Nonprofits

I’m not feeling a barbecue this Fourth of July

Two words resonate for me during these challenging times: action and community

(Photo by Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images)

At the end of almost every week, I find myself reflecting on how hard this past week was. And the hits keep coming. We absorb one body blow after another. Fifteen people got COVID after a family wedding I went to earlier this month. I watch the horrifying, mesmerizing January 6th hearings – sometimes forgetting that it is not a lost episode of ‘House of Cards.” And maybe most sickeningly, we spent this week watching the U.S. Supreme Court dismantle piece after piece of what I hold sacred. It’s too much to bear, and yet what is our alternative? 

I am stuck on this Dave Eggers quote, which describes exactly where I am: 

"They were so in love with the world and so disappointed in every aspect of it that drinking another bottle of wine while they sat at the kitchen table seemed the only way to honor it" 

But after the bottle of wine, or nap, or Netflix, or crying session – then what? And how on Earth does one mark the Fourth of July in this country this year?

There are two things that work for me: action and community. Under action, I wonder how we take advantage of every single opportunity we have to address the challenges we are facing – everything we can do at the jobs we hold, on the boards where we serve, at the places where we volunteer, with the dollars we can spare, with the young people we can impact, with the friends and family we can influence. What are the conversations we can have and the actions we can take that move us towards an America where all of us can feel safe, can have autonomy, have our basic health care, housing, educational needs met, give and get respect and understanding and have room for joy? On my job – at a foundation in New York City – I look to people like Carmen Rojas who teaches us to fund organizers, use our endowment investments towards justice, and release and share power if we want to protect democracy. I always listen to Vu Le who challenges, shames, cajoles and invites funders to look at their own culpability and take action to shift mindset and more importantly – to move dollars. I see no other conclusion that this is the moment to go big – because going home looks less and less possible. 

And for community – the only way to do this hard, hard, confusing work is to do it together – to invite, challenge, inspire, listen, fight, fight back, care for, love and be brave together. It’s hard to be our bravest and best selves in a moment like this. We need spaces where we can share our fears and our ideas. Where we can agree and disagree while staying in relationship and finding our common goals amongst different ideas about strategy and priorities.

I’m not feeling a barbecue this weekend. At the suggestion of a friend, I will be listening to Frederick Douglas’ speech – What to a Slave is the Fourth of July? this coming weekend. I will talk to my family and friends about how sad and scared we are, and what we can do to get up from the kitchen table and get back to it – with more force than ever. And then I’ll see you out there on the field.

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