Quality Transformation: Hold on to what is good

David SchwinnDavid Schwinn remarks on leadership of international “heroes” in learning and collaborating.

About 18 years ago, my wife Carole and I were invited, along with a third colleague, to document the learning that occurred with a group of nearly 20 international “heroes.” This learning was intended to more deeply inform and integrate the outer work in the world of these “heroes” with their “inner life” of mind and spirit. We were to document the learning as members of the group rather than outside observers.

I have chosen to identify them as “heroes” because they were people chosen for the noble work they were already doing in the world. For example, one was working with the K-12 educational systems in New York City to help disadvantaged citizens of the city. Another wandered the world encouraging dialogue wherever there was war and conflict as a way to stop the human suffering. Yet another also went to war-torn areas around the world to take care of the children. One of them established a nonprofit agency to identify and reduce the damage caused to children by the toxins in our environment. Yet another was working in her home country, Nigeria, to establish a true democracy.

Each of these people, as a result of this learning project, individually pursued their own developmental path with the financial and physical support of the sponsoring mid-America nonprofit foundation. In addition to their individual journeys, they all came together several times each year during the three-year, funded project. Knowing the backgrounds of those folks, I was surprised at how vulnerable they all were when we came together. For example, they were concerned that we, on the Learning Advisory Team (that’s what we three called ourselves) might record something that was too dangerous or personal. The conversations were always deeply personal. It took many sessions together to significantly reduce the fear in the overall group, but through the guidance of Angeles Arrien, an anthropologist, superb facilitator, and loving mentor, the fear did subside. It did, however, not ever completely go away.

The reason for this column at this time is that last April, we came together again. The project, itself lasted only three years, but the community, the love, the support that grew among us was undeniable and, perhaps, unstoppable. Since the end of the project, we continue to communicate and meet with one another on a regular basis, but the April event was one of a series of events when we all strive to come together as a whole. This year’s retreat was especially poignant because just after our last gathering we lost our leader, Angie, when she died. We wanted to come together to honor her, to connect and support each other and find someone else to lead us at least one more time.

In April we all came together, either physically or via phone, video, or physical correspondence. It was an affirmation of the deep need each of us has for heartfelt connection with people who love and support us. Some excerpts from a summary of the April gathering came to us from the event’s facilitator.

“…You, we, all of us were present throughout the weekend, in the flesh or in the spirit.  Every name lifted up, every check-in shared, every story heard with mind, heart, and prayer.  There were tensions.  Plans went awry.  Needs arose.  There was way too much smoke from the charcoal that burned the frankincense whose purpose was to cleanse, not choke.   There was forgiveness.  We were staff and guests at once and each served the group in ways noticed and unnoticed.  There was physical pain and there was soul pain.  There was talk of death and loss, disease and dysfunction, challenge, transition, fear, uncertainty, aging, wisdom, and joy.  There was laughter and there were tears.  There was silence, poetry, and song…My thank you gift to us all is this transcription of the Hopi Prayer, as Angie spoke it to vision questers in 2001:

Hold on to what is good
Even if it’s a handful of earth.
Hold on to what is good
Even if it’s a tree that stands by itself.
Hold on to what you must do
Even if it’s a long way from here.
Hold on to your life,
Even if it’s easier to let go.
Hold on to my hand
Even when I’ve gone away from you.
Hold on to what is good.
Hold on to what is good.
Hold on to what is good.”

Sometimes the quality journey is difficult. In your own journey, I wish you a community like this and ask you to hold on to what is good.

As always, I treasure your thoughts and questions.

One thought on “Quality Transformation: Hold on to what is good

  1. Thank you for sharing this Hopi Prayer. I will try to remember to pass this along. And for myself, I’ll try to keep in mind its messages.

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