Provision #587: Contribute Your Joy

Laser Provision

When people are fully alive they bubble over with joy. This joy is neither silly giddiness nor ignoring reality. This joy is rather the full engagement that comes from doing what you love. At its best, such engagement is not only self-serving (there’s nothing wrong with that) it’s also life-serving (bringing joy to many others in the process). When was the last time that you bubbled over with joy and blessed others in the process? If it’s been a while, then perhaps this Provision will inspire you to turn over a few new stones.

LifeTrek Provision

On October 19, 2008 I was in Chicago visiting some of the community ministries that I helped to start and run after I graduated from Yale Divinity School in 1979. The occasion for my return is the 25th anniversary of a soup kitchen that I founded in 1983. They want to recognize my seminal contribution to an increasingly significant endeavor. Now known as the Good News Community Kitchen,, here’s how they describe themselves today:

The Good News Community Kitchen (GNCK) began as a ministry of the Good News Community Church (UCC) in 1983 and began serving meals a few days per week in the “North of Howard” neighborhood of Rogers Park, on the furthest northern border of Chicago. Today, with the help of more than 30 partnering congregations and community organizations, GNCK is the highest capacity community Kitchen in the metropolitan Chicago area and we are the only community kitchen that serves a hot nutritious meal 365 days per year. In 2007, more than 2,500 volunteers worked with our staff to serve 56,000 hot meals to an average of 120 patrons per night.

However, just serving meals to the hungry is simply not enough if we want to tackle the roots of the problems faced by the poor. Together with community residents and our congregational partners, our patrons are engaged in advocacy to address the core issues that contribute to hunger and poverty. GNCK created Northside POWER (People Organized to Work, Educate and Restore) and the Northshore Caucus to work on making neighborhood streets safer, to improve community health care, and develop local pre-apprenticeship job training which will help patrons and area residents get access to living wage construction jobs.

In 2002, GNCK was the recipient of the Greater Chicago Food Depository’s prestigiousFr. Phillip Marquard Award and was named the Most Innovative Agency of 2005 for our creative community work in service to those in need while simultaneously fighting systemic hunger and poverty.

It is heartening to be recognized; it is even more heartening to have had a hand in starting a program that has probably served over 1 million meals in its 25 year history. That’s a lot of people who have been fed and cared for all because a few of us saw an opportunity to get involved.

When we started GNCK we didn’t do so with a sense of obligation or duty. We simply saw needs that we knew we could meet. Those needs included sustenance on physical, psychological, and social levels. It was always far more than food. The camaraderie of the gathering and the sharing of community leadership, between local and partner volunteers, made the experience unique. This was no grim feeding program of the down and out. This was a joyful expression of mutual aid and community development. I’m proud to have been a part of its beginnings.

If GNCK has endured and distinguished itself for any reason, it’s because the entire operation began as a contribution of joy rather than as a sacrifice of commitment. Sure it was a lot of work and, yes, there were times of both difficulty and danger, but the hallmark of GNCK was the empowerment dynamic that comes from people sharing their joy. It didn’t matter whether you were a “have” or a “have not”.  You were part of something larger than yourself and it made you smile to roll up your sleeves, do a good deed, and connect with others of like mind and substance.

That, in the end, is the secret of memorable contributions. They are not things that we “should”, “must”, or “have” to do. They are rather things that we want to do and that uniquely express our personalities, sensitivities, and way in the world. Take last Saturday as a case in point.

The second Saturday in October is always the Baltimore Marathon and, since 2003, I have been involved as a Pace Team leader. That means I assist others to complete the race in their desired time by maintaining an even pace throughout the race and by coaching people on the art of staying in the zone. That’s no small feat when you’re out there for four hours and forty-five minutes, under a hot sun, as we were on Saturday. But the 75 runners who ran with me came together as never before.

It truly was a matter of contributing my joy. I do things that no other pacer does. For one thing, at that pace, I take disciplined walk breaks every half mile. Then I lead the group through a series of breathing, stretching, relaxing, and laughing exercises that promote recovery and rejuvenation. Don’t tell anyone else, but that approach means we only ran 23 miles on Saturday, walking the other 3.2. And that, for some people, makes all the difference in the world.

Consider the following comment from someone who tracked down the feedback form after the race:

I wanted to send a personal thank you to you and the rest of the 4:45 pacers at the Baltimore marathon. This was my sixth marathon but the first I completed in a reasonable time and still standing upright. I have an unusual intestinal cramping problem that usually begins at mile 20. It caused me to be transported from the course to a medical tent in two marathons.

I am so thrilled that on Saturday I completed the marathon, standing upright and in a respectable time for a 50 year old runner. The excellent pacing, the tips along the route and the support at the end made the difference. The cramping did not even begin until mile 21 and by taking the walk breaks and listening to the hill advice I was able to hang in the race until the finish line.

Thank you so much for helping me to achieve a very important goal. I hope that I can run a marathon in the future with your pace group again. Please convey my gratitude to the others.

Or, again, from two other participants:

I just wanted to extend a quick ‘thank you• to you for your guidance yesterday. It was my good fortune to run my first marathon with you as my pacer. I was with you most of the way until I fell off the pace group at mile 22. The hills leading up to Lake Montebello and then the sun exposure around the lake took its toll on me. But overall I am very happy. I set a goal for myself of an 11 minute pace, and I hit it dead on.

You and your Pace Team are the BEST!!!. Baltimore was my 26th marathon, and it was probably the most enjoyable. We never could have made our goal of sub 4:45 without you and your team•.especially with all those hills•geez•. My friend and I finished in 4:44 and were thrilled to pieces. Hope to see the Geico Pacers at another of my upcoming marathons. Y•all are AWESOME!!!!

That’s what happens when you contribute your joy: it makes everyone very happy. You can get a sense of that and even watch us in action thanks to Kevin Scally’s Video Blog, compliments of WBAL TV in Baltimore: I had no idea that video was being made, but I appreciate how well it shows the camaraderie and fun that enabled so many runners to successfully make it through to the end. We were drawing from each other’s strengths, and that made all the difference.

One final illustration. If you haven’t figured this out by now, I love to play with ideas, write them down, and share them with the world. Indeed, writing is one of my gifts and one of my passions. It is yet another way that I contribute my joy. You can imagine my delight, then, when I received the following note from someone in the UK who had recently read an article that I wrote in 2007 for an Appreciative Inquiry journal:

I read your article in AI Practitioner recently and I wanted to let you know how much I valued it.  Your approach to expressing the connection between the basic principles of Appreciative Inquiry was the best I have read.  I did a foundation course on AI with Ann Radford some years ago and found the underlying theory a •big meal•.  From using it I have found many of the connections but your expression encapsulates it very neatly.

The point of all these stories and of this Provision is not to encourage you to go looking for recognition, appreciation, and acknowledgement. That never works. The point is to be motivated by sharing your joy. When that is your true intention, all the rest follows. You end up blessing both yourself and others. Joy is contagious in that way; when you follow your bliss and share it with others, all kinds of magical things happen.

It’s been said, “Find a job that you love and you’ll never work another day in your life.” Although I don’t agree with the definition of “work” implied in that statement, I do appreciate the sentiment. Altruism sounds like a sacrifice and, when it’s approached in that way, it proves to be more of punishment than a gift. It regenerates neither the giver nor the receiver. When our giving comes from joy, however, it lifts everyone to new levels of engagement, participation, and fulfillment.

So that is my hope for you: know your joy and share it with others. By spreading your joy around you will make lasting contributions both to your own happiness and to the happiness of the planet. That really is a great way to live.

Coaching Inquiries: What brings you joy? How well and how often do you share that joy with others? How could you become more enthusiastic in expressing your joy? Who shares your passions and interests such that they could become your “joy buddies” on the trek of life?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form to arrange a complimentary conversation. To learn more about LifeTrek Coaching programs, Click Here.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob..

Thank you, Bob, for again sharing with us your insights on your own panic experience. Sleep is so crucial to our wellness. I ask many of my coaching clients about their sleep experience. The evidence just keeps piling up about how crucial a good night’s sleep is. Restful sleep, plus a judicious exposure to the news, can provide immediate benefits from the panic many are feeling today.
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School
Immediate Past President, International Association of
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

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