07 May CAUSE & EFFECT: Out of Nowhere
Can you imagine standing up on stage in front of a large rowdy crowd and reading excerpts from your childhood diary? It seems unimaginable to me, but last weekend I binged watched season 1 of The Mortified Guide on Netflix in which ordinary people from across the country did just this. It was the type of watching experience that is simultaneously uncomfortable, compelling and hilarious. I couldn’t stop watching, all the while considering what was in my flimsy locked journals housed safely in the attic.
I know they are there because while gathering items I was considering saving from the wrath of Hurricane Irma I came across the books of poetic humiliation. For the record, I left them behind, willing to never see them again.
I didn’t have much time to pack up so I just gave them a quick glance and noticed that I went through a period in which I was fixated on events that seemed to come out of nowhere. Each entry for several weeks began with the classic “Dear Diary”, and was quickly followed by some sort of notation that chronicled an unexpected event. “I ran into my crush today in the cafeteria, I didn’t see him behind me, it was like he came out of nowhere” or “Mrs. Wright gave a typing test today that caught me by complete surprise.” I don’t remember this period of time specifically but it does seem like I was trying to create some sort of disruption narrative in my everyday existence as a pre-teen.
If I had continued journaling into adulthood, I could have recorded some more significant out of nowhere moments.
Sometimes we get knocked off our feet in life. These moments can present themselves in a variety of ways. Imagine the difference between a long awaited surprise proposal or winning lottery ticket versus an unexpected health diagnosis or termination from a job.
Events we don’t see coming change the path of our lives. And in turn this changes the trajectory of those around us and in some cases entire communities.
Almost on a weekly basis I have the privilege of interacting with someone who is dealing with an unexpected moment in their life. In the category of pleasant surprises; a couple who sold their business and wants to direct new found resources to charitable endeavors, or families gathering for a reunion or anniversary and decide to establish a scholarship fund.
Those are exciting conversations that change the lives of the recipients on the receiving end of the unexpected generosity. But some of the most powerful impact can also result from the more difficult life turns.
I recently met with a victim of domestic violence who is seeking ways to turn her pain into a platform to help others. And when the Southwest Florida Community Foundation team meets with existing and emergent nonprofits for our quarterly Caffeinated Conversations, we are always inspired by how many organizations get their start by founders who themselves have been on the hurting side of life. Human trafficking victims, mental health advocates, grief counselors and cancer survivors who have all used their own experiences to create a safe haven for the next person who finds themselves facing an out of nowhere moment. Our Bridge for the Cure Fund was established by a grandfather who was walking through a cancer diagnosis with his young granddaughter and he is now taking on cancer research funding at a national level.
I can speak from personal experience that connecting with someone who has faced the same “I didn’t see it coming” moment is very powerful and healing. These organizations and funds allow that to happen at scale.
On a more expansive level, when I speak to the founders of our 42- year- old organization, they reflect on how many community issues they never imagined us facing. Expansive childhood hunger, the housing crash and recession, rising rates of autism and devastating storms like Charley and Irma were not on their radar when the Foundation was formed.
But they did know they wanted to create a vehicle for emerging needs and opportunities to be met and a place for those who take their out of nowhere moments and turn them into powerful vehicles for change.
If you are feeling alone in a moment you weren’t expecting, reach out for help via the United Way 211 help line, and if you are looking for a way to create something beautiful from a surprising moment in your life we are here to help or point you in the right direction. Just know you don’t have to go it alone.
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 $5.4 million in grants and programs to the community. With assets of $115 million, it has provided more than $71 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. Currently, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s regional headquarters are located off College Parkway in South Fort Myers, with satellite offices located on Sanibel Island, in LaBelle (Hendry County) and downtown Fort Myers. For more information, call 239-274-5900 or visit www.floridacommunity.com