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By Rodney McKenzie, Jr., Vice President, Ally Development

On a recent trip to Washington DC, I met with a dozen friends and colleagues in the philanthropic community. In these conversations, I heard the ways that many of us feel a deep sadness, a sadness compounded by these times of deep polarization, othering, violence, and personal pain. I have to admit that I feel this deep sadness as well. 

As I sat with my own heartbreak, I realized a need for clarity and a need for community. I thought of Pema Chödrön’s advice: In moments of sadness, when things are challenging, learn to hold your seat

So often, we rush to a fix. A fix that is often less about solving the root causes of our problems, our heartbreak, and more about our flight from sadness. A fix that is often about escaping the moment that we are in, often bypassing the gift that the painful moment would uncover. But what if we did not run?

Pain should never be gratuitous but when it is present — it is real — and it is a source of deep knowing.

How might we not lose the knowing but rather access it? Not as a means of valorizing it but as a way of recognizing what our pain is teaching us — as a way to honor loss, resilience, and hope. How can being with the pain support us in our philanthropy?

Health care professionals tell us that pain is an alert signal, giving us critical information, informing us when there is an issue that needs our attention, and ensuring that we behave differently to avoid exacerbating the problem. Our task is not to ignore the pain we feel but rather to be still and not run from the heartbreak. Being broken-hearted in public is a way to ask for something to be done differently. In this calling for stillness in heartbreak, I am embracing the gift of lamentation, unapologetically expressing my sorrow and grief and prayerfully asking for guidance.

As I write, I’m reflecting on how we are currently in deeply painful and violent political clashes occurring across our world — clashes that are breaking our hearts. This heartbreak lives in our spirit, our bodies, and our communities.

What if we embraced vulnerability and heartbreak as prophetic callings in the public square?

What is the heartbreak you feel?

What are you accessing at this moment to take you to a deeper sense of knowing?

What is this moment telling you?

How might this support you in drawing closer to our global community as a philanthropist? 

How does this affect how you engage your philanthropy?

Now, as always, I find great solace in deep connections with you as a member of my community and warmly welcome hearing of your experience of these times. 

Rodney McKenzie, Jr., is the Vice President of Ally Development at the Fetzer Institute, a crucial team of our new strategic plan aiming to catalyze a movement of funders and organizations applying spiritual solutions for social problems. For those interested in delving deeper into our groundbreaking Ally Development initiatives, we invite you to explore further here.