Hi everyone. For many of you, this is your first day back after a hopefully long break, and for others of you, you’ve been working these past few days and are trying really hard not to strangle the people who did get time off. It’s a rough day for all of us.
I know you’re probably feeling down in the dumps and just want to crawl back into bed, where The Mandalorian or The Expanse or The Golden Girls is waiting. You’re probably nursing your coffee, dreading the thoughts of checking the rest of your email inbox. You shudder looking at your to-do list. You feel a pang of guilt for not having done things that should have been done before break. At least one of your plants is likely dead. And WTF is that weird smell?!
It’s OK to feel what you’re feeling, as I have learned from Daniel Tiger, a show that my kids and I like to watch that’s based on Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Your feelings of dread, stress, and anxiety are valid. Remember, you are not alone. Millions of people across the sector are feeling like moldy hummus right now. If you need to go into the supply closet and cry, that’s OK. If you need to scream in a bathroom stall, that’s fine. If you need to take a walk to your car, drive to another country, adopt a new identity, fall in love with a local baker, and start a simple but happy new life waking up at 3am daily to make bread, I won’t look down on you.
When you are ready though, take a deep breath. On days like today, it may be hard to remember, and harder to believe, but everything you do matters and that you yourself are contributing to creating a better world. Yes, so much of our work seems mundane: Answering unending numbers of emails, attending meeting after meeting, de-duping the database, filling out in-take forms, harassing people for their expense receipts, writing grant proposals. Yes, on days like today, much feels futile and pointless.
But in our sector, there are no pointless actions. Our actions are not always as effective as they could be, but everything we do affects the lives of others. This work is not easy. 2019 was especially challenging. The forces of injustice have been relentless. And our work this year is cut out for us.
This is why I am so glad for you. Despite how daunting things can be, despite how imperfect our sector is, you continue to try in whatever ways you can to lessen suffering and improve our society. You have probably changed more lives than you know. You have probably contributed more to making the world better than you can fully comprehend.
You do this while often under-resourced, under-appreciated, misunderstood by society, and hampered by various other flaws that exist in our sector. It is 2020, and it is time for us to re-examine everything and challenge every belief, system, and practice that is holding us back. From the way our boards are set up, to the way we do fundraising, grantmaking, evaluation, etc. We are going to have some uncomfortable and scary conversations! We’re going to own our power, challenge power, and cause all sorts of trouble! We are not just opening the can of whoop-ass on injustice this year, we are opening the entire case!
This week though, especially today, take a moment to take care of yourself. If you need to go home early, do so. If you need to take a nap under your desk, by all means. If you need to get lost at sea, lose your memory, get rescued by fisherfolks, fall in love with one of them, and settle down in a small, quaint English town, you know what works best for you in terms of self-care.
You are a brilliant, talented, dedicated, kind, amazing person. Your work matters. You matter. If you are feeling down today, it’s OK. But think on these words by Fred Rogers:
“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say, ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”
That’s right. You are Mr. Rogers’s hero.
And you’re my hero too.
Let’s do this thing!
I just, uh, need to go on a quick walk first. I’ll be back!
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