Reach Out and Connect

I spent Thanksgiving weekend with LucyKate in New York City. We took the Metro to Noho, walked through Soho, the Bowery, and Washington Square. After a ramen lunch in St. Mark’s, we heard people shouting our names, and finally turned around to find the Kerman girls & friends, running to catch us. AMAZING to connect with people from home in the US’ busiest city. But it’s the second time it’s happened to me. Last time I was here, I ran into Duane Halbur outside Grand Central Terminal!

November and the holidays are all about reaching out and connecting. This time of year does bring up some stuff, as do sickness and loss. A couple old friends and I broke china, shouted, and got past family resentments so they can connect with their father, who has cancer, and needs to tell his story, forgive, and ask for forgiveness over the next couple years. They want to mend their family connections, and are working hard to do it.

When I reported on Healthy Polk 2020, Priority #8, to the Polk County Board of Health, I emphasized connecting and reaching out. Few people on my expert team were connected before. They weren’t the “usual suspects” who guide community action in central Iowa. I interviewed each of them before we met, and used each unique perspective throughout the process. At the first meeting I put toys out, used computer key intros, played “Get on the Bus.” They shared their bios to ensure connection beyond the task at hand.

At the Iowa Non-Profit Summit, I facilitated a panel of Gerry Schnepf, Elvin McDonald, and Jan Herke. When Elvin began as Director of the Friends of the Botanical Center, the Board complained of littering and vandalism on the grounds. Elvin reached out to the school up the hill, and now the Boys & Girls Club brings kids down every week to garden 20 ten-by-ten-foot raised beds. They pick up litter on their way, and vandalism has not been a problem since.

Jan talked about Youth in Parks, a program that’s been going strong since I worked with Urbandale, West Des Moines and Ankeny on a partnership that continues to plan, train and evaluate the program together. They connect hundreds of middle school kids with service opportunities in parks, nursing homes, and day cares.

Gerry talked about how service learning connects kids to communities, so much that some research indicates they’re more likely to stay put when they’re grown. Keep Iowa Beautiful is developing Teachers Going Green, based on service learning and place-based education. Both of these approaches connect kids and schools with the communities around them.

LucyKate is studying Independent School Leadership at Teachers College, Columbia University. Over the holiday, we talked about education and relationships a lot. We watched this wonderful TEDx video with Brene Brown. Could vulnerability really be the key to connections? What do you think?


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