On Sunday I was driving home from our family Thanksgiving which we celebrated out in Eastern Oregon, and heard this from Michel Martin, host of Sunday’s All Things Considered. She was talking about Rosa Parks. Now, you probably know all about Rosa Parks, or think you do, but it doesn’t matter which of the stories you believe. The point is, she did something important, in turn giving new opportunities to a whole lot of people. No argument there.
Then, Michel went on to share her thoughts on the act of doing important things. She said the following, excerpted here:
“Who among us hasn’t asked, “Why me?” Whether the task is taking grandma’s car keys when she’s no longer able to drive or even going to a contentious PTA meeting to challenge an incompetent principal, isn’t there a moment when we have all quietly said to ourselves something along the lines of “please take this bitter cup from me” — please release me from the responsibility of having to do this thing that I know has to be done, but I’d rather not do?
And yet, why do we ask that? Why do so many people who offer themselves for leadership right now give you the impression that that’s how they feel?
Can I just tell you, I know this country has problems, but it’s still puzzling to me that the common language of our public discourse right now, uniting the right and the left, is the language of resentment.
Contrast this with the language of invention. When do you ever hear people say, “Why didn’t somebody else invent the airplane, the smart phone, solar panels, the tea infuser, for heaven’s sake, so I didn’t have to?” We even have commercials featuring the tiny garages and attics where supposedly this inventing took place. We understand that discovery is a joy that can feel like a physical sensation.
Well, of course there’s a difference between toiling alone in your attic to invent the next big thing and getting your head bashed in by racists to make your country a better place. But short of that, if those offering themselves for leadership are filled with the joy of offering the gifts they believe they have in the service of the country they say they love, why are so many so fiery mad, and not fiery glad? Why is it such a bitter cup? How would they sound if they saw making the country better as something they had the privilege to do, rather than something they had to do?”
I listened to her full editorial, getting quietly more and more red-faced sitting in my car. I have been known to rail a bit myself about my recent role in trying to move local investing forward here in Oregon. I believe it is a critical phase in our nation’s financial well-being. I believe it has the power to transform our communities. So why has it been such a heavy lift?
I have called myself a “reluctant expert” since, because I did much of the homework to make the law happen here, I have become somewhat of a de facto expert. Why me? I wail as I schlep all over the state, staying in hotels or sleeping on couches, addressing knots of people who have come to learn more. (I am grateful they show up.)
Michel Martin’s piece caused me to reflect on my last year of action. I am moved to tell you that in my role of executive director of Hatch Innovation, I have been honored to work with many other leaders, visionaries, friends, and very hard workers to provide support to those building a future we can live in. I work in a beautiful place, an amazing city, with dedicated people.
I am grateful to be among the giving! – of myself, my time, my resources – and this day of giving gave me pause, to be grateful for the gift of action, of taking on a leadership role, of being able to do things I believe are important.
It is the role of the nonprofit to inhabit this identity, and why we ask for your support on this Giving Tuesday. But as you choose to give, know it is an important action, and celebrate yourself a little too!