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Member Highlight: Mirador Resident Reflects On Life Spent Championing Human Rights

Thursday, June 1, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Amanda Wiedenfeld
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Throughout U.S. history, American men and women have often been the agents of change at home and abroad. While history may remember those with amazing tales of courage or discovery, it’s often the everyday stories of men and women that leave a lasting impression on the world around them. One such individual, Dr. John Bird, a resident at Mirador – an SQLC retirement community – is a prime example of how an ordinary individual was able to have an extraordinary impact on those around him. Bird began his career as a medical scientist not in a hospital, but as a professor surrounded by students with whom to share wisdom and prepare for the future. A Fulbright scholar and professor of physiology at Rutgers, Bird would travel every few years with his wife to distant nations to practice medicine and engage with medical professionals to find those without access to the medical advances. It was these trips that not only brought Bird and his wife, Evie, closer together but inspired him to continue engaging with people around the world. Bird’s work would allow him to live in countries closed off to the world at the time, and enable him to see native peoples in a new perspective. As advocates for human and civil rights, the Birds would translate their experiences abroad into discussion and advocacy upon their return home to help spark a cultural revolution in thought and understanding.

“The times we were traveling were some of the best spent in my life,” said Bird. “I was lucky that my wife encouraged me to travel and to pursue the level of professional and academic achievement I did. Everywhere we went we were a team, and through our travels we learned a lot about the people in other countries and the similarities we have with them. At a time when there was so much uncertainty in the world, it was refreshing to have the opportunity to learn from and get to know individuals in countries like China, Egypt, Panama and the former Soviet Union.”

The Birds’ travels would take him around the world and behind the iron curtain, providing a unique look into a world that was closed off for most people. According to Bird, there was always a culture shock when arriving in a new place. In many of the countries the couple lived, the pace of life was slower than the quick moving atmosphere in America. Learning to balance cultural differences and gain the trust or acceptance of new colleagues and friends was something that needed to be tackled. This was especially important to understand in communist countries, where citizens were limited in how they discussed their lives and the world around them.

“It always took a fair amount of time to gain trust and have the ability to engage in a frank discussion,” said Bird. “Once that trust was gained, we had the ability to see people as they were. People lived their lives at a level beyond the politics of their governments, the politicians might have controlled the way of life, but not how people lived. This was a side of these countries that was rarely reported by the media, and it was important to share that knowledge when we were in the states.”

As their world view continued to develop, the Birds participated in the civil rights movement advocating for equal rights and working to better the country. Bird fondly remembers being in Washington D.C as he was going through the process to receive a Fulbright Scholarship and picking up a newspaper only to find his wife’s picture on the front page protesting for equal rights. Upon John’s retirement in 1999, the Birds moved to Port Aransas where they spent 15 years together continuing to travel and share with others the importance of learning more about those in other countries and making the world a better place. Following their move to Mirador, John’s activism changed focus to the care of Evie, as he worked to ensure that Evie and others in similar stages of aging received quality care. Today, as a member of the resident council at Mirador, Bird works with fellow residents to share the voice of residents at the senior living community.

“My wife and I were very happy together here,” said Bird. “I want to do what I can to make sure that everyone has the same level of experience we did. As seniors across the country age, it’s going to be important that communities like Mirador are available as an option. If I have the ability to ensure the success of the community and help provide resident feedback and expectations then there’s nothing better I can do.”

While Bird’s activism may look different today, his contributions through his research, the instruction of future medical professionals or simply the engagement of ideas with someone of a different world view are still felt each day by those whose path he crossed.

“At Mirador we are inspired each day by the men and women who have made an impact on our world,” said Shay Wallace, director of sales and marketing at Mirador. “Dr. Bird is an extraordinary example of someone who simply lived his life and made an impact everywhere he went. We are honored to have residents like Dr. Bird in our community who inspire and challenge us to be the best we can in everything that we do.”

Source: Sarah Jackson/Amy Jones, The Point Group.

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