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Do What You Can, Where you Are, With What You Have

With a crisis as overwhelming as COVID19, it can feel like whatever you are doing is not enough.

I just finished reading dozens of Community Organizing grant requests. With abundant facts and examples, each proposal made the same point:

The need is greater than the available resources.

People have lost jobs, children are home from school, and essential workers are trying to stay healthy. You know the situation, because we are all in this. Meanwhile, some regions are trying to "open" and "return to normal" even though we are just as vulnerable as we were in February and March and April and May. Still without enough PPE, still without a vaccine.

While all of that is absolutely true, as I read through those dozens of proposals, another theme emerged:

We are doing everything we can.

In ways small and large, organizations and individuals are doing what they can. In city neighborhoods, community members have created mutual aid programs, staff have located resources for basic needs, and more than a few Go-Fund-Me listings have helped newly-unemployed residents pay rent.

This work continues today without a clear end in sight. And the reality is that even doing everything-we-can will not stop people from dying from COVID19.

Emergent Strategies author Adrienne Maree Brown challenges us to see our individual efforts as parts of a much greater whole. She uses the examples of ferns and snowflakes to illustrate fractals: objects that look roughly the same at any scale.

What is large is a reflection of the small. How we are at the small scale is how we are at the large scale. Create the world you want through your own actions, she says. What you pay attention to, grows.

As you know, no one person or organization is enough to 'fix' this. But every effort does contribute to a greater whole. Someday we will tell this story as one of collective despair, of anger and of action -- including acts of generosity and unprecedented cooperation.

We all have different roles in this. We do what we can, where we are, with what we have. No single one of us, no single organization, is going to change the course of this history. But we are flying as a flock.

I recently had a conversation with a board member that helped me to see this more clearly.

Rachel called to see how I was doing and to catch up on Foundation work. After talking about the dozens of proposals, I asked how she was doing. She told me about this beautiful little project that she just created out of the blue: For Nurse's Day, she made, stuffed and delivered gift bags for nurses at a local hospital.

Can you imagine receiving something like this, at work, from a stranger?

I've always wanted to be the kind of person who does something like this. Those gift bags are kindness and concern made tangible. Where did she find the time, the energy, the idea?

"Just trying to do what I can," she told me. Of course, she's doing so much more than this.

Today, in these scary and uncertain times, we do what we can. We take what might seem like small actions. Even though it might not be "enough" and it might not "fix" the whole problem. And we trust that together, we are creating the world we want to live in.

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