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Two Sides of Surprise

Two Sides of Surprise

Some people like surprises, others do not.  While I like the idea of surprises, not all surprises are welcome.

Not too long ago, I discovered the tile floors in my 1950s home were coming loose.  I wasn’t very fond of the floors, so my heart wasn’t broken by this unpleasant surprise.  I definitely felt the sting of uncertainty about what to do, moving things around, and potentially being displaced, not to mention the expense.

One thing lead to another, as things do with home repairs, and I was hit with another surprise.  A subcontractor decided to take my tile up.  I didn’t request it or agree to pay for it prior to the work being completed.  Before I could get upset though, I saw there was a beautiful, red oak floor beneath the ugly, broken tile.  These were once matured oak trees that lived and breathed in their day.  They were sturdy and flexed, creaking and moving with the activity of the house. The subcontractors took a risk by nudging me toward the inevitable, and I got a wonderful surprise in the form of a historic floor that needed to be refinished rather than replaced.

The same can be true of surprises on a larger scale.  Sometimes your community can take you by surprise.

At the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, we have a group of funders who were surprised to learn about a problem in their cause area that no one in the region seemed to be addressing.  We worked with them to put out a call for ideas to begin to solve the problem despite serious concerns that there may be no response.  What if no one stepped up to help them address this problem?

If they did respond, would the ideas be something the group felt comfortable with or be willing to put their money into? Would there be any ideas that could result in the positive impact everyone hoped for but couldn’t imagine regardless of the desire to do something at the time?

Weeks passed and six responses were submitted.  Much to everyone’s surprise, the responses began to piece together a puzzle that might begin to get at the change they wanted to see in Southwest Florida.  These solutions, much like the red oak floors, had been there all along. It just took a surprise in the form of a problem and the desire to take action to unearth them.  It was a delight, both unexpected and promising.

Our community and the thoughtful people that serve it produced a handful, not just one or two, but a handful of new ideas — ideas the group could work with and, from which, one could be chosen to begin a new era of work in the region.  Work that could change the way many do business and potentially change lives in an area we haven’t tackled together before.

This call and the resulting ideas embodied both sides of surprise.  The unpleasant realization of something you wish wasn’t true and the pleasant elation of stumbling upon something beautiful.

Over the coming weeks, the funders will vet these ideas further with the hope that one will fulfill their intent.  We will walk alongside them to implement their vision for change that is beginning to take shape.

If you like surprises, don’t let the size or the cost of a problem get the best of you.  We’re here to help you reach out to the community where great ideas result in real change for the common good.  Check us out at

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 over 400 philanthropic funds.  Thanks to them, last year the Foundation invested $5 million in grants and programs to the community.  With assets of $111 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $69 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.  Based in Fort Myers, the Foundation has satellite offices located in Sanibel Island, LaBelle (Hendry County), and downtown Fort Myers.  For more information, visit or call 239-274-5900.


Tessa Lesage
Tessa Lesage