From Anger to Love

When we feel angry, we may also feel disconnected and stuck. As we come into awareness of this anger, we start to loosen up and open up. Things start to fall into place. Angst is the process of transforming anger into passion. Throughout this process, we continue opening up and aligning our life pieces. Ultimately, we find love in our hearts. We are free and wholly integrated.

At any moment in time, we can be in multiple parts of this chart depending on our interpretation of our experience, our perceived options, and our perceived capacity to change. Right now, I am writing this blog out of a place of pure love, integration, and freedom. Yet, I am living in a place where I am in the movement phase. It is much easier to change our inner countenance than our outer material reality; however, they are interconnected. By continuing to act with love, I will ultimately find the place to which I am going. In my lifetime, I hope to align and integrate all aspects of my inner and outer life having fully explored the possibilities and choosing what is best for me.

L3: Honestly Authentic

I often feel the need to separate my personal and professional identities. They are not necessarily inconsistent; however, I fear that my quirkiness and eccentricities might bemuse, offend, or alienate some people with whom it is important for me to maintain a professional relationship.

I have several close personal friends who I initially met and got to know on a professional basis. When these relationships start to cross that line, I always feel a bit of anxiety as I start to slowly reveal the ‘real me.’ The risk of destroying a professional relationship because a trial friendship has gone awry is one that merits careful consideration.

As I mature and experience exploring a variety of interpersonal relationships, I increasingly understand the value of being sincere and genuine right from the beginning and at all times. Does anyone really care that I am a socialist cat lady who occasionally enjoys listening to thrash metal?

In fact, these distinguishing characteristics may make me more intriguing and appealing to those trapped in the mundanity of 9 to 5. My uniqueness and individuality set me apart from the crowd and provide cues for others to remember who I am. And for those who find me offensive, that’s just too bad.

Hiding my true nature would be wasteful. Eventually, most people will find out something  personal about me through the grapevine. If a colleague finds this information to be unsavory, we can cut to the chase and terminate the relationship before it gets too complicated – if that is the other person’s true desire. Sharing all aspects of my personality, beliefs, and activities may help another person learn something or develop a new interest. Withholding personal information limits opportunities for people to get to know wonderful me – and for me to get to know wonderful them in exchange.

When we piece together the many aspects of our lives, it is like melting chunks of cheese in a pot.  It all combines to make one sauce that is our unique essence. Our spirit is the heat that melts the cheese which we use to flavor life by pouring it over everything we taste. Before pouring our sauce over someone else’s bread, we ought to let them know what they are about to eat.

Appearances can be deceiving. Bleu cheese, which looks moldy and smells like something unsavory, is widely considered to be a lovely delicacy with many culinary uses. I may appear to be a stuffy, serious organizational leader from afar, but inside I am a dynamic woman with extraordinary passions, hopes, and dreams. My fear may manifest as confidence; my insecurities as competencies. Taking the time to experience and develop a deeper understanding of others usually reveals many wonderful surprises.

I also have a few skeletons in my closet which most people do not know about. They all represent a learning experience that strengthened my character, expanded my capabilities, and fueled my growth. There is a direct and concrete application between difficult personal experiences and my ability to effectively lead. Yet, our society does not encourage sharing these stories. There is a stigma associated with abnormal experiences – yet anyone who has truly lived has had a preponderance of them. By exploring and sharing these experiences with others in a safe environment, perhaps with others who have had a similar experience, we can expand our understanding and develop deeper connections with others.

Our experiences, which include those that we may not be so proud of, make us who we are.  They shape our goals, motivations, and values. Being honest with ourselves and others about where we are coming from and where we hope to go channels our collective energy into strategies and activities that directly support our deepest desires and dreams.

The Privatization Equation

There is an ongoing movement in Pennsylvania to publicly fund private schools. Like other organizations, such as hospitals and the emerging fourth sector, for-profit organizations are touted as more efficient – and more effective – than their nonprofit counterparts.

I am not able to intellectually process the efficiency argument. I envision the expenses of each entity as follows:

Business expenses = costs + all taxes + profit

Nonprofit expenses = costs + payroll taxes

From my perspective, the nonprofit expenses are by default much lower than those of business. Perhaps I am missing something.

In my experience, nonprofit – or community benefit – organizations are also more effective in the delivery of public and community services. Community benefit organizations are driven by community need. Businesses, particularly those that are shareholder owned, are driven by making profits. Isn’t that a distraction?

Let’s look at a personal example. The Fruition Coalition is a social enterprise; a for-profit organization. When I first started the organization in 2001, I toyed with the idea of creating a nonprofit organization. Lacking scale and the technological capacity that is available today, it seemed simpler – and less expensive –- to stay a for-profit (although it has yet to be profitable). Today, as the Fruition Coalition is relaunching, I am grateful for this decision. Being a for-profit gives me the latitude to be politically open which is so important to the core of what The Fruition Coalition is all about. In addition, I can cover organizational expenses – including my time – through program service fees. This way, there is no need to compete with nonprofit organizations for limited grant funds. I can also proudly contribute taxes to the things that I value like public education (unfortunately I can’t direct how all of my tax money is spent)! While The Fruition Coalition is technically a for-profit organization, its purpose and activities are fully community-driven.

So, yes, there are times when a for-profit business is a better choice to meet a community need; The Fruition Coalition is just one example. But I believe that this is the exception rather than the rule.

The Leaves

How easily individual leaves are taken for granted

carelessly picked pressed too tightly between the

fingers and thrown away.

We sometimes don’t see the forest for the trees but also the

leaves for the trees.

Each leaf is the promise of life

and is filled with great beauty and

is central to our ecosystem.

Leaves need the trees, the trees need

the soil, the soil needs

the sun, the sun needs

the air, the air needs

the trees, the trees need

the leaves.

Charting the Organization

In an organizational behavior class last year, we were given an assignment to create an organizational chart for our place of work. I created the following chart to represent how I saw the structure of the organization.

At the time, I was working at a social service/education agency serving both children and families. I felt that program participants were at the center of the organization; everything that we did as an organization was centered on their needs. I therefore represented them as a large circle that overwhelmed the entire diagram. Surrounding the program participants was another circle representing the larger community; this includes foundations, neighbors, elected officials, etc. The executive director (me) was at the periphery of the program participants and community circles, holding everything together. That position was also connected to the board of directors and program coordinators (who were supervised by me). Direct line staff were placed next to the program coordinators as a link to the people served.

I would love to see how creative organizational designs or representations. Please share them with me and other blog readers!

Changemaker Chat – Kevin Easterling

Kevin Easterling is a native of the Lehigh Valley. As executive director of the Martin Luther & Coretta Scott King Memorial Project of the Lehigh Valley Inc., he coordinated the construction of the only memorial in the world dedicated to Dr. King and his wife Coretta Scott King

How did you first become interested in social change?

Well, as a Black man and descendant of American Slaves, born and living in America, (Specifically the Lehigh Valley) my life experiences (and love of true history) has made it most important that I be engaged in what is now termed social change. If I had to pick a defining point however, I would say the first time I knew I was classified as different was when I moved to Allentown in the mid 70’s…the Allentown School District at that time still had the integrated busing system and I was required to (because I was Black and I lived in a certain neighborhood) attend an all white elementary school across town. It was part of the school integration laws in those days. My experiences back then as a child ingrained in me that things needed to be different.  I couldn’t put my finger on it back then but I knew something had to change.

How do you define social justice?

The abolition of American Chattel Slavery and South African Apartheid, the American Freedom Movement / Civil Rights Movement, pretty much defines the need for and definition of social justice for me. The need to change laws, institutions and economic inequalities that make a certain social, ethnic or economic class of people unequal or second class citizens to other human beings.

What has been your most exciting experience as an activist?

I’ve never considered myself an activist…it seems like when you’re engaged as a Black man, people (or the Press) often label you as an activist. I’ve pretty much somewhere down the line gained a self-empowering attitude for much of my life. Life in itself is exciting when I’m engaged. In my life time though, I had the experience of observing several major world and local changes that were exciting to me…a few that stick out are the fall of Apartheid in South Africa, (Nelson Mandela becoming president), Obama becoming the first Black president. While I wasn’t directly involved in these two events they were very exciting to me.

(Note: This raises an interesting point…what is an activist? What is activism? This is a great conversation starter for local communities! – Editor)

What is the most interesting project in which you are currently involved?

There are several, but if I had to pick one I would have to say the work I’m doing now as the executive director for the Martin Luther & Coretta Scott King Memorial Project of the Lehigh Valley.

What is your vision for a better world?

People have been so conditioned by the rich and powerful that they have settled for injustice because they don’t feel like they can make the world different. The capacity for moral outrage is in much deficit all over the world. A better world will come when all of man-kind understands how we are all connected. There is enough fruit and wealth for everyone on this planet… senseless war and greed has crippled this planet. Remove these two things and things could be a lot better for the world.

What are your plans for the future?

Not sure yet.

L3: Accept Your Humanity with Humility

My mom always says that regardless of a person’s life experience or cultural background, we can all recognize the smell of feet. I add that we all have stinky feet – and sometimes other body parts, too! Leaders are certainly not above this human phenomenon. I know that my feet stink – and that yours probably do, too…especially on a sweltering summer day.

All human beings, even leaders, are rife with multiple faults and shortcomings. Take me, for example. I am a workaholic multitasker, and I make mistakes all of the time. Although I have been entrusted with great responsibilities in my leadership, and rightfully so, I am not immune to foibles resulting from poor judgment, miscommunication, or lack of information on occasion.

Think of the many ways your humanity is revealed to you on a daily basis. When you wake up, you are confronted with morning breath and ripe armpits. You trip on a crack in the concrete and fall flat on your face. You forget to put twenty-five cents in the parking meter and get a ticket for fifty dollars. You spill hot coffee all over your new outfit, and that of the coworker that you just bumped into, in your hurry to get to a very important meeting on time. You mistake Mr. Married with Five Children for Mr. Wonderful.  Oops and oops again.

We are all perfectly imperfect. Me, you, our coworkers, our colleagues, our families, and  people in our community. We all stink, we all make mistakes, and we are all suffering and struggling in our own way.

When your humanity is unintentionally revealed to you or exposed to others, show yourself some compassion. Let light and love fill your heart. Find humor in the situation if possible and if not, look for a lesson to discover the situation’s meaning. When others around you reveal their humanity, extend the same courtesy to them.

Feelings of embarrassment, guilt, and remorse, which tend to surface, resurface, and resurface again, are of not necessarily useful when experienced by anyone involved with your organization. These serve as a reminder, perhaps, of our humanity; however, without analysis and positive transformation, these negative feelings can be overwhelming and counterproductive. Walking the rocky road of life with great humility expedites understanding, forgiveness, and healing.