February 1, 2013

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

Never forget, the spirit of good unites us all

Patti LambLast month, I had the opportunity to sit in on a meeting conducted by a local non-profit group prior to its biggest annual fundraiser. I went with the intention of learning more about the organization, but I left learning how to resolve a Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) issue that had been weighing on my mind.

I walked into the meeting about five minutes late, but it was already in full swing. Apparently, there were several critical issues that warranted discussion and some tension filled the air.

One man at the table was on a tirade about cutting excess and running this year’s fundraiser much leaner. He seemed to be some sort of efficiency expert.

Then another person—I’m guessing an accountant—chimed in regarding financial matters. His mind was fixed on the numbers, and he spoke of everything in terms of dollars and percentages. He lost me a few times, but he repeatedly reminded the group that this fundraiser had to raise a certain percentage of operating expenses or else all would not be right with the world.

Next, a woman in the group spoke up about the importance of proper marketing, her area of expertise. She talked about new approaches to reach a wider audience for ticket sales.

Then the technical guy called the group’s attention back to some computer-related issues which sounded complex. If they didn’t fix them, the fundraiser wouldn’t get off the ground.

Side conversations broke out because the attendees were each concerned about their own parts. Several became annoyed that the importance of their input had been discounted. The leader of the meeting became agitated, and frustration mounted.

One man at the meeting noticed and asked to be heard.

“Every person in this room has a point that he or she is trying to make,” he said, “and we’re all speaking from very different disciplines.

“But we’re all here because we care about this cause, so we should really hear each other out and be respectful. I know that our personalities are different—these might not be the people you’d invite to your house to watch a football game—but we are all here for a common cause so we should put personal agendas aside and play as a team.”

The group realized that the spirit of their mission had become lost because of their own egos.

It was so elementary, but the members needed reminding.

It was like someone broke out St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, in which he likened the body of Christ to the human body. “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ and nor can the head say to the feet, ‘I have no need of you’ ” (1 Cor 12: 21).

We are in it together, like it or not.

Back to the PTO issue that I mentioned earlier. Recently, our PTO board received a nasty-gram from a parent regarding one of our events. I had been angry at that parent for her unkind words. This meeting prompted me to consider the spirit in which she wrote instead of the accusatory tone. Our deliveries might be abrasive, but most of us only speak up because we actually care.

This meeting and the PTO issue have inspired my Lenten resolution. This Lent, I am simply going to try to find the spirit of God in those with whom I can find little else in common.

Our lifestyles are different, but the spirit of good—which is really God—unites us all.

(Patti Lamb, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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