07 Jan 2019 CAUSE & EFFECT: Begin Again in 2019
In middle school I joined the band and learned how to play the flute (sort of). Most students gave the band a go as we grew up in an era that music and art were abundantly supported as part of the curriculum. It was a given that sixth grade included some sort of lugging an instrument on and off the bus and many renditions of ear-piercing musical scales. Nothing compares to the sounds that emerge from the beginners’ band room.
By high school, the musicians who stuck with their instrument joined the marching band. I traded my band uniform for a spot on the dance squad but continued to play flute with the performance band and picked up the piccolo along the way just to mix it up a bit.
Research shows that learning how to play music helps brain development. I think this holds true for many forms of exposing ourselves to something new. But it is easy as we progress in life to find fewer opportunities to learn something from a novice perspective. We master a skill or career, dedicate ourselves to our interests and as time goes by become more of an expert than a beginner.
With age comes intentionality in our quest to create new beginnings. There is a tendency to think beginning again means we must leave everything behind and start over. Particularly this time of year, pressure is on to create resolutions and fresh starts.
Recently I felt as if I wanted to start something new, so I ordered a flute and to my surprise the beginners teaching books that had guided me through middle school were still in print, and I requested those as well. I hadn’t picked up an instrument since high school graduation but was pretty certain once I had those books in hand everything would come flooding back and I would be giving Gulf Coast Symphony a call for an audition.
I wanted to feel like a neophyte, but quickly transition to mastery.
The flute currently is on the top shelf of my closet after my family begged me to stop torturing them. No one had the patience for my new beginning.
The exercise reminded me of a quote by the Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.” In Buddhism it is referenced as the beginner’s mind.
It made me question and explore how I could approach my career with a beginner’s mind, much the same way I looked at the flute decades ago.
The Southwest Florida Community Foundation, in partnership with the City of Fort Myers, recently opened Collaboratory in midtown Fort Myers. It is a space dedicated to bringing people, ideas, technology and funding together to cultivate change, seize opportunities and solve community issues. Our Foundation offices have moved into the space along with nonprofit and private sector tenants. On most days the meeting rooms are full and buzzing with possibilities. The work we do in Collaboratory is an extension of the collective change making the Foundation has led over the last decade.
The new space has afforded our team the ability to reimagine our worlds with the beginner’s mind. Recently a colleague shared a quote that I will carry with me into the new year, “A building is not something you finish. A building is something you start.”
Each day our team is greeted by donors, advocates, and residents who are ready to begin something -it may not be new to us, but the desire in them is fresh and emerging.
I plan to hang on to the flute- occasionally pulling it off the shelf as a reminder to begin again. My hope for the community is that we approach 2019 with a beginner’s mind and discover we can create things again and again and again for the common good.
About the Southwest Florida Community Foundation
The Southwest Florida Community Foundation, founded in 1976, cultivates regional change for the common good through collective leadership, social innovation and philanthropy to address the evolving community needs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Foundation partners with individuals, families and corporations who have created more than 400 philanthropic funds. Thanks to them, the Foundation invested $6.8 million in grants and programs to the community. With assets of more than $126 million, it has provided $78.2 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan. The Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s regional headquarters are now located in the historic ACL Train Depot at Collaboratory in downtown Fort Myers, with a satellite office located in LaBelle (Hendry County). For more information, call 239-274-5900 or visit www.floridacommunity.com