We Make The Road By Walking, Together
Last week, Pia ended a really thoughtful and heartfelt post by asking us how we survive spiritually in our work. What buoys us?
She began her reflection by noting that she was marking her first year as TWI’s co-executive director. I’ll begin my answer to her question there as well – primarily because the first thing that springs to mind when I think of what buoys me is our present co-leadership.
Before we both started in this new role, I was feeling increasingly drained and stretched. As the driver of what TWI had become in the decade after our Founder Fred Whitman’s death, it was immensely gratifying to see how far we had come in 10 years. It was also becoming harder to hold everything. More importantly, for TWI to fully move toward our aspirations it was becoming clear we had to increase our internal capacity.
Looking back over the past year, I’ve been struck at how much sharing my own leadership and power has made TWI a more powerful organization and advocate.
I’m also aware of how much lighter I feel, rather than depleted.
I think different models of co-leading are increasingly popping up for both of those reasons. Co-leadership is a bigger topic than I am going to address here, but co-leading with Pia has certainly lifted my spirits. I am enriched, and TWI is more effective by the fact that our co-leadership is cross-generational, cross-gender, and cross-race.
Writ large then, I’d say moving from a frame of “I” to one of “We” nourishes my sense of spirituality.
As I write that phrase, I can’t help but think of TWI’s mission and how dialogue, relationship building and inclusive leadership contribute to a greater sense of “We.” In a very real way, our mission — and the continual invitation and challenge to walk our talk — holds deep meaning for me. As does striving to fulfill that mission with kindness, empathy, curiosity and respect towards others.
It may sound simple, but in a field full of logic models and theories of change and measures of impact, I sometimes think those qualities are not given their due. For me, practicing them is one of my answers to Pia’s question, “What are your antidotes to despair?”
The problems of our time can sometimes feel overwhelming and depressing. What keeps me grounded and hopeful are the relationships I am in – both in my personal and my work lives. My relationship to nature also means a lot and experiencing the natural world is something I increasingly value. Walking in nature and working outside create a meditative space for me. In short, reflection and connection feed my soul.
In John A. Powell’s recent interview with Krista Tippet (which I listened to yesterday and highly recommend) he speaks powerfully about the importance of feeling – and acting – from a place of connection with both humanity and the natural world. As I continued to reflect on Pia’s questions, his words resonated strongly with me.
He also talks about the importance of moving from the “I” to the “We” and of living in a way where we hold an awareness of suffering while acting from a place of love.
As a funder, to be able to support in different ways so many inspiring people who are tilling that very soil in their work remains profoundly gratifying and humbling.
And so, while I recognize the dark sides of philanthropy that prompted Pia’s question of how we survive spiritually in this work, I also acknowledge how much my spirit is lifted up by the passion and dedication of those I have the privilege to support and serve.