Mary’s Message: June 2017

Summer and Sabbath

It’s officially summer! The sun is hot. The AC is on. The kids are out of school. Our work, though, doesn’t seem to stop.

That’s the message I hear over and over in my conversations with members and colleagues. With meetings, conference calls, e-mails, messages and the ever-present cell phone and daily political commentary, the summer season is now almost as hectic as fall. It seems impossible some weeks to slow down.

And yet, our work depends on it.

In his book Sabbath, Wayne Muller talks about the value of stepping away to refresh our minds. It allows room for our thoughts to wander and make connections. So much of our energy in leading nonprofit organizations is fueled by our passion. That passion needs to be tended with the same care as a summer garden.

Last summer, I had the privilege of participating in the LeadingAge Leadership Educator Program, a program facilitated by Wendy Green, managing vice president of leadership development, and Dr. Judy Brown, a leadership educator, author, poet and coach. We gathered with a small group of peers from around the country to retreat in a wooded suburb of Annapolis.

Amidst discussions on leadership theory, we took solitary walks which yielded wonderful insights. Silence is a powerful teacher. Other times we walked in pairs or threes, and gained deeper understanding of various concepts from the perspectives of each other.

In her poem “Fire”, Brown helps us make some sense of our need for time and reflection. This summer, I hope each of you will get a chance to read a good book, take a summer stroll and enjoy laughter with friends and family. It’s important work.


By Judy Brown

What makes a fire burn
is space between the logs,
a breathing space.
Too much of a good thing,
too many logs
packed in too tight
can douse the flames
almost as surely
as a pail of water would.

So building fires
requires attention
to the spaces in between,
as much as to the wood.

When we are able to build
open spaces
in the same way
we have learned
to pile on the logs,
then we can come to see how
it is fuel, and absence of the fuel
together, that make fire possible.

We only need to lay a log
lightly from time to time.

A fire
simply because the space is there,
with openings
in which the flame
that knows just how it wants to burn
can find its way.

This beautiful poem is found in this collection of poems.