A story of now
- You make lots of money. But who cares?
- You hold lots of power. But who cares?
- You have an influential network. But who cares?
- You have a big house. But who cares?
- The investment banker who makes money off mine.
- The district attorney who dishes out fines.
- The big box CEO who is hungry for profit.
- The philanthropist who earns more than she grants to nonprofits.
- The things we get paid for and praised for are vast.
- But it seems there is something we tend to bypass.
- While you hoard and you fetish on your bottom line
- Who cares? Who maintains our collective bloodline?
- Who cares for our babies and cares for their mothers?
- Who cares for our children and neighbors and brothers?
- Who cares for our injured, our sick, and less abled?
- Who cares for our elders and puts food on our tables?
- Who cares for our land and our homes and traditions?
- Who cares for our souls and our minds and ambitions?
- Who cares for our well-being and our brick and mortar?
- Who cares for our livelihood beyond next quarter?
- Someone does it. She’s out there. Day in and day out.
- Just because you don’t see her, don’t let that make you doubt.
- They care, but do you? Well you should, and here’s why.
- If you quit, no big deal. But if they, we all die.
- They care, but do you? Well it’s about time.
- Let’s all value care and make your work part-time.
A story of the future
She woke up free. She had obligations and responsibility. She had pain. But she rose from bed with a joyful spirit because these burdens and bruises were hers. She woke up and assessed. How am I? How are my children? How is my family and community? She was able to prioritize and commit her time, labor, and love where it was needed most. Today, she felt rested and well. Today, her son needed her. He woke up in one of those thoughtful, inquisitive, vulnerable pre-teen moods, and she had the time to sit with him and work through his thoughts before school.
Now, she turned her attention to her community. She took a deep breath. It was invigorating. It was like breathing in the spicy, electric air of autumn. She remembers when her breaths were more like sighs. When the air felt soggy and stifling. More like the thick, blurry, humid air of August. She remembers when her rural town couldn’t see a way out through that thickness. When we were waiting for the next Toyota plant to come because we knew in our bones that if it would just come, we had the work ethic to squeeze out of it the paychecks we needed to support ourselves and also the best cars Toyota had ever seen. But it never came. Our children left. And when her children took their first breath as infants, her joy was filtered through that stifling, thick fog of uncertainty and decay.
But now she was excited and breathed easy. Her community knew how to work hard but had known less about how to own – and how to own together. So they learned, and built a community of shared ownership and shared prosperity. And she joyfully committed herself to that labor. Although her livelihood was not solely in her hands, she felt a greater sense of peace. She understood how money and value and labor ebbed and flowed through her community. She was able to meaningfully contribute to prioritization and decision-making. Simple things were part of her day now that were not before. Community meetings, transparency, votes. She helped organize the community care coop, where community members provided prenatal and childcare, home visiting, home healthcare, palliative care, and healing for the community members. Their caring for others was not at the expense of caring for themselves. They had a stake in the cooperative, they determined their hours and when they could contribute their time, and they were well compensated and supported for their contributions.
All that she did was nourishing and supportive to her community and her values from the locally grown, locally owned foods she ate to the soap she bathed in to the clothes she wore to the home where she lived to the bank she used.
She felt connected, valued, safe, secure. She felt part of something thriving, something churning but lasting. She felt she had something to pass down to her children beyond survival.
How do we get there?
It started with a community doing its best to live its values. It started with a community of innovators, experts, trail-blazers, and long-timers willing to let others in. Extending their community and sharing ownership of the conversation they were having and advancing on the fringe and in the mainstream. It started with a welcoming space and a humble but ambitious stance. In that space, I found a community of people that inspire and guide me. And I am sharing all I learn with anyone that will listen.
Today, my teammates and I played around with the Social Ecology Framework on Jam Board. Mapping out our investments, ideas, and strategies and identifying gaps or new ways of thinking. My hope is that the framework can help define our economic equity strategy for years to come – that we will begin using our grantmaking to support alternative models of shared ownership around Arkansas – that we will use our voice to dispel myths around bootstrapping and rugged individualism and cast a new vision – that we will guide dominant institutions like philanthropy, chambers of commerce, churches, corporations, and policymakers towards this vision and meaningfully fuel grassroots leaders and movements to hold them accountable and ultimately shift power. My hope is that other rural states and southern states will see what Arkansas is doing and get on board. And that the south might heal itself by embracing and leading national change. My hope is that the communities in Arkansas that have been struggling and hurting and shrinking for generations will feel a new and powerful and restorative pulse and that we have something to pass down to her children beyond survival.