My mother passed along to me the great gift of empathy. A career social worker by trade and a wonderful, caring person by birth, Jody Geist taught us to live outward – to think about others and to consider where they might be coming from before we speak, act, or make an assumption.
As a young social worker in 1970s Chicago, my mom would take me with her on eye-opening home visits to places like Cabrini-Green and Robert Taylor Homes, considered some of the most dangerous, hopeless places in America. She wanted me to know early on there was a big world beyond our leafy street, and that I’d be expected to reach out into it. The spirit of unselfishness, charity, and sharing of blessings was instilled before I even entered kindergarten. I take great pride now when I see my own children reaching out a hand to a friend or to a stranger in need. I’d like to take credit, but it all goes to my mom.