Friday, December 16, 2016


Hope-alyptic. It’s the opposite of apocalyptic, a word I came up with when thinking about The Wishing World. It means looking at the bright side, searching for the good. These days, hope-alism in short supply. We feel hope because it is still out there, floating about, but then spend our time spitting vitriol –or listening to it– on social media or mainstream media. We talk darkly about the future.

Are there are truly more horrible things going on now than in the past? Is our future brighter or darker? I think about the theme of the movie Tomorrowland. The climax reveals that the world is self-destructing because negative images, angry speeches, and a sense of doom is being projected at the Earth, amplified a thousand-fold, intended to escalate conflict in the hopes that the Earth will destroy itself. Writer/director Brad Bird touched on something very real with his theme: the amplification of horror in our modern world. Through media. Through social media. Through, oftentimes, the best of intentions: to identify the culprit and stop them.

With all of this doomsaying, it seems like things are getting worse, that we’re galloping toward an undefined cliff. But is this truly reality, or just the reality that we’re making, like the self-fulfilling prophecy of Tomorrowland?

A video called The Fallen of World War II catalogues the deaths (70 million) of the war and points out that more people died fighting in World War II than in all the wars since. In 1989 the span between the end of WWII and the present was called The Long Peace and has continued, relatively speaking, to this day. But this doesn’t make headlines. The narrator said:

“We give such importance to the word “peace,” but we don’t tend to notice it when it occurs.”

It’s not that horrible things aren’t happening. They are. But what is the best way to fight them? Does constantly dwelling on the horrors of the world diminish them or empower them?

Imagination lifts people to create wonders. Goodwill begets goodwill, but media shines the light on the “train wrecks” of our society because that’s what we, as viewers, just can’t turn away from. Stephen Jay Gould’s The Mismeasure of Man notes that what one searches for is what one tends to find. If we look for hate and horror and point it out everywhere, what else do we expect to see?

I don’t hear anyone talking about The Long Peace. Shouldn’t we? If we want to point ourselves at a bright future, shouldn’t we look at the light?

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

A Bag of Roses

I have a bag of roses, a cup full of M&Ms, and a dark office. The roses were given to each of the Rose Community Foundation family to wear at Sheila’s funeral today. The M&Ms were Sheila’s favorite candy. The dark office is because she is gone now.

Those who know her best are at the cemetery, lowering her body into the ground. I am here in this office where she lived her dream of helping others, where she gave direction, inspiration and the whole of her being for the last eighteen years. I am here, writing down what Sheila meant to me.

Two years ago at my interview, I came in with a spring in my step. I had a purpose, and I had come to Rose as a part of that. I had been told that as a leader, Sheila was “the real deal,” and after the first minute of talking with her, I knew it was true. She had too many talents to catalogue: her keen mind, her ceaseless curiosity, her drive for excellence, her attention to detail and so many more. But her real magic was how she could make a person feel known and cared for. In that interview, I mentioned my love of science fiction and fantasy, both in books and movies. She mentioned that she had a Star Wars poster from her son’s childhood, and that she thought she still had it lying around her house somewhere, and that she would bring it in for me. With her keen insight, she spotted the parts about me that I liked the most, and let me know that those things were important to her. She had the power to make a person feel relevant, important, empowered.

As I worked with her, I saw her use this magic on Trustees, staff, and community leaders every day. She lived to serve, and her service took the form of enabling others to do good works. She made them feel larger in the exact ways they wanted to feel larger, then set them free to do large things in the world. She has given so much to so many, has stewarded the interests of the community with an open heart and wise counsel, but her greatest gift is in how she made others feel.

You will be missed, Sheila. I don’t know what the Foundation will look like without you, but I know that because of you, I will always think of how I can best serve others. I will think how I can make others comfortable, help them feel inspired about those aspects of themselves that they hold most dear.

I have a bag of roses, an empty cup of M&Ms, and a dark office. Rest in peace, Sheila. Thank you so much. Thank you for everything.

“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

-Maya Angelou