In a world of outcomes and data points we often measure success externally; How much money? How many people? How quickly? Here is a valuable lesson for those of us who are committed to making a difference in the world. The outcome is important, but equally, if not more important, is having our aim straight.
Nearly ten years ago, Bethany Fancher packed her bags and flew to Hyderabad, India, and then continued into the countryside to the village of Chandrakal. She didn’t know what to expect; only that the orphanage where she had agreed to teach art was home to about sixty children who were born HIV+ in India, the country with the largest number of AIDS orphans in the world.
How many times have you heard someone say “there are two sides to every story?” We are taught to frame our thinking in these dualistic terms, with even our most significant and complex cultural conversations unfolding on this binary framework. We may think in binary, but we exist as multidimensional, evolving beings who are hurtling through an equally complex, technicolor universe.
Today I learned a new phrase - “Totis Viribus,” which means “with all one’s might.” Living life purposefully takes effort. It takes work to focus our path in an intentional way; being consciously compassionate is a daily and deliberate practice.
A story of brotherhood. Raoul Vecchio is an architect and engineer. One day in his native Italy, Raoul had a chance encounter with an artist named Jali Diabate. As they talked, a synergy emerged that would meaningfully shape both their lives. Raoul and Jali recently received seed funding from The Pollination Project to build a volunteer-led cultural center in Senegal, in the ancient tradition of the Griots, to preserve the traditions, art, and stories of the over 11 different ethnic groups who live harmoniously in the area.
When the pandemic came, some people drank about it, some people wrote about it — and some people planted potatoes about it. In the heart of South San José, next to a housing project for low-income seniors, is a small community garden on land belonging to St. Stephen's in-the-Field Episcopal Church. Most of the gardeners are in their 70s, 80s, and 90s, and most speak Mandarin. Jessica Dickinson-Goodman had volunteered in the garden for about a year before the pandemic hit. When the area went into lockdown, she and several other volunteers gathered up the seedlings and distributed them to the homes of volunteers across 3 counties, into what would become the deployed community garden.
To be humble is to admit when we may not know everything, which is a prerequisite to learning and growth. It allows us to listen, which is a state of openness that assumes something new and valuable is being shared. A structural challenge for the field of philanthropy is the cultivation of humility.
Tiffany received seed funding from The Pollination Project to develop her curriculum, “LIFERS,” which included mindfulness, life skills, and personal development. From there she recently launched “Project ReStart,” an association of groups who offer education, employment, mentorship, and other forms of assistance for people who have a criminal conviction. Project ReStart’s first effort is a 10-week project to assist formerly incarcerated people in achieving their education, entrepreneurship, or employment goals.
Happiness is activated gratitude. It costs nothing and requires nothing, other than that we pause in presence and notice goodness, even when it coexists beside pain. There is always something to be grateful for. The lesson of Laura Lavigne's "Big Gratitude Project".
If you consider the events that changed your life, how many are moments that may not seem greatly impactful to anyone else? The everyday examples of compassion and small acts of kindness impact each of us differently; sometimes, in ways that can redirect the entire course of our existence. The ordinary moments can mean everything.