People in the community benefit sector, all over the world, are doing the work that makes our communities livable, joyful, warm and inviting and healthy and strong.
This sector’s work is about compassion, resilience, health. It is about vibrancy, humanity.
Our work is about caring for children, for the elderly. For people living with illness, poverty, disability. Our work is caring for the abused, the downtrodden, whether that means abused and downtrodden people, animals – or our planet.
Our work is to make whole what appears to be broken, to find strength in what appears to be weak.
Our work is also to celebrate what is creative, artistic, intellectually curious about us. It is about learning, exploring. It is about science and art and history. It is about our past and our future.
These things are our job.
It’s not an after-school project. It is what we get paid billions and billions of dollars to do. It is what our communities, our countries, our globe could not get along without.
So then how did it come to be that we shy away from words like these?
In The Pollyanna Principles, I note that if you want to get a “sophisticated board” like a hospital or university board to act like 9 year old boys being told they have to dance with girls, tell them it’s time to talk about vision and values. “Ewww! Do we have to?”
In every public workshop and every consultant immersion class I’ve done for so long I can’t remember, at least one person asks, “What about boards who don’t want to talk about vision or values? What about boards who see it as…
Not based in reality?
And dear God, please don’t use the word “spiritual.” Please don’t talk about what is strong and resonates in each of us, connecting us to each other.
Whispered tones: “My board isn’t going to like the vision stuff. Could you tone it down?”
Listserv question: “Aside from principles, do you teach boards anything practical like worksheets and agendas?”
In our workshops and our classes, here is how we answer the question:
If they think vision is airy fairy, ask them what success would look like in their community. They will want to answer that.
If they think values are touchy feely, ask them when they have tough decisions to make, what they want to base those decision upon. They will want to answer that.
We translate. We make it accessible.
But why should we have to do so?
It is no stretch – not even a teensy weensy one – to say that our work is about taking care of and nurturing what is good and whole and strong and filled with spirit and goodness in each other. That’s our JOB. It’s what we get PAID to do.
It is no stretch, not even an atom’s worth, to say that we are not about what’s wrong with our communities, but about making it right. About making things first livable, then beyond livable to comfortable, then beyond comfortable to joyful, great, amazing, incredible.
So what would it look like if every corner of this sector embraced the joyful, the possible – those strong powerful words of potential that are not only what this sector is about but what WE GET PAID TO BE ABOUT?
What would that celebration of possibility look like in your organization? In your clients’ organizations?
And what would it take to make that our reality, and to not be afraid of words that say so?