The Perfect Paradise

It feels strange after all these years to know that this is my last Foundation column. You’ll hear from Lauren Kugler next month – I’ve passed the reins of Executive Director into her capable hands.

All month, I’ve thought about what I might say this week. It feels both odd and right that there really isn’t any “last wisdom” I want to impart. Do know that I’m not going anywhere – I love the Valley too much. And, I will be part of ongoing community projects – that’s just my nature.

What I’ll do instead is give you some themes I’ve most likely written about before, maybe more subtly – but, hey, it’s my last time to do this with/for you.

We are all one. That’s my personal belief and hopefully how I live my life. We are all connected by our humanity. Yes, there are differences of opinion in the Valley – goodness knows there is enough controversy to keep everyone buzzing. Yet, underneath those differences, at the heart of it – if we really think about our “differences”, we all want what’s best for the community. OK, since there are a few bad apples in every barrel, let’s say that 99% of us want what’s best and the other 1% will eventually leave anyway. Don’t let them be the loudest voice before they go away.

To be truly successful as a community, we need to nurture the good part of each of us that is big enough to listen hard to someone who thinks about an issue differently than we do. That doesn’t mean we have to agree – different perspectives are healthy. It does mean we are respectful of one another. And it does mean that we don’t work behind the scenes to cause disruption. Not if our actual goal is what’s best for the Valley. That’s precisely when we need to come together, leave our egos at the door (literal or virtual) and talk about what we have in common. When we recognize the commonalities, talking about our differences is more likely to elicit civil conversation. There is no one right way. There is only what is good for us all.

Now to my deepest passion here in the valley – our nonprofit community. How privileged we are to have so many agencies filling such a variety of niche needs. In the areas of arts and culture, community development, environment, education, human services, athletics, recreation, historical tradition and preservation and domestic animal welfare and protection (which just happen to be the categories for the Foundation’s Community Grants). Our nonprofits excel. They make us better.

People often ask why there are so many – and with very little duplication of services. My answer is that we may only have a population of +15,000, but if there is an issue out there in any big metropolitan area, we have a microcosm of that same problem here – and sometimes others as well (think about the Avalanche Center). How lucky we are to have people who care enough to want to make a difference in each of those areas. It’s folks with a passion who serve on boards, volunteer or work to make inroads toward solutions.

We should each give thanks for our friends and neighbors who live a life of service. People who are big-hearted and helpful. People who step forward to make a difference in someone’s life. They are the kind, caring, thoughtful and generous 99 percent of us.

I leave you with thoughts of civility, purposeful nonprofits, kindness and generosity. Thanks for letting me be part of your lives for all these years.

Donors: Please continue to be generous – now is an especially vulnerable time for all our nonprofits; know that your generosity has an enormous impact.

Nonprofits: Do some scenario planning, go back to your core mission, and re-envision who you are and how you survive intact in these changing times.

Community: put your “Speak Your Peace” buttons on (the Foundation still has some) and work together to make this Valley the perfect paradise.

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