A Kinder, Gentler MHA

For those of you don’t already know me, my name is Eric Reisman.  On Feb. 16, 2019 I was elected to serve as President of MHA.  After a couple of years away, it feels good to be back in the mix of things. I had served on MHA’s board in the past but I’m not going to talk about that here.  Actually I don’t really enjoy talking about myself at all.  Generally I shun the limelight.  As your president, you probably won’t hear that much from me, but I assure you, I’ll be working diligently behind the scenes to keep MHA humming smoothly.  Occasionally I’ll weigh in to let everyone know what’s going on, and talk about issues that I think are important to our community. 

Right now good things are happening with MHA.   There was a minor shuffling of personnel with the last election.  I suppose anytime this happens there’s bound to be a change in ethos or direction.  That was clear from the first Board Meeting I chaired following the election.  Much of the meeting was devoted to discussing future hopes and ambitions for MHA.  I spent the bulk of the meeting listening, jotting down notes, trying to pinpoint some common thematic elements amongst the barrage of information hurled in my direction.  Attempting to capture the prevailing sentiments in one tiny sentence is difficult at best.  But overall, I’d have to say that our goal is to create a Kinder, Gentler, MHA.  Humanism for humans, if you will.  

Now those are my words and not those of the Board, but that’s the general theme I took away from the meeting.  As your President, I take the opinions and recommendations of the Board very seriously.  Our board is comprised of a very talented medley of individuals, all of whom have something unique and precious to offer MHA.  I look forward to working with them and transforming this vision into reality!

While on the subject of the Board, let me talk briefly about my colleagues so I can give credit where credit is most due!  Romy Aguilar is your new Secretary, replacing Tom Dennis who signed off following a stellar two-year tour.  Romy’s a life-long resident of Mississippi who’s been a big part of our community for a very long time.  I know she’ll do a tremendous job.  Then there’s the Two Amys.  Amy Craig survived a bruising election battle to return as your incumbent Vice President and MHA’s feminist intellectual.  She’s an accomplished blogger.  Expect to see more of her witty musings on the MHA blog in the months to come.  Perhaps you’ve already seen her recent post on the Humanist Manifesto, which itself is a harbinger of the direction the Board is hoping to take MHA.  Amy totally killed it with that piece!  Now as for that other Amy, Amy Blue, she’s our Communications Officer, dutifully serving as MHA’s mouthpiece.  It’s an important task, especially in this day and age with everyone glued to their phone in anticipation of the latest news.  But Amy’s on it, always on it, conveying MHA’s information to the masses with astonishing speed and precision.  Treasurer John Stephen Frank has served on the board longer than of the rest of us.  In the thankless realm of volunteerism serving as treasurer is roughly akin to being on drums, but Stephen takes it all in stride, toiling away behind the scenes to ensure that MHA’s finances are completely legit.  If you happen to see him at one of our many social gatherings, please thank him for his service.  None of the rest of us can do his job.   

Now that you know who’s who, I should probably clue you in on some of the things we’re working on.  Actually, we’re hoping to tackle a great many things, but being a small organization the Board can only do so much.  Speaking to this concern, expect to see an increasing amount of MHA’s work farmed out to small committees staffed by MHA Membership.  MHA has always been a democratic organization that thrives on the input of its constituency, and in the upcoming months there will be a further decentralization of power.  So don’t be surprised if you get a random text or e-mail from your friendly MHA Board Member inviting you to serve on So-and-So Committee.  With such a talented pool of people, it would be a travesty not to ask!      

Apropos to ‘committees’, we presently have a committee hard at work developing an official communications policy for MHA.  As President, I can’t emphasize enough how important this is.  The Committee’s recommendations will ultimately set the tempo for how MHA communicates with its constituency going forward.  Among the many topics they’re hoping to address include the creation of guidelines to ensure that any information imparted by MHA is factual and not of dubious origin.  Social media decorum is also high on the list of priorities, as MHA hopes to establish explicit rules governing debate and discussion.  There’s plenty of political mudslinging in the world as is – you certainly don’t need any more from us!  MHA wants to set a higher standard, and as the committee is staffed with thoughtful, considerate people, the Board anticipates that their recommendations will be equally thoughtful and considerate.   More on this to come. 

Another thing MHA’s looking into is partnering with other associations for charitable endeavors.  Not all of these organizations will be closely aligned with the principles of secular humanism.  Provided we can all agree to set aside our ideological differences for the sake of the greater common good, MHA is all in.  We already share cordial ties with established charities such as the Mississippi Food Network and Big House Books, both of which do excellent work on behalf of people and communities that are often overlooked.  Moving forward, MHA will be participating in many smaller endeavors that don’t attract publicity, precisely because these are the type of efforts most in need of altruistic beneficence.  To illustrate, this past month, a small group of MHA members began assembling weekly in Smith Park in downtown Jackson to assist with a small operation that feeds the homeless on Friday evenings.  Our participation is part of a broader coalition that’s been orchestrated for a number of years by a very lovely man who shall remain nameless, as I think he’d prefer to keep it that way.  However, if you’ve been at all active in volunteering for charitable causes recently, you’re probably at least familiar with his name.  The first time we came out, this gentleman – and he is a gentleman in every sense of the word - made it patently clear to us the goal of our labors was strictly to feed the needy, and that preaching any specific ideology or agenda would not be welcomed.  He had politely turned away bible thumpers before in the past.  In accordance with his wishes, my colleagues and I arrived armed only with what was needed, in this case, some additional foodstuffs to supplement our labors.  Any MHA paraphernalia, be it t-shirts or pamphlets, stayed at home.  As your President, I’m perfectly fine with this.  From our inception, MHA’s motto has always been ‘Doing Good for Good’s Sake’.  Sometimes this entails just getting on with the task at hand and not drawing undue attention to oneself or the cause you’re representing. 

You’re probably all weary of reading at this juncture, so please bear with me while I wrap this up.  MHA was founded in 2015 by a tight-knit group of secularists seeking to create a haven for other similar-minded individuals while also doing something collective on behalf of the broader community.  Performing charitable works and serving as the state chapter of the AHA is admirable, but MHA’s core mission has always been to serve as a social and benevolent organization for its members.  We are a community first and foremost, and as such it’s imperative that we function as an extended family, one that’s governed by the principles of love and understanding.  MHA is privileged to have a diverse range of members, and as your President I want to continue seeing MHA serve as a beacon for free expression and plurality of thought.  Everyone should be comfortable being who they are, and though there’s only so much any of us can do to change the world, the very least we can do is guarantee that the MHA stands as a bastion of tolerance.  You’re all a part of this in some way, shape, or form.  So please, if you have any suggestions as to how you would like to see MHA change, please feel free to share your ideas with any of us.  We welcome your assistance in building a Kinder, Gentler, MHA, one that will be here today, tomorrow, and the day after that.