The following is a transcript of remarks delivered at the 2014 Annual Breakfast & Community Recognition Ceremony on May 22, 2014.
So…this is my second Annual Breakfast as executive director at A Woman’s Place. Since we were last gathered together here..
- I turned 40,
- I went tubing for the first time,
- I hiked Top Rock Trail at Haycock Park…also for the first time,
- I discovered that I have some disc degeneration in my neck…somewhere between C5 and C6…and that results in a pinched nerve that caused enough pain to wipe me out and actually keep me flat on my back for several weeks,
- I welcomed my newest niece – Aurora Marie, or as I like to call her, Roary – into this world. All in all, the past year has been a good time…and I haven’t even touched on A Woman’s Place yet.
Last year at this time, at this breakfast, in the spirit of leaning in, I posed the question, “What would I do if I weren’t afraid?” My answer turned out to be this: I would plan, work, and live to be 100% successful and commit myself in the most meaningful way to doing whatever it takes to get there.
Some cringe at the question, “What would 100% success look like?” The way I see it, if we’re going to do this, why not shoot for 100% success? I wasn’t always an A student, but I at least knew that 100% (or better) was the goal. What would 100% success look like? And, what would it take to get there?
Fortunately for me, my personal vision and my professional vision are well aligned. I am excited about a vision of a society where each and every individual is safe and can flourish. Building towards that is what I have been called to do. It’s not a one woman show though. I know that I stand, walk, and work alongside others to realize the vision. What would 100% success look like? Look around. It’s community. It’s each of you walking this walk with me. We are walking the walk together.
Building and cultivating is not a task to enter into lightly. It requires commitment – not just to each other, but to the task of cultivation. I have to be honest with each of you and with myself. I can’t carelessly barrel through each day. I have to speak the truth, with love, even when I’m worried or concerned about the outcome or want to pretend that problems or challenges don’t exist.
I have to enter into our relationship dressed in a spirit of humility. I am a flawed individual. I bring much strength to the table, but I also have weaknesses. My ego must be checked at the door so that I can patiently and generously focus on you.
If we truly embrace that need for honesty in our quest to cultivate community, then you and I both know – sometimes, we might get a little impatient with each other. We will not always agree. Our feeling and those things that differentiate us from each other will pull to the foreground of our relationship. And in those moments, I must be courteous and respect our differences.
Cultivation of our community is successful when we trust one another. Holding each other’s confidence creates an environment that is safe and warm and accepting. I must be trustworthy if you are going to stand beside me, and I must honor the trust that you have placed in me if we are going to be 100% successful.
To be 100% successful, I must invest time. I must generously invest time in my relationship with you. This community that you and I are in, must come together in order to build true fellowship with one another. Genuine fellowship in which we experience authenticity, mutuality, sympathy, and grace. Genuine fellowship in which we both give and receive, we share each other’s pain, and we are merciful.
For us to be 100% successful, that genuine spirit of fellowship must be interwoven through who I am and all that I do as I cultivate and build each of our individual relationships and this community that is flourishing. In this room are staff, volunteers, colleagues, friends, family, donors, collaborative cohorts, partners, clients, and more…and there are no exceptions.
The Prevention Project of A Woman’s Place builds our capacity to respond to and prevent violence, by changing attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. It takes genuine fellowship and community to live smart.
The Safe Options Project of A Woman’s Place offers victims of domestic violence and their children the opportunity to make choices and changes that may lead to safer and healthier and flourishing lives and living. It takes genuine fellowship and community to live safe.
The Empowerment Project of A Woman’s Place builds spiritual, social, educational, gender, and economic strength in each of us. It take genuine fellowship and community to live empowered.
I was driving the other day, from my office to Holicong Middle School to pick up my daughter from choir, and I was listening to NPR. The were interviewing a musician named Sam Baker. He wasn’t always a musician. In 1986 he was on a train in Peru when a bomb planted by terrorists in the luggage rack above him exploded. Everyone he was sitting with was killed. His body was ravaged by the explosion, he suffered a brain injury and severe hearing loss, and he required more than 15 reconstructive surgeries. It was during his recovery – with broken hands and hearing loss – that songs began to come to him. In his words, “…especially what I learned was empathy, and the faith that I got was the faith in us as a group…as humans.” His latest album, Say Grace, features the song Go in Peace which says,
Go in peace.
Go in kindness.
Go in love.
Go in faith.
Leave the day,
The day behind us
The day is done
Go in grace
Let us go, into the dark
Not afraid, not alone
Let us hope
By some good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home
Let us hope
By some good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home
Authenticity. Grace. Fellowship. Community.
The vision of A Woman’s Place is bold – a society in which each individual is safe in their relationships and can flourish. I have the excellent fortune to be able to engage in vision-based work each and every day and to stand with each of you as I do it.
So, what could Bucks County look like if we were 100% successful, and what would we do to get there if we weren’t afraid?
Ifeoma U. Aduba