My friends in the nonprofit sector—most of you are probably returning to work this week after a well-deserved break and are feeling “blegh.” Our field can be unrelenting, and even during the break, I know many of you were still answering emails and sending out year-end appeals. As you look at your calendar and the innumerable items on your to-do list, you may feel the urge to crawl under your desk and hold your knees while rocking and weeping. No one would think less of you for admitting today—and many other days—that you desperately wish to be back on your couch binge-watching Jessica Jones or Narcos on Netflix while eating an entire bag of Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos. It is OK. Most of us are feeling crappy today, and some of us look crappy to match our moods. You are not alone.
But take heart, for you are a sexy unicorn who uses its horn of equity to stab injustice in the face and help build a beautiful and vibrant community. Take a look in the mirror. Damn, that is one good-looking nonprofit professional. How do you manage to look so stylish in that Ross “Dress for Less” shirt, you stunner, you?
Yes, this week is rough, and I too am thinking of inventing a time machine, going back in time, and preventing my parents from meeting so that I wouldn’t have to be at the office today dealing with all this backup paperwork and taking out the compost that SOMEBODY should have taken out before the office closed for the break.
But remember, the world needs you, and the work that you do matters. This work is difficult, and even the unlimited access to free hummus and pita wedges that is the hallmark of our profession feels like scant reward for the hours we put in and the increasingly deep lines carved upon our incredibly attractive visages. Sometimes the challenges we are trying to solve seem so complex and insurmountable. And often, especially on days like today, it seems the world does not understand or appreciate what we do, and that carpal tunnel we are developing, along with the one twitching eye and the graying hair and the occasional night terrors, are not worth it.
But do not underestimate the importance of your actions. We are told to be the change that we want to see. That sounds majestic and heavy with significance. It makes us think of leaders like Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela. But remember that behind Gandhi there were people filing paperwork and opening mail and collating meeting minutes analyzing financial statements. Behind MLK there were fundraisers calling donors and entering names into databases. Behind Nelson Mandela there were those who attended meetings and collected surveys and stapled stuff and made snack runs. These small actions, the stuff we do every day, are critical; change cannot happen without these seemingly mundane daily tasks. The meetings we attend are the fertile soil in which the seeds of change may thrive; the reports we write are life-giving water feeding the roots of justice; and the emails we send—vital kilobytes of sunlight nourishing the sprouts of equity.
So today, it is OK to feel like crap as you stare at your email inbox, at your full calendar, and at your hopeless to-do list. But do not tarry long in the depths of post-holiday-break despair. Remember that your work is essential and everything you do matters to the kind of community all of us are trying each day to build. And just as importantly, remember that you are a good-looking, smart, talented, hilarious, and charming unicorn whose work makes our community stronger. As R. Buckminster Fuller said:
“Never forget that you are one of a kind. Never forget that if there weren’t any need for you in all your uniqueness to be on this earth, you wouldn’t be here in the first place. And never forget, no matter how overwhelming life’s challenges and problems seem to be, that one person can make a difference in the world. In fact, it is always because of one person that all the changes that matter in the world come about. So be that one person.”
So have courage and pride. By coordinating programs, delivering services, analyzing data, setting meeting agendas and herding cats, planning budgets, updating websites, ordering supplies, emailing donors, rallying volunteers, writing grants, and the hundreds of other mainly-unappreciated things you do, you are bringing balance and harmony the world so urgently needs. And your work is more important than ever, for winter is coming, and you are a Jedi unicorn holding back the ice zombies of injustice. You are an awesome, sexy Jedi unicorn.
Now, if anyone needs me, I’m going to be in the supply closet.
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