As I drove in between the stone pillars and up the long drive, I couldn’t help but think — this was not our typical spot for meetings…the country club. I am used to conference rooms, church basements and coffee shops for meetings in my line of work.
I was the first to arrive. A hostess greeted me at the door and escorted me to a lovely room with a beautifully-dressed table. The atmosphere felt cozy with a large fireplace in the center of the room.
The waitress arrived and immediately took my drink order. I couldn’t help but wonder about her life. Did she have a family? Was she in poverty? What did she think of our reserved table for 13? I contemplated telling her that I worked for a nonprofit and the purpose of our dinner. Instead, I was quiet.
Folks arrived. There were some familiar faces from our board of directors and some new faces. We made small talk. Soon, everyone was seated and introductions began.
The waitress came back to the table and took our order. The standard three choices: salmon, chicken or steak. Then, my colleague did a brief welcome and purpose of our dinner — “To talk about the work being done to create abundant communities.” Specifically, how we can end poverty through holistic approaches and relationships. Folks were challenged to share their personal “why”.
This is when everything shifted for me.
The people around the table were influential leaders. People with financial capital. People who know business and have been financially successful.
They shared personal encounters of how they experienced community. Instances of when they felt rich… Times when they worked with young children in an urban setting… An instance when they recognized that a new community center was just a building; it needed people working together to bring it to life… And how they want their children to live out community and be challenged to think about poverty alleviation.
I could tell when they shared their “why” that it gave them a feeling of abundance. A feeling of purpose and meaning. A feeling of connectedness and community. I felt the same way. When we share our stories, we make discoveries, discoveries about how connected we actually are and can be. We discover that more of our wealth can be found in the heart and mind, not always solely in the pocket
Poverty isn’t always about your paycheck. Poverty is complex. However, we all experience poverty, we all have parts of our life where we long for abundance. Sometimes we need more money or education. Sometimes we need more meaning and purpose in our lives. Sometimes we just need to feel more connected to others.
I feel privileged to have these sort of conversations, because building abundant communities takes all kinds of people, each with the willingness to build each other up. Moving from ME to WE creates a rich environment.
Being in relationship with others who want to do better, who want our world to thrive and not merely survive, is why I look forward to many more conversations about how to create community — whether it be in a country club or a church basement.
by Heather Cunningham — to learn more about Heather’s work, please visit thinktank-inc.org