02 Sep 2019 CAUSE & EFFECT: Objects are Closer Than They Appear
by Sarah Owen, president & CEO, Southwest Florida Community Foundation
I have a 3-hour limit. I don’t turn into a pumpkin, but anything longer than 3 hours in a car and I am looking for an escape hatch. My husband on the other hand loves a solid cross-country road trip. So, over the years we have compromised, negotiated and found ways to travel together.
Most recently we were faced with moving our youngest kid to college at a campus that was a 17.5 hour car trip away, and that’s just one way. I immediately assumed we would fly him up, buy what we needed, hug goodbye, cry and head back to the airport.
I shouldn’t have been surprised to learn that my other half had an altogether different plan in mind. None of it including a plane. He wanted the road trip. I spent a few months trying to pitch the pros of air travel but in this case, he was pretty set and I understood. Sending the last one off is tough and so the extended car trip idea seemed to provide a way to prolong the last moments we would have as a family as we knew it, before launching him out into the world.
His plan prevailed and we drove. Just like clockwork right around Orlando I was ready to stop and get a hotel, but we pressed on. At this juncture in the story you might expect me to shift the plot and share how we bonded, shared memories, sang songs and provided our son with nuggets of wisdom. Nope. He slept most of the trip, while I held my complaining tongue and urge to jump from a moving vehicle. My husband was perfectly happy making the journey and seemed to enjoy every moment.
I will spare you the Mom version of the heart wrenching details of the college drop off. If you’ve done it you already know and if you haven’t you don’t want to hear about it.
The road home was the same 17.5 hours but I approached it much differently and with new appreciation. Each mile seemed as if we were moving farther and farther away from our son which was unsettling, but at the vexing 3 hour mark, I looked in the side view mirror and saw the message I had seen hundreds of times before, “Objects in Mirror are Closer Than They Appear.” Suddenly it had a whole new meaning.
The next 15.5 hours of car time, I processed and reflected on the fact that the distance from my son was not as far as it seemed. He would always be closer than he appeared, and I just needed to be patient in navigating this next chapter. A new reality would be emerging and closeness with my son was not out of reach.
I often see this dynamic playing out when I am working alongside people who are trying to create change in our community. Getting to the destination is not a quick plane trip but rather the road trip variety. We want the change so much that at about the proverbial 3-hour mark we are ready to jump ship and question whether it can happen at all. The harder we work the more distant the change we want can appear.
Once a month I have the pleasure and privilege of meeting with a group of nonprofit board members and staff for the purpose of both imagining the big possibilities for our community and encouraging each other in the journey of creating those dreams. We have come to the realization that we set very little time aside to pursue the discipline of not becoming discouraged. These are organizations pursuing groundbreaking moon shot ideas locally that will impact our region in significant ways- this deserves our time and attention.
Things that are longer than endless car rides are pursuing the elimination of poverty, saving our water, or creating an abundant supply of attainable, desirable housing. We all get discouraged and consider pulling over and getting out of the car.
But something happens when we all get together and share the frustrations and the victories of our work in creating change. We are able to see that the objects of our service, philanthropy and work are really closer than they appear. We just have to keep our eyes on the future. If you are on a road trip of change, the team at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation would love to hear from you at [email protected] If you need some encouragement on your moon shot idea, consider joining us at the Bolder Board Training Nov. 2, 2020. Details can be found at www.FloridaCommunity.com/bolder-board-training.
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.