"First you forget names, then you forget faces, then you forget to pull your zipper up, then you forget to pull your zipper down." - Leo Rosenberg
"One of the signs of passing youth is the birth of a sense of fellowship with other human beings." - Virginia Woolf
"The spiritual eyesight improves as the physical eyesight declines." - Plato
I can't change the fact that I'm getting older. In hopes I'm also growing wiser, I want to mark the occasion by focusing more on giving back than receiving. So I made my 60th a Benefit Concert for the Stone Soup Café, a local non-profit that is helping low-income families eat healthier food, AND feel they are valued members of our community. Each Saturday they transform a Unitarian Universalist Church basement into the Stone Soup Café. The story ends the same way the Stone Soup Café began- with the immense excitement of sitting down to a communal feast.
For me, the real magic in the story, and the pay what you can café, is that no one feels beholden to a wealthy benefactor. Instead everything that goes into the Stone Soup is part of the collective wealth of the community. A significant portion of the food that gets eaten is locally grown, and lovingly prepared by many hands. Diners have several opportunities to drop money in various sealed cash-boxes, so no one knows whether the person sitting at their table paid, or how much. But everyone knows that their dignity is being preserved, and they belong to a caring community.
My main ally in arranging the Benefit Concert is the Stone Soup Café's Development Director, Ari Pliskin. At our first meeting we quickly discovered we had different styles and strengths (duh!) Thankfully, we also learned fast how to identify each other's assets and freely acknowledge our deficits. One of the latter for me is logistics. By happy contrast Ari is pragmatic, and highly detail oriented. Tasks that for me would be tedious like keeping the minutes of our meetings, and tracking to do lists and timelines, were right up Ari's alley.
My ally's strength as an organizer freed me to use my own as a talent scout and concert coordinator. Now there are two roles I relish. I'm guessing Ari and I aren't alone in having a mix of attention deficits and attention assets. A clear sign we're tapping the latter is when our outlook on a task shifts from obligation to opportunity. Ari's attention assets allowed him to align his passion for organization with his proficiency at setting up a web page for online donations. Mine energized me to word-smith creative press releases, and galvanize my circle of fellow performers to provide free entertainment.
Everyone I asked, who had the date free, gladly agreed to lend their talents to the Benefit. In return I told them adding their gifts to the concert line up was the best birthday present they could give me. (To which several replied "That's good Rob- because I wasn't planning on buying you one!)
Kidding aside, their generous support sparked one final insight into We-Q and Attention Assets. Both work best when partners combine a sense of purpose with a spirit of fun. I believe anytime we blend collaboration with camaraderie, our desire to contribute, and our ability to make a difference, increase. Banding together in service of something larger than us raises our We-Q, and harnesses our attention assets. Our participation simultaneously flows from, and fuels, our common aspiration. Instead of feeling like we've been assigned to a committee we feel like we belong to a team.
I don't mind being a male cheerleader. For me the best part of getting people to pool their resources is that the resulting synergy ensures the wisdom of the whole is greater than the sum of its individual smarts. Similarly, when we get to tap into our attention assets and play to our strengths, we enjoy contributing. (Hey, it's hard not to feel good about yourself, when you're sharing something you're good at!) The end result is a joyful shift from being obliged to make a donation to feeling inspired to give a "fun"dation.