People who are special are very good at making other people feel special. It’s a well-honed talent which has it’s roots in humility and kindness.
Joyce Hayes was a master at making others feel special. Although she just recently passed, she left a flotilla of people in her wake who, thanks to her generous heart and love, have come to believe in their own goodness and specialness. In her time, aside from raising children of her own, Joyce lovingly fostered over 80 children in the San Francisco bay area and was once recognized with the Congressional Angels in Adoption award in Washington, D.C.
I met Joyce Hayes in the transformational cauldron of Love that is Glide Church in San Francisco. I may not be a Christian, or much of a believer in any form of God outside of a belief in the goodness within all of us, but the theology of Love and radical inclusion at Glide drew my heart and voice to sing to a greater glory in the Glide Ensemble gospel choir for nearly a decade. With the death from AIDS of my dear friend and choir mate Rosevelt Winchester, I found myself chairing an arts scholarship fund for Glide youth in his honor. A great benefit from his passing (isn’t there always something received when those we love are taken away?) is that I was able to work in steering the scholarship fund alongside Joyce who was managing the Janice Mirikitani Family Youth and Child Care Center at Glide. As such, I got the chance to spend much time with Joyce in her open-door office where a steady stream of interrupting kids were always welcomed, listened to, hugged and genuinely reflected with a healthy dose of love.
In 2009, I asked Joyce if I could photograph her for a photographic project I was undertaking which I was calling the Eyes of Compassion. The photographs here are from that project. I encourage you right now to take a minute and look into her eyes in the image above. In connecting with her gaze, you may find it difficult to escape without feeling loved, cared for and accepted.
I’ve come to believe that the only real thing that makes our individual lives a success is the extent to which other people feel loved by us. It’s not about how successful we’ve been, or even how generous we’ve been with the various forms of success we’ve been granted. True success is measured in our ability to love others to the point where their inherently human self doubt surrenders to a belief in their own goodness.
For many years, due to the joy, love and enthusiasm she’d share with me upon seeing me, I believed that I was particularly special in Joyce’s eyes. Eventually I came to see that many hundreds or perhaps even thousands of people, through Joyce’s generosity of spirit, likely came to feel the same way. Joyce had a heart that somehow learned the truth to the paradox that the more it loved and the more it shared that love, the greater its capacity grew to love yet more.
Thank you Joyce for helping so many including myself believe in our own inherent goodness. You are missed yet very present.