The post is named, “Quote me.” Ironically, over the years, I have developed a few catch phrases, but I first wanted to start with famous other people whose quotes resonate truth, for me.
“Liberty of any kind is never lost all at once.” ~ David Hume
I discovered this quote while studying at James Madison College, a residentiary college at Michigan State University. We were actually reading Hume. I don’t, unfortunately, remember much aside from this quote of his. But, I consider what has happened in my life time. Seat belt laws strengthen. Laws around my body ebb and flow, with the current ebb being more restrictions. We redefine and define rules, like allowing marriage, to restrict fewer and fewer people. We layer more laws in the name of safety to protect ourselves for the common good.
None of these things happened over night. Little by little, we stopped paying attention, and the politicians added more because someone asked them to. Someone who perhaps doesn’t value individual freedom as I do.
I value individual freedom highest. I trust that, generally, we are smart enough to figure out what we need to do for survival. When we consider sustainability and a better collective future for our children, we don’t need to restrict our freedom further, rather, we need to work on building our communities so we each value sustainability more or less the same.
“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” ~ Benjamin Franklin
Many of these liberties we give up, like allowing seat belts and not wearing them to be a ticketable offense, are in the name of safety. We are so vetted in our culture of fear, that we fear other people are too stupid to do the right thing. Instead of making the harder, longer term investment in people, we feel it’d be easier to simply tell them what is right and what is wrong. But, who is this other to judge, really? Instead of taking a look at that question, we continue to make laws in the name of safety forgoing true community development.
“Occasionally the tree of Liberty must be watered with the blood of Patriots and Tyrants.” ~ Thomas Jefferson
I learned about Jefferson’s thoughts while studying some of our founders’ thoughts in round 2 of going to school (Fall 2000, Michigan State University). We discussed how Jefferson wanted a sort of uprising to keep the government on top under control. We discussed how certain laws in their purity were more in line with his thinking and vision for our United States. And, though I abhor the thought of war every twenty years (the timeline we discussed in 2000), I like the idea of complacency being shaken to its core. Consider our government today with our frustrations in their inability to get a long. Perhaps that frustration would be shaken into something better when their positions were less secure?
All said – those are three of my favorite quotes when considering philosophy of our society. I prefer, however, a more in-depth community building attempt, which is why I have found myself saying the following three things, repeatedly over the years.
I belong to and have belonged to many paid and volunteer organizations. In each, we have a lot of things we want to do. In each I’ve felt with flexible and micro managers. The latter being the most difficult to work with. Never wanting to aspire to be something I hate, I consider the alternative. For most things, there are more than one way to do thing. So, why would we get so tied up in a thing, an instruction? Or, if the instruction is so important, why didn’t we lay that out when we passed on a task? So, in delegating, I think it’s important to honor the things the other person can bring to the task and give them the discretion to do.
“Grace of Space”
In an organization, people come and go. In a volunteer organization, you need people coming, more than you need them going, if the organization is going to function. Volunteering, you are honored to have someone give their time to your cause – whether its counseling people on a hotline, delivering food to those who need it, or sorting first aid supplies in advance of the next crisis. Time is so precious. We all participate in our daily balancing acts, juggling our obligations of family, friends, personal needs, work, and then, where is time for fun? So, in the midst of all that, someone is gracing your space with their presence in order to further your cause – the first thought should be on of gratitude. How lucky we are to work with a diversity of individuals who bring varied skills and interests to the things precious to us.
A very simple way to honor the time one spends with our organization is to grant them grace to leave, when they need to. Then, when their time shifts and they can come back, you welcome them with open arms.
“Concentric Circles of Participation”
Have you heard of the 80/20 rule? The 80/20 rule suggests that 20% of your work will yield 80% of your results. For example, maybe you have a few large funders in your non-profit whose gifts yield 80% of the organization’s funds, yet they only represent 20% of your total donors. In volunteer run clubs, I have found that about 20% of the members do about 80% of the work. They are the ones doing the heavy lifting, organizing logistics, putting systems in place, monitoring systems, making sure the financial piece doesn’t fall, keeping people motivated, communicating, and the list goes on. That means 80% of the members only do 20% of the work. But, the point to not forget is that we need that 20% done or the job isn’t done. So, we have concentric circles of participation. We have a few inner circles that encompass the core. The outer circles have more people, but they do less “work”, and sometimes their participation might even be the barest bones of requirements.
The point to remember is that we need all of the people in the circle to make the organization run. And, we give people grace of space to move in and out of circles of participation as their lives allow.