The Heart of the Matter:
A Better World for Veterans and their Families
I recently read English writer Graham Greene’s novel called The Heart of the Matter, a novel whose theme touches on things of substance—the earth, people, love, relationships—and how our expectations in life steer us from what is truly important. The expression, “The Heart of the Matter” pertains to the focal, central or most important element of a topic, problem, or issue. For those of us who work with Veteran populations at ERPi, we never have to second guess the heart of our matter. It is always focused on those things of substance—creating a better world for Veterans and their families.
ERPI is instrumental in helping Veterans receive the customer service and healthcare experiences they have earned and deserve. From modernizing electronic health records so Veterans can conveniently access their information to giving Veteran Caregivers more community support and resources, ERPi’s mission-driven work helps Veterans and their families thrive, keeping the stuff of importance.
Senior Manager Brittany McMaster beside Senator Elizabeth Dole and Veteran Experience Officer Dr. Lynda Davis at the Federal Advisor Commission on Veteran Caregivers, Families, and Survivors. Also pictured, ERPi Senior Consultant Maggie Walsh.
ERPi supported the Federal Advisory Committee on Veteran Caregivers, Families and Survivors sponsored by the Elizabeth Dole Foundation. We were surrounded by Veteran caregivers speaking up about the challenges they face. We were humbled by this experience because behind the business suits and meetings and corporate-speak, there we were with people who had given up their lives and livelihood to focus on someone they loved. In other words, the heart of the matter.
Within the first few chapters of the novel, the main character is passed over for a promotion, feeling like a professional failure. I’ve been there many times thinking I could be better– a better writer, speaker, professional, just plain better, but that’s not what matters. Veterans matter. Their caregivers’ matter. Their families matter. Everything else is an expectation. My work at ERPi has taught me that lesson.
Sure, working with Veterans at ERPi is a government consulting job. It’s tedious and tiresome with slow changes but urgent turnarounds. Then again, it is so much more. Just as Veteran caregivers give up so much to focus on the stuff that matters, the work we do here to create a better world for Veterans and their families should always be the focal, central and most important element of the problems we solve.
The main character eventually sees the folly in expectation and prestige but is too deep in his failures to completely shake them off. When I get disenthralled with my work, my mind goes back to the room full of caregivers, people who get so little recognition for the work they do. To quote the novel, the heart of the matter is, “something in the soul. It is not a return for something.” The earth, people, love, relationships–those are things that matter despite any professional failure or expectation. I hope to have this mindset daily as I walk into work. It’s not about me but creating a better world for Veterans, their families, and their caregivers–the heart of the matter.
Many don’t know this but before ERPi I was a caregiver to three Veterans through the Medical Foster Home program at VA. From left to right is Ronald, who served in the Army during Vietnam, Louie, who is a WWII Marine (and almost 94 years old) and Terry, an airman in the Air Force who served during the Cold War (and is fluent in Russian). Caring for them was one of the greatest rewards of my life.