“Your worldview is from where you stand.” When is the last time you had civil discourse with someone who has a different worldview from you? For me, it was this morning with another Impact 100 member. And the conversation gave me hope in how dialogue and proximity create stronger connections.
This is a different President’s Message. The Impact 100 process is outlined elsewhere in this newsletter and online. And, hopefully by now, you have heard about the January 23 BIG Reveal in which we announced our highest membership contribution total ever: $436,000. Stay tuned for more photos on our various social media channels!
So let’s cut to the heart of engaging in civil discourse. After The BIG Reveal, Marla* sent me an email with concerns about the event location: our 2016 grant recipient, St. Francis Seraph Ministries, specifically, in the Mother Teresa Calcutta Dining Room which annually serves 50,000+ breakfast & dinner guests seeking a warm meal in a welcoming environment. Marla’s concern was safety of the event location in Over-the-Rhine.
From those same tables of the Ministries’ soup kitchen 20 years ago, I first developed relationships with people experiencing homelessness. I recall my own initial uneasiness. I now live eight blocks up the street and the fond memories of the neighborhood (then and now) are memories held by both old and new residents & friends. I was frustrated by Marla’s concerns in her email; so much so, that a narrative of Marla started forming in my head. So, I started to type a response. Hit backspace. Ctrl+A. Delete. Start over. Repeat. And finally typed out: “Thanks so much for this email. Can we grab coffee tomorrow morning to talk about this?”
So we met. My worldview brought forth feelings of personal frustration: did Marla know my experience, or that a football could be thrown in any direction and hit quite a few other homes of Impact 100 members? Marla’s worldview was shaped by a set of different circumstances from where she stood: did I understand why she questioned the neighborhood from what she had known? Did I know it was dark and raining sideways the day of The Big Reveal? Or could I recognize her feeling of ill-preparedness in attending the venue without closer parking availability? No, we didn’t initially understand these feelings, their contexts, or each other’s perspectives. What an opportunity to connect over coffee and share our similarities and differences in how our worldviews shaped us.
If our worldviews are from where we stand – yet we are standing on different sides of this tristate – what is true? Of course, what feels most comfortable is true; that is human nature. But for change to happen for the better, we have to get uncomfortable. Today, Marla and I were uncomfortable and we came out of the coffee shop better for leaning into that space of unease.
Friends, I have yet to be in a Focus Area Committee in which there was not an uncomfortable conversation topic that concerns the wellbeing of our neighborhoods and cities. From education to transportation to wellbeing and the environment. What matters is that we know where we stand, can offer our truth, and also hold another’s life experiences, worldview, and truth for the betterment of our city through civil discourse.
One of my favorite pieces by Rachel Naomi Remen (Helping, Fixing, or Serving?) notes: “Fixing and helping create a distance between people, but we cannot serve at a distance. We can only serve that to which we are profoundly connected.”
Thank you, Impact 100, for being proximate to one of our grant recipients at The BIG Reveal and making a profound connection to our collective philanthropy in action. May our worldviews be shared over the coming months in Focus Area Committees in ways we see new truths and learn from our nonprofit partners’ grant applications. As we embark on a year committed to greater diversity, equity, and inclusion, may the opportunity for profound connection guide us.
*Name changed and this letter is published with permission and review by the member.
Clare Zlatic Blankemeyer
Impact 100 President