Mara Bryant

Mara Bryant
Episode 132

Join host Japhet De Oliveira and his guest, Mara Bryant, Operations Executive at Adventist Health White Memorial and Site Administrator at Adventist Health White Memorial Montebello, for a captivating conversation about her 38-year journey with Adventist Health, her dedication to promoting peace in divided communities, and the logistics of hosting family for Thanksgiving dinner.
Libsyn Podcast
"True health equity means addressing the barriers that individuals face and providing them with the resources and support they need to thrive."

Narrator: Welcome friends to another episode of The Story & Experience podcast. Join your host, Japhet De Oliveira with his guest today and discover the moments that shape us, our families and communities.

Japhet De Oliveira: Hey, welcome friends to another episode of The Story & Experience podcast. I'm here at Adventist Health White Memorial in the basement in a medical library. This is very exciting. There could be people who come in to do some research at some point, interrupt sound, but it's going to be exciting. I'm delighted to introduce this guest to you. You're going to find out who they are in a second. If you're brand new to the podcast, we have 100 questions and they progressively become more vulnerable towards the end about stories and experiences that shape this person into the leader that they are. They're smiling. Good sign. Confidence. I think it's going to be okay. So let's begin. Could you tell us your name and does anybody ever mispronounce it?

Mara Bryant: My name is Mara Bryant and my name has been mispronounced my entire life.

Japhet De Oliveira: Mara. Mara?

Mara Bryant: Mara.

Japhet De Oliveira: Mara. Mara. There we go. Okay, good. Yeah, I would never guess why. What do you do for work?

Mara Bryant: I am the Operations Executive at Adventist Health White Memorial and the Administrator over our newly acquired Adventist Health White Memorial Montebello.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yes. Could we get a longer title for that?

Mara Bryant: I can't think of one.

Japhet De Oliveira: Okay. All right. That's great. So how long have you been in operations and?

Mara Bryant: I've been at the operations executive here probably about 10 years.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh wow. Okay. All right. Brilliant. Have you been working longer than 10 years with Adventist Health or?

Mara Bryant: I've been with Adventist Health for 38 years.

Japhet De Oliveira: 38 years?

Mara Bryant: Yes.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh, that's legendary. That's fantastic.

Mara Bryant: A lot of versions of Adventist Health.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah. You've seen every type of logo ever had.

Mara Bryant: I have.

Japhet De Oliveira: Same name. Okay, that's great. Hey, fantastic. All right. Hey, that's good. So 10 years in this role. Now you've taken on Montebello, which is just down the road. How far away from here?

Mara Bryant: It's about 12 miles.

Japhet De Oliveira: 12 miles? Okay. So you're between these two campuses all the time?

Mara Bryant: Back and forth. My car knows it autopilot. No problem.

Japhet De Oliveira: Okay. All right, that's good. All right, here's a couple of simple ones in the morning when you get up. I know you just had some water now, but first thing in the morning, coffee, tea, liquid green smoothie, water. What do you do?

Mara Bryant: I'm a water person.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh, really? And tap water, bottled water?

Mara Bryant: Smart Water.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh, okay. All right, Smart.

Mara Bryant: Yes.

Japhet De Oliveira: It's intelligent water.

Mara Bryant: It's intelligent water.

Japhet De Oliveira: Does it make a difference?

Mara Bryant: I can taste the difference. So when all you drink is water, you get pretty finicky about your water.

Japhet De Oliveira: Okay. That's good. That's good. All right. Where were you born?

Mara Bryant: I was born in Los Angeles, so I'm a native.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh, wow.

Mara Bryant: So I was actually born at Kaiser Sunset, just down the street and grew up in South Pasadena, which is about 15 miles away from here.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh, really? That's good. So when you were a child here growing up, what did you imagine you were going to grow up to be?

Mara Bryant: I actually wanted to be a physician.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh, really?

Mara Bryant: And I was in that in undergrad at UCLA when the State of California went bankrupt and I lost all my grants, because...

Japhet De Oliveira: No.

Mara Bryant: So got a little sidetracked back then. The whole college tuition loan programs weren't nearly as robust, so I had to make some course corrections.

Japhet De Oliveira: My, my, my. Do you ever miss that idea of being a physician?

Mara Bryant: I enjoy the conversations even now, so it's a great background. I ended up in forensic science, which is spectacular.

Japhet De Oliveira: Which is perfect for our operations, right?

Mara Bryant: It is.

Japhet De Oliveira: Forensic science. Yeah. Yeah.

Mara Bryant: Everything is a question.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah, detail. For somebody who doesn't actually know what operations actually is and administrate, can you unpack that just a little bit? I'm going to go back to that.

Mara Bryant: Well, the reality for me on a daily basis is John really relies that I am looking at the whole organization, making sure everything's running smoothly, anytime there's an aberration, making sure it gets fixed and that I'm following through. So I do that at both campuses and it's a great team to be on, so it's a lot of fun.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's fantastic. When you started 38 years ago, what was your first role?

Mara Bryant: My first role here was I was a part-time secretary. I was going to school at UCLA and I needed money.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's great. That's great. So this community is your home.

Mara Bryant: It is.

Japhet De Oliveira: You love them and you know them.

Mara Bryant: Yes.

Japhet De Oliveira: Wow. You never lived anywhere else? You lived here the entire time?

Mara Bryant: Yep.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh, hey. Fantastic. That's great. Okay. Personality. If people were to describe you, would they say you were an introvert or an extrovert and would you agree with what they say?

Mara Bryant: They'll say I'm an extrovert, but I am completely an introvert.

Japhet De Oliveira: Completely. Okay.

Mara Bryant: On every test. I'm so dramatically an introvert.

Japhet De Oliveira: But you put yourself forward and say, "Yeah."

Mara Bryant: Yeah. If I teach classes, by the end of teaching a class, I have to go home and be by myself. I'm done. So, but...

Japhet De Oliveira: I respect that. No worries. And are you an early riser or late night owl?

Mara Bryant: I am an early riser.

Japhet De Oliveira: What's early?

Mara Bryant: So when I commuted from Temecula area, I used to have to leave at 4:00 AM. So I've adjusted to about 6:00 now.

Japhet De Oliveira: Now, for people to understand this, because people all over the world listen to this. How far away is that place to here?

Mara Bryant: It's 78 miles one way.

Japhet De Oliveira: One way. Which takes-

Mara Bryant: Inn Los Angeles.

Japhet De Oliveira: Then 78 miles one way takes what? 78 minutes, but no freeway.

Mara Bryant: No, it's about two and a half hours.

Japhet De Oliveira: So five hours driving?

Mara Bryant: Yes.

Japhet De Oliveira: Every day?

Mara Bryant: Every day.

Japhet De Oliveira: Wow. Okay. That's dedication.

Mara Bryant: And it used to take all my East Coast calls while I was commuting in the morning. So I got to use the time.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah.

Mara Bryant: I learned how to pray with my eyes open.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah, that's good. We're so glad.

Mara Bryant: I used it for spiritual time also. It worked out.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's good. I'm taking a driving test to get a California driving license. It didn't require whether I had to have my eyes open when I'm praying, but I'm with you. That's good. That's good. Hey, that's fantastic. All right, so early for you right now is what?

Mara Bryant: 6:00 AM.

Japhet De Oliveira: 6:00 AM. okay. All right. And when you got up this morning, 6:00 AM, first thought that went through your mind.

Mara Bryant: What is my day like today?

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh, and is it good?

Mara Bryant: It is.

Japhet De Oliveira: It is?

Mara Bryant: It's a board day, so...

Japhet De Oliveira: Board day. Yes. I hear. Yes. Everybody's...

Mara Bryant: A little intense.

Japhet De Oliveira: Intense and good. Good stories to share.

Mara Bryant: Yeah, we're having our first board meeting at Montebello.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh, nice.

Mara Bryant: So it's different. We're having to set up over there and we're wanting all the board members to become acquainted with that campus.

Japhet De Oliveira: So this podcast obviously is going to come out after the board's done. But just imagine the people hearing it live. Give us a sneak peek of one good story that you're going to be sharing today on the board.

Mara Bryant: Well, today I'm actually giving them a good Montebello update and talking about some of the new services that we'll be opening over on the campus in the next 30 days, most likely. So it'll be exciting. We'll see our census go up another notch and things are falling into play, so it's going to be a fun.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's fantastic. Are these services that they've never had before? They're brand new or both?

Mara Bryant: Both.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh, really?

Mara Bryant: Yeah. So we introduced robotics over there and they've never had robotics. And then the other ones are services that they'd had previously, but the facility itself has kind of degraded over their money problems. So there are things that we've been able to go in and revamp and our reopening. So...

Japhet De Oliveira: That's great.

Mara Bryant: Yeah. It's really fun.

Japhet De Oliveira: They're going to be excited. By the time this comes out, they will have heard it.

Mara Bryant: Yes.

Japhet De Oliveira: Okay. That's great. That's great. All right, last one here and then I'm going to hand over to you. Leadership question. Are you a backseat driver?

Mara Bryant: Am I a backseat driver? That is a very good question. I tend not to be really a backseat driver. I tend to be someone who shares a vision that we mutually agree to. And as long as the numbers are going in the right direction and I'm not getting a lot of chatter, I stay out of people's way.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah. And let them go.

Mara Bryant: Yep.

Japhet De Oliveira: All right. Hey, good, good. All right, here we go. Now the floor is open. You get to pick between numbers 11 and 100 where you'd like to go. And where'd you go?

Mara Bryant: 37.

Japhet De Oliveira: 37. Here we go. Straight away. Oh. What do you like most about your family?

Mara Bryant: Oh, my family.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah.

Mara Bryant: I am a total family person, so I'm one of nine kids in my generation.

Japhet De Oliveira: Nine kids. Okay.

Mara Bryant: So...

Japhet De Oliveira: Your mom and dad are still around?

Mara Bryant: They've both passed just recently.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh, okay. Recently? Okay.

Mara Bryant: Not too long ago.

Japhet De Oliveira: I'm sorry.

Mara Bryant: So I sponsor Thanksgiving every year and it's about between 200 and 250 people.

Japhet De Oliveira: No.

Mara Bryant: Yes. And we do all the cooking, my daughter and myself, and a lot of helpers.

Japhet De Oliveira: You must do this outside in a field, Amish style.

Mara Bryant: Yeah. I have one brother who has done very well and he said I can have it at his house every year. So yeah, trying the seat 250 it's not easy. It's like a small wedding every year.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah. And you organize it all?

Mara Bryant: Yes.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh, wow. Okay.

Mara Bryant: And my family's fun, so it's a great time.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah. That's fantastic. Hey, what do you love most about them? Is that they just love each other or?

Mara Bryant: Always one, you can invite them and you are guaranteed to have a party.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh, really.

Mara Bryant: You don't have to worry about throwing a party and no one showing up. Always a group there. And then they always have your back. Whether you may like them or not, they will always love you. And [inaudible 00:09:44], they'll be there.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's the best. That's good. All right. Well, that was 37 beginning there. Where'd you want to go now? Up or down? Hey, it's great.

Mara Bryant: 52.

Japhet De Oliveira: 52. Okay, here we go. Oh, share what motivates you?

Mara Bryant: What motivates me?

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah.

Mara Bryant: I am completely motivated by caring for others, paying it forward. That's why I practice in inner city medicine. I was actually down in Temecula for one year. I had took a year off from White Memorial and made it very clear very quickly that I'm an inner city girl.

Japhet De Oliveira: Really? Huh. So why the inner city? Because some people run away from the inner cities. They're like, "Send me to the suburbs, send me to the mountains." Tell me what's attractive to you for the inner city?

Mara Bryant: I was brought up being told, "To whom much is given, much is expected." And much has been given to me. So I really enjoy serving people that carry a larger barrier or burden of life than we do. And helping to ease that is central to kind of my happiness.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's beautiful. That's beautiful. Now you don't have a big commute now it's like how many minutes?

Mara Bryant: Three.

Japhet De Oliveira: Three minutes now.

Mara Bryant: Three minutes.

Japhet De Oliveira: How long has that been like?

Mara Bryant: Eight years.

Japhet De Oliveira: Eight years. You made a shift so you can even be closer. Love your passion. All right, brilliant. Where next off that? That was 52.

Mara Bryant: Okay. Let's see. 63.

Japhet De Oliveira: 63. All right. Oh, tell us about a time when you felt lost.

Mara Bryant: When I felt lost.

Japhet De Oliveira: Right.

Mara Bryant: I would say when my mother passed, it was an awakening. My father had already passed and my mother lived with me until she passed at home. So it was a great time to spend time with her and realize you take for granted what your parents did for you growing up. And being able to serve her during that time period when she was sick was excellent. It healed a lot of old wounds that she and I had from my teenage years.

Japhet De Oliveira: Everybody does. Yeah. Sure.

Mara Bryant: And just thinking about what the future and what that means for my kids and being prepared to give them an experience also.

Japhet De Oliveira: Did you feel you changed?

Mara Bryant: I have definitely become more free spirited. I was incredibly intense and very deliberate about kind of everything.

Japhet De Oliveira: Achieving and...

Mara Bryant: And it taught me life is too short and you need to enjoy it. And that means sometimes you need to take the wild path and not the one that's so straight.

Japhet De Oliveira: So now when this started to happen, I've got to ask, these are bonus questions. Who noticed it first?

Mara Bryant: My son.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh, really?

Mara Bryant: Yes.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah, instantly.

Mara Bryant: He's my oldest son and probably the most sensitive now thirty-year-old ever for a male. And yeah, he noticed right away and he's a great checkpoint for me.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah. Oh, that's great. So you have a great relationship with your kids?

Mara Bryant: Yes.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh, what a blessing. What a blessing. Well, I mean, 250 relatives come together. I'm like, that's amazing. All right. Hey, that's great. Where next then? That was 63.

Mara Bryant: Let's do 72.

Japhet De Oliveira: 72. Oh, tell us about what you want to do when you retire, and then why are you waiting?

Mara Bryant: I'm not really waiting. That was the wild path. So my goal in retirement is to travel.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah. Yeah.

Mara Bryant: I love traveling. I've done a lot already.

Japhet De Oliveira: In the states? Outside of states?

Mara Bryant: Yes.

Japhet De Oliveira: Okay.

Mara Bryant: So in the states when I was young, because when you have nine kids you don't really go anywhere other than driving in your car.

Japhet De Oliveira: Sure, sure.

Mara Bryant: And in my adulthood, internationally. In fact, I'm planning a trip to Ireland right now for July.

Japhet De Oliveira: First time? Last?

Mara Bryant: Second time.

Japhet De Oliveira: Second time? Okay. All right. Good, good.

Mara Bryant: So I want to do that. Just experience cultures. It's so lovely.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah, it is. It is. And so when you go somewhere, do you stay local? Do you walk by foot everywhere? Do you take tours?

Mara Bryant: I like to blend.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah.

Mara Bryant: When I went to Russia, I actually stayed with a family and experienced it from their perspective and it was great. And then I spent a ton of time in the museums and all the beauty there. So I like mixing it up. I always liked to at the beginning, especially if it's a big city, do a tour just so I can get the lay of the land and then I go out walking and exploring.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's good. That's good. All right. Do you take photos everywhere you go? Or you just like to just absorb it?

Mara Bryant: I take the worst photos of trips. I get fascinated by things that people no one else really cares about. So...

Japhet De Oliveira: You come back and why do we see these? Okay, good. But they mean something to you.

Mara Bryant: Architecture. I love architecture.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh, really? Okay.

Mara Bryant: So I'll take cornices, and people will be going, "So what did you see there?" This is what I saw.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah, yeah. Okay. That's good. Hey, that's great. All right, super. Where next after that? That was 72.

Mara Bryant: 82.

Japhet De Oliveira: 82. All right. If you could keep only three possessions, what would they be and why?

Mara Bryant: The repossessions. So I have my father's wedding ring, so I would keep that for sure. Very important to me. My son, he's an artist, so I'd keep one of his paintings or pictures. And then I would keep my daughter's joy. I am not sure how I'd do that, but she's just one of those people that eek happiness all the time.

Japhet De Oliveira: You'd want to capture that?

Mara Bryant: Yes.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah. Hey, that's great. Oh, I love that.

Mara Bryant: If I could put it in a little jar. So..

Japhet De Oliveira: You'll have to work that out with maybe some Sci-Fi movie.

Mara Bryant: Exactly.

Japhet De Oliveira: For that. Yeah. Medical breakthrough, Montebello. Captured joy.

Mara Bryant: That's right. When you're down...

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah. Yeah.

Mara Bryant: We got the medicine for you.

Japhet De Oliveira: We got it. Hey, I like the essence of what you mean. That's good. All right. Where next after that? That was 82.

Mara Bryant: Let's do 94.

Japhet De Oliveira: 94. Oh, if you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?

Mara Bryant: If I could change one thing in the world. So my big thing is peace.

Japhet De Oliveira: Really? Okay.

Mara Bryant: So bringing peace between people and amongst people. When working in the inner city, you see the harm that's created by the division of everyone. So it's kind of like that bad movie. I want world peace.

Japhet De Oliveira: No, no, no. So have you brokered peace in many places?

Mara Bryant: Yes.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah? All right. Give us an example of one that was a little terrifying.

Mara Bryant: Well, I could do one here in East LA.

Japhet De Oliveira: Okay. Yeah.

Mara Bryant: Probably in the 1990s we had a drive-by shooting that came into our ER. So the bullets came into our ER. And we needed to figure out a different way to relate to our community and sat down with some very wise elders. And we developed our gang liaison program here. So we employ an ex-gang member, and he spends his time just out in the community in the hospital talking to our patients that belong to gangs, helping each side understand each other better. And with it has brought incredible peace on our campus.

Japhet De Oliveira: And still working, doing the same role?

Mara Bryant: Absolutely.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's amazing.

Mara Bryant: His name is Mike and he is lovely.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's amazing. That's a powerful story. Yeah, I like that. I'm just holding it together. That's good. That's good. I love moments like that when you think about life has changed our hospital, the people who work here change the way our community lives with each other.

Mara Bryant: Yes.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah, that's good. All right, that was 94. Where next?

Mara Bryant: 96.

Japhet De Oliveira: 96. Tell us about the last time that you cried.

Mara Bryant: Well, that would've been last night when I ruptured my eardrum.

Japhet De Oliveira: Okay. All right. So...

Mara Bryant: The wrong type of crying, I know, but that was the last time I cried.

Japhet De Oliveira: Just for the record, you probably need to share with everybody as you came in here for the recording, you did let me know that you'd done that. So could you share with everyone how you ruptured your eardrum?

Mara Bryant: So I box.

Japhet De Oliveira: Executive, executive. You boxed?

Mara Bryant: I box for exercise and fitness, and I was boxing and I didn't keep my right hand up high enough. And I got taught a lesson and I ruptured my eardrum.

Japhet De Oliveira: Okay, okay. Now you went the headgear, right? And..

Mara Bryant: I wasn't doing it. I didn't do it that night.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh, oh.

Mara Bryant: It came to...

Japhet De Oliveira: Really?

Mara Bryant: You put it on 99% of the time and the one time you don't.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's right, of course.

Mara Bryant: And who thought hearing? I get face, but I never really thought about my ears.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah, yeah. But your brain's okay?

Mara Bryant: My brain's okay. My hearing not so much right now.

Japhet De Oliveira: All right, so you cried last night. Good. Well, I'm glad you're better. So what's the prognosis?

Mara Bryant: He said two weeks.

Japhet De Oliveira: Two weeks. So if we want to creep up on one of your sides...

Mara Bryant: Yeah.

Japhet De Oliveira: Scare you. Okay. Right.

Mara Bryant: Exactly.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah. Good. We should get that note out. We should get this podcast out quickly. Your staff will have fun. All right, that was 96. Where next?

Mara Bryant: 98.

Japhet De Oliveira: 98. What is one great thing that you are capable of achieving?

Mara Bryant: I think my biggest aim now, and I am pursuing it with all my passion, is around health equity and really trying to help people understand that through stories and real life experiences versus just numbers in a book or theoretical conversations. Helping people understand what it really means to grow up with limited resources, maybe no papers, all kinds of barriers. And they carry those barriers every day with them. And honestly, those of us who didn't grow up that way, it's impossible for us to truly understand the difference. But we just need to embrace that it is different and figure out new and incredible new ways to do things.

Japhet De Oliveira: To help people. Now people understand DEI a lot. But health equity is different. Could you just for somebody who's a novice, kind of unpack health equity and then I think that context will?

Mara Bryant: Yeah. Health equity in its general basic is to make sure no matter what you come to the table with, which are often socioeconomic barriers as much as anything else. So your plan of care will need to be different than if I came to the table. Because when I go home, my kids can take days off at work because that's the kind of job they have to take care of me. There's so many things that we all assume everybody else has access to and they truly don't. If they take a day off, they'll get fired. Especially in some of the manufacturing, it's tough. Their limitations are very different from ours.

Japhet De Oliveira: So what can we do? What can you do in a hospital and in clinics around here? How can you help that? Because that's out of your hands, isn't it? I mean...

Mara Bryant: It's never out.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh, okay. Go and unpack this. Yeah.

Mara Bryant: I mean, being able to start to think outside the box, even with, as silly as, and it's not silly at all, exclusive breastfeeding, for instance. We've been working with the Chamber of Commerce's here in LA because even though it's a state law that you have to let people pump at work, for instance, it's not happening and it is disproportionately against the minority population in the large manufacturing. So really engaging with the Chambers of Commerce to bring more light to it. And the fact that it is about that next generation's mental capabilities is directly linked to breastfeeding. So how do you start to prepare for a better future for that generation right now?

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah. So really it's about using your influence, right, that you have, the capital that you have.

Mara Bryant: Absolutely.

Japhet De Oliveira: Spending it and saying, "I think this is worth a conversation."

Mara Bryant: Yes.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah. Have you felt it change?

Mara Bryant: Absolutely.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah. Yeah.

Mara Bryant: Absolutely. I just look at even exercise in our neighborhood. Five years ago there were no five Ks in this neighborhood, none of that was set up. And participating in those events and bringing more light to how important fighting obesity is and your health.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yes. Mobility. Yeah.

Mara Bryant: Yes. Now I see bicycles biking on the street all day long and that makes me happy.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's really great. That's great. Hey, well done. Well done. Thank you for unpacking that as well. I think it's pretty serious right now and something that we've only come to realize recently. So it's good.

Mara Bryant: Yeah.

Japhet De Oliveira: So that's good. And by we, I mean the country as a whole. Yeah.

Mara Bryant: Absolutely.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah. All right, where next after that?

Mara Bryant: Oh my goodness.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah, I know.

Mara Bryant: 97.

Japhet De Oliveira: 97. Oh, tell us about a time when you did the right thing. Huh.

Mara Bryant: And I got in trouble, or did that actually?

Japhet De Oliveira: That would be kind of interesting. Pray, do tell. Did the right thing and yeah.

Mara Bryant: I think the beauty of what I do for a living, I get to do the right thing almost every day. And it is such an honor to be able to come to work. I'm like one of those people, my kids bought me a magnet that's on my door that says, "I love work."

Japhet De Oliveira: Because you do.

Mara Bryant: Because I do. Yeah. You get to make a difference every day. And being able to work with an organization that believes in doing the right thing makes it so much easier and so much more fulfilling. So it's exciting.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's really true. The mission and values really make a big difference.

Mara Bryant: Absolutely.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah. Yeah. And to live them out fully. Yeah. Did you feel like that was something you've had from your DNA from childhood? Is it something that you've kind of grown and developed into that you admired from somebody else? Not everybody enjoys always doing the right thing at any price. Right? Something like, "Oh, I don't know, that's a bit painful."

Mara Bryant: I grew up in a house like that. My dad was a very black and white person and always chose to live in the light, and it was a great role model. There just wasn't any gray area that you played around in. So probably in my DNA and belt over those years.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's good. That's good. I like it. I like it. It's amazing how much we learn openly from our parents and from others and then some that we recognize later on. Yeah, that's good. Good. All right, where next?

Mara Bryant: Let's go to 57.

Japhet De Oliveira: 57. All right. If you had to endorse a brand, what would it be and why?

Mara Bryant: Endorse a brand.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah.

Mara Bryant: Wow. That's a really good question.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah.

Mara Bryant: Have to be Smart Water.

Japhet De Oliveira: It's so funny, I looked at the bottle of water on the table and I thought, "I wonder if she's going to say Pure Life?" But no, it's Smart Water. Yeah. Yeah.

Mara Bryant: Yeah.

Japhet De Oliveira: Okay. And why, why? So water's so important for you, but why?

Mara Bryant: Well, I do believe in the magic of water.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah. It's pretty powerful.

Mara Bryant: It is. And it does so much for your body, and I do believe there are differences in the type. But even just advocating for people to drop other habits and just pick up more water drinking would be great.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah.

Mara Bryant: And I like the idea of water making me smarter. They were very smart.

Japhet De Oliveira: Very smart of that. That's good. That's good. All right, where next?

Mara Bryant: 46.

Japhet De Oliveira: 46. Oh, tell us about the best book you've ever read.? I mean, or maybe heard in your five hours of commuting every day.

Mara Bryant: So my favorite book, and I own it in leather, signed, is Trinity by Leon Uris.

Japhet De Oliveira: Wow.

Mara Bryant: And it's on the history of Ireland. So I have a strong Irish background. And it's about the struggle of the people in Ireland and how life turned out. And I love it. I love historical fiction because it kind of blends...

Japhet De Oliveira: A bit of a life and reality.

Mara Bryant: Yes.

Japhet De Oliveira: And a bit of imagination.

Mara Bryant: Mm-hmm.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah.

Mara Bryant: And it's great to see how people take on challenges or don't.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah, that's nice that you have a signed copy and a leather-bound version. That's beautiful.

Mara Bryant: One of my best friends bought it for me for my 40th birthday, so I was like, "This is my most prized possession."

Japhet De Oliveira: That's good. To your friend, she did not mention it as one of the three things she would take. Just FYI. But her daughter's joy [inaudible 00:27:16]. So it's okay.

Mara Bryant: One thing.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah, I know. So we have time for two last ones. Where do you want to go for your last two?

Mara Bryant: Okay. 91.

Japhet De Oliveira: 91. All right. Oh, describe a time in your life when you learned about forgiveness.

Mara Bryant: So I would say this is an ongoing journey for me. But the one year that I was not working at Adventist Health, I helped my brother establish his medical practice.

Japhet De Oliveira: Mm-hmm.

Mara Bryant: And it was in Temecula, which is a very affluent neighborhood. And I would have people come in and I was actually working the front desk. It's a small practice, right, everybody does everything. And people would walk in and they'd have a $40,000 ring on wanting me to write off their six-dollar copay. And I have to say, having worked in the inner city, it was really irritating to see. If you just didn't stop at Starbucks on the way here, you would've been fine. And I had to learn how to drop that judgment of others and then be able to just accept people for who they are and...

Japhet De Oliveira: Who they are.

Mara Bryant: Move it on.

Japhet De Oliveira: And it's good. It's good. You find it easier now?

Mara Bryant: I do. I do.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah.

Mara Bryant: I've gotten much better at realizing that people's past, they vary for a lot of different reasons and we often are not privy to it.

Japhet De Oliveira: I'm going to ask you an interesting question. 91A. Do you find it easier to forgive others or yourself?

Mara Bryant: Oh, definitely others.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh yeah? Okay. So why not yourself?

Mara Bryant: I expect a lot of myself and I have my whole life.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah.

Mara Bryant: I remember sitting with a family practitioner saying, "I'm still trying to figure out who you're trying to prove things to more. I'm not sure why that should still be an issue." So I think being the eighth kid out of nine to get noticed you had to do a lot.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's fair. That's fair.

Mara Bryant: So I think that lingers on definitely.

Japhet De Oliveira: So maybe a little more grace for yourself?

Mara Bryant: Yes, absolutely.

Japhet De Oliveira: Okay. All right. All right, that's good. All right, last one. Where'd you want to go?

Mara Bryant: Gosh, what haven't we done? Okay, you choose it.

Japhet De Oliveira: No, I wish I could. A few guests have asked them, but yes.

Mara Bryant: Did we do 99? Do I want 100?

Japhet De Oliveira: No, we have not done 99. Would you like 99?

Mara Bryant: Yes. Let's do 99.

Japhet De Oliveira: Okay. This is great for you. What is the most difficult truth you've ever told?

Mara Bryant: The most difficult truth I've ever told. That is a really very good question. I think honestly having to explain to my parents that my marriage wasn't going to work.

Japhet De Oliveira: When they had such a strong marriage themselves.

Mara Bryant: Yes.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah.

Mara Bryant: And grew up in a family of intact marriages. So it was very difficult and it definitely shaped me.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah, yeah, yeah. That would be a difficult thing to say. Yeah, because you love them, love them, and still love them and yeah, I can understand that.

Mara Bryant: And always wanting to have that relationship that I lived with every day. Thought that was the role model of what I was seeking. So...

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah. Well, you are a force to be reckoned with, so I'm delighted to be able to have had this conversation with you. I want to encourage people to do the same, sit with a person, maybe get some water. Smart Water.

Mara Bryant: Yeah.

Japhet De Oliveira: Or a cup of tea and ask good questions. I really do believe that we learn more about ourselves and about others as well just by asking questions and listening to each other. And we are shaped by that. And so I want to encourage people to do the same as well. And Mara, thank you so much for taking the time.

Mara Bryant: Thank you.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah. Yeah.

Mara Bryant: This was lovely.

Japhet De Oliveira: Good, good. God bless. And we will connect again soon.

Mara Bryant: Absolutely.

Narrator: Thank you for joining us for The Story and Experience podcast. We invite you to read, watch, and submit your story and experience at The Story and Experience podcast was brought to you by Adventist Health through the Office of Culture.