Activist of Hearts and Minds
What do you do? The question natters at us like a plague of mosquitos, the buzz in our ears, needling our skin. The mosquito trusts it will get what it needs without a pithy marketing blurb, a title or precise definition why can’t you? We gripe and lament. Get a group of “OD Consultants” together, with or without wine, and eventually the conversation will turn to that elusive creature, the short answer to what we do. Oh how we long for a second-grade-simple response: Fireman, nurse, lion tamer. Well I write to you today, dear blog and fellow colleagues (clients, friends, accidental web tourists), I have found mine. Eureka! And while tempting, I really don’t plan to take out a trademark, or research if you have already claimed it as your own.
Ask me again. “What do you do?” Why thank you for asking, curious because just this morning it came to me on my drive to facilitate a retreat for the fine board members of Detroit’s stellar publication B.L.A.C. Magazine. “I like to think of myself as an Activist of Hearts and Minds”, I say, cool as can be. Like I’ve had boxes of T-shirts printed up with this on the back, my face on the front, and have been passing them out for decades. They’ve become a hot ticket on E-bay, I muse.
“Ooooo I like that!” One says, and another writes it down. I laugh, “You can borrow it.” Proud for a minute. That I bagged the sleek creature of this few words wrangled together to describe exactly just what I do, or strive for at least, yes, but more so as I looked around the room at the six people arrayed, who have done so much more than I to bolster and build the Detroit region into a stronger version of itself every day, and was able to say “I am helping too.”
We had breakfast together and, while we ate fresh fruit and and tomatoes and turkey bacon from sturdy white plates, told the story in turns of the history of B.L.A.C., starting first with the most tenured member and inceptor of the magazine, welcoming each person’s contribution as they stepped into the timeline: Laughing and gasping as memories and people long-forgotten streamed into the room. We spent the better part of the day drawing the line forward, imagined what the entity, aged fifteen this year, would whisper in their ears at age twenty-five. What had B.L.A.C. grown into? Where had it been and how did it show up in the world? Proud parents telling tales. And having dreamed BIG for this brilliant child they shared, focused on the hard work to nurture and grow the company, and the board itself, from here to there.
I may never walk a picket line. May never protest on the capital steps, burn my bra, administer vaccines to children in off-road villages. I am not one to petition but I have visions of all of these: Some life I lead in a parallel world, acting, doing things loud hard and gritty, making my difference. I leave the board retreat and smile as I pull into the street and drive three easy miles home. My questions, my presence, my plan for the day were not loud, hard nor gritty, but make a difference it did, and will continue to do so as the hearts and minds of these folks are recharged and refocused on the work that they do. And I am off to light the next fire and start the next conversation that changes the world.