the incredible tombs in Petra.  Throughout our travels, I was struck by the contrasts between wealth and deprivation, although we see can see those same contrasts in different ways in our own country.

I commented to my wife during our tour of the ruins in Jerash that the Romans lacked a good capital improvement program, and I suppose the same could be said for Detroit.  The real lesson I took from walking through the remains of great civilizations is recognizing the challenges of sustaining the things that matter most in our lives.

What really matters to me is the opportunity to experience the best of what life offers without being overwhelmed by the worst.  I have been incredibly fortunate that my interaction with family, friends, coworkers, community, and people around the world has allowed me to maintain a positive view of life.  I can’t stop the wars in the Middle East or erase the national debt; but like the many people in Jordan who treated me with kindness, I can pass it along and hope for the best.

Serving our Mission Statement

I frequently tell stories about city employees who do much more than expected while delivering service to the people of Albany.  I had a chance to see some of that service during a recent ride-along with Albany Police Officer Ben Hatley.  We responded to a number of calls that ranged from a drunken guy harassing people to a fellow trying to shoplift and then sell back the stolen merchandise at a local store.

Ben and the other officers I observed during the ride conducted themselves with great professionalism and courtesy, showing more respect than I would have to some of the miscreants they encountered.  I think being a police officer is among the hardest jobs to do well in a world that includes many tough jobs.

My recent experience at a local business contrasted sharply with what I usually see at the City.  I took my car in for an oil change where they advertise a number of routine checks as included in the service price.  A sensor light had recently appeared on my dashboard indicating a low tire, so I expected the service person to take care of this very minor problem.  I even asked to make sure it had been taken care of before getting into my vehicle.  I was assured that all my tires were at the correct pressure as I drove away, so I was puzzled when I noticed the sensor light was still on shortly after leaving.  I pulled into a gas station and checked the tires myself, only to find that a rear tire was about 15 PSI low.  I filled up the tire, and it has maintained the correct pressure ever since.  All the evidence indicates the service person was not telling the truth about checking all the tires.

The failure to check my tires could be regarded as a minor oversight, and it’s not something that caused me any great harm or inconvenience.  The greatest casualty was my trust in a place where I have done business for several years.  If an employee was willing to lie about a minor issue for no reason, how can I be confident about anything they do?

Trust, not money, is the real currency that determines success or failure for businesses and government alike.  It has been my privilege to work with someone for the past nine years who has consistently demonstrated the kind of integrity and competence that earns trust.

Mike Murzynsky has embarked on a new adventure as the Finance Director for the City of Newport and, although he will be missed here, I’m glad for his opportunity to serve a great community with the same skill and dedication he has given to Albany.  Mike represents the best of servant leadership and has exemplified the City’s mission statement throughout his time here.

Providing quality public services for a better Albany community