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Finding Common Ground

October 9, 2017 by Leena Waite0
L to R: Michael, Craig, John, Leena and Chris

What do a café Manager, Member and Program Coordinator, nonprofit Executive Director and Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst all have in common?

Well, last week the café Manager, John, and I organized an open mic during our building’s monthly tenant Happy Hour. Our responses were slim, but two brave, busy souls, Craig (the CAIA) and Michael (the ED) reached out to share that they played bass and guitar, respectively.  John, a New Orleans native, plays guitar and sings and I play violin (trained) and sing (not trained). We forged ahead with no time to rehearse, but just some scattered emails throwing out ideas for tunes, who could sing or play what, and a few charts in case any of us miraculously had time to practice on our own.

Michael had just got back from traveling but thanks to an unclaimed guitar left it in a Car2Go vehicle, whose office is in our building, he had something to play. It took some time to get a working bass amp for Craig, but we started to hit a groove and kept at it for an hour and half.  Two others jumped in and we crossed a generation of artists, from Patty Smith, Bruce Springsteen, Van Morrison to Bo Diddley. People showed up, and they even cheered! I’m not saying we’re the new hottest band this side of the Mississippi, but we had fun and sounded good!

Outside of us all knowing John, because well, he makes coffee (‘nuff said), we now all have a reason to say, “how you doin’?” to each other in the building. We found common ground between folks I otherwise may not have met. Is this going to lead life changing, mission-oriented collaboration? Doubtful. But together we contributed to a culture of creativity and fellowship in the space, through a medium completely unconnected to our building’s theme of sustainability.

A leader in our community recently challenged a group of us to get out and talk to people who don’t look like you, who may fall into a different “category” of life, because we are getting trapped in our own bubbles.  We are missing out on the diversity of life, which stifles our own experience in this world. I’ve always felt music is one path towards connecting people, and this was just another instance that reaffirmed that for me.

People have been asking when the next jam is and we’re planning for October.  We plan on opening it up outside the building walls and even asking the guy who regularly plays jazz flute on the street corner outside our building. One of John’s friends who is without a home plans to join us when he gets his guitar fixed.

It might not be music for you. But what opportunities do you have to find common ground that may or may not fall outside your line of work? It doesn’t always have to be epic. In the world these days, sometimes we just need space to feel good, together.  I’m grateful shared space cultivates these opportunities, and it’s just another reason I like going to work each day. And that can carry us a long way to our respective missions.

 

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About Our Blogger:

Leena Waite

Before arriving at the Nonprofit Centers Network, Leena Waite was the Director of Programming for five years at America’s Grow-a-Row (AGAR), a New Jersey based non-profit that grows and gleans fresh produce for hunger agencies and food desert areas across the state. Before AGAR, she served as the Director of Children’s Ministries of Chatham Township, running the church school program for 150 children from birth through 8th grade. Leena holds a BFA and Jazz Minor in Violin Performance from Carnegie Mellon University, a Masters of Music and Masters in Improvisation from the University of Michigan, and a Masters of Arts in Ministry from Drew Theological School.


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