Hope and trust, and gratitude for our sector

[Image description: Silhouette of a kid flying a colorful plane-shaped kite at the beach. In the background, near the water, are the silhouettes of several other people. Image by pikabum on Pixabay]

Hi everyone, this is the last post of 2023. I’ll be back on January 2nd. Normally, I end the year with a lighter article, maybe something humorous. But humor has been hard to come by with everything taking place all around us. The genocide of Palestinians. The US’s veto of a ceasefire. The horrors happening to civilians in Sudan, Congo, Tigray, and other parts of the world. The attacks on reproductive rights. The rise in violence against trans people. The continuation of mass shootings. The surge in fascism across the globe. We’ve had a horrible year after a series of horrible years, and 2024, with the election in the US, doesn’t look like it will bring much relief.

To be honest, I am very tired and on edge. I’m drained, feeling a combination of helplessness at being unable to do much to stop the injustice and suffering I see everywhere, and the frustration of having to battle strangers, colleagues, and even friends and family who seem completely unaware of the nightmares taking place, or worse, justify them.

For me, this was also a year marked by the death of a close friend, whose suicide was due in part to the helplessness she felt at the state of the world. On some days, I wake up in the middle of the night. I look at my kids peacefully sleeping and I think of children similar in age to mine who are buried under rubble.

I was thinking about how hopeless things have been, when a colleague sent me this reel on Instagram. Here activist @jlcreator talks about what they learned from an elder about the difference between hope and trust. The elder advised them to rely less on hope, and instead ground the work in trust. Specifically, trusting in the people who are dedicated to doing the right things, who are committed to undoing systems of injustice.

I know we’ve always said that hope is a discipline, something we must be intentional about. I still believe in that; I’m not giving up on hope. But I appreciate this idea of trusting in those who are steadfast in the face of injustice. The last two months in particular I have witnessed the courage of so many. Journalists, healthcare workers, humanitarian aid workers. Those who risk their safety and livelihoods to speak up against injustice. While there has been an unbearable amount of pain and suffering in the world, there have also been extraordinary instances of strength, bravery, and integrity.

Our sector is no exception. While we still have ways to go, I have been deeply grateful to see how so many people and institutions have stepped up. As we have always done. Our sector is filled with amazing people who keep trying to make the community better despite constant setbacks and pushbacks. Last month, I traveled to eight different cities, speaking about nonprofit and philanthropy at various events, trying to bolster colleagues while pointing out areas we could improve on, and possibly ruffling a few feathers.

Everywhere I went I met colleagues who knew the weight of the responsibilities they bear, who strived to be the kind of leaders our communities can trust. Artists and arts organizations using music and poetry and theater to fight inequity and oppression. Activists of all kinds advancing various important causes from animals to housing to the environment. Fundraisers striving to instill equity and justice into their practices. Funders working against the currents to change philanthropy for the better. I saw signs of exhaustion, but more salient were signs of fierce determination. To do what’s right. To make our world better. Even when things seem hopeless.

I know many of you are tired. As tired as I am, or more. Caring about our fellow human beings often comes with sadness, anguish, a sense of helplessness, and survivor’s guilt. I know many of you have also been battling countless barriers both professional and personal. This work has never been easy. Please know you are not alone. I see you, and I’m with you.

Thank you for all you do and for all you are. As we say goodbye to 2023, a year that continues to weigh heavily on our collective spirit, I find solace and inspiration in so many of you. In the face of endless injustices, your courage, dedication, brilliance, and humanity have kept me going. Over the next few weeks, please find time to rest and be with those you love, while engaging with actions towards a ceasefire. Let us all nurture hope. And let us trust in one another and continue our work of creating a just and equitable world.

See you in 2024.