On Practicing What We Preach
Updated: Jan 3, 2019
It's the end of the calendar year, and for many nonprofits like Spitfire, it's also peak season for making sure the house is in order. That includes rolling out the never-ending end of year giving campaign, submitting grant applications, learning another grant application wasn't approved, finalizing next year's budget, preparing your tax filings, and rolling out evaluation mechanisms to check up on performance and learning.
When you're a brand new organization, this can be particularly stressful. Budgets feel a little made-up (those mean little voices in my head say "No one knows we exist! Where is this money going to come from, anyway?"), time is incredibly tight ("I'm only one person and I still need to bring my A-game to clubs each afternoon!"), and then, of course, your home becomes plagued with the latest super-snot-inducing cold, keeping your baby home from daycare (which brings me to the present).
Spitfire's five guiding values are authenticity, tenacity, resilience, curiosity, and empathy. Everything we do revolves around these values and the behaviors that make them possible. Sometimes it's easy to fall into a trap of creating the illusion that Spitfire is all one giant dance party of giggling girls, happy books, and excellent friendships. And about 80% of the time, it is! But pretending that it's all rosy is inauthentic, and it's also a roadblock to resilience.
We learn this over and over again in life, but, for me, it's strange to learn this with the children I serve: authenticity means that you have to be honest about the ups AND the downs. Resilience requires that you ask for what you need. Last week we had record-breaking attendance at one of our sites. I was overwhelmed with enthusiastic Spitfire girls. I didn't have enough books or materials with me, the bluetooth speaker was broken ( = no dance party), and my daily goal of making this the best Spitfire Club yet was looking pretty bleak. And then I realized I had to be honest with my girls: "This is hard for me. I don't know how manage a group this big. I know grownups always act like we know everything, but the truth is that I need your help." Suddenly it all changed. Older girls were pairing up with younger ones to help them follow along in their books. Two other girls voluntarily stacked the chairs from the game we had played. Another collected the books and pencils. There was no shortage of hugs and music-less dancing and joy.
In the words of the fabulous Brené Brown, "Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity" (read Daring Greatly! It's so great!)
So, in the spirit of practicing what we preach in Spitfire Club, I share a vulnerable reality: You'd think that it would be easy to run a girls' reading/empowerment program, but it's not. Some days I feel like I'm being clobbered, like this experiment is never going to break through. But the enthusiasm, strength, and pure goodness of the girls that Spitfire has the privilege of serving always have a way of lifting my spirits and steeling me for the next challenge.
Ask for what you need. Don't bury your truth. ✌️