It’s international day of loving on my people. And Guinness and the color green, sometimes in the same glass unfortunately. This blog honors the other Irish Saints ~ the radical Bernadette Devlin and rascal Oscar Wilde ~ by shamelessly using my given voice, which requires an abundance of the words saint, angel, devil and god (once with a Cap!). I did resist using good and people in the same sentence more than once.
What’s all this love talk about lately? And how are we really supposed to pull this off? I mean truly integrating love and responsibility (or caring and urgency, heart and mind, people and planet…) as the way of creating this better world?
Or to put it more concretely, what needs to be blown up so that love could transform something as entrenched as institutional racism in the American Criminal Justice System?
It’s becoming more possible for dominant social sector leaders to drop the L word in ways that are more than talk. This year, the World Health Organization attracted press attention for adding “boosting a child’s chance of surviving Ebola may be as simple as providing extra attention and love along with medical care” to their guidelines for treating the disease. This is potent medicine with backing to scale.
Around the same time, Philanthropists Jennifer and Peter Buffet dropped their Valentine’s day opinion piece Philanthropy Must Lead With Its Heart where they challenge the limits of “address[ing] the root causes of big global challenges” in a world where “nonprofit leaders are advised to avoid words like “love” or “caring” for fear of being seen as “not strategic.””
Both examples create possibility for sure. I hear my 92 year old godmother’s voice saying “God bless’em” when reading these articles. Her way of encouraging the good in people comes through whenever I witness bold acts of leading from the heart.
It’s moving to read a love-leading challenge to the commodity-based (inputs equal outputs) philanthropy model that has been directing so much of our good intentions and hard work for decades. But only moments after the warm after-glow has surged through my veins, another voice ~ wizened from decades of building and working in the not-for-profit industrial complex ~ intervenes and says show me.
The Buffets never use the words poverty, disparity nor, god forbid, capitalism. Bottomline, they are promoting a new philanthropy where the people who are “lucky enough to become financially independent” lead more from their hearts than from metrics. This is awesome and I would like very much to spend their money to good effect. It’s an irresistible invitation to partner with a self-reflective funder who values relationships over outcomes and investing in people over products.
That said, let’s be clear that this is a call for a new philanthropy that could advance things like integrating love into medical interventions, not an invitation to blow up or even question our current economic system where, to quote the Buffets, “all we see is symptom after symptom of a poisoned root.”
And this is where we end up again and again. When our human capacity for cruelty and retribution covers the front pages, we remember that love is the answer to everything. If only the solution was as simple as adding it to a proven medical intervention.
When someone with structural power says that love is the answer to a global issue (think institutional racism in our justice system) the angel on my shoulder (inner godmother) blesses the bold one who has open heartedly called us to love each other and the devil on the other reminds me that love is anemic without the power to blow things up.
May your glass be ever full.
May the roof over your head be always strong.
And may you be in heaven half an hour before the devil knows you're dead.