Somewhere in the world right now, in a country where children have playgrounds to play on, there are some children arguing on such a playground. One says his dad is stronger. One says his dad is smarter. Another says that his dad makes more money. Still another says that his dad is nicer. A fifth kid says that his dad is the best looking. Then one kid shouts, “Hey guys, who the hell cares? The teeter-totter’s fun! And I came to the playground to have fun. Let’s teeter-totter!”
“My dad says I can’t teeter-totter with you because your dad’s just a little wimp. Playing with you might make me weak.”
“My dad says I can’t teeter-totter with you because your dad doesn’t have a degree. Playing with you might make me stupid.”
“My dad says I can’t play with you because your family doesn’t live in as nice of house as we do. Playing with you would be an embarrassment.”
“My dad says I can’t play with you because you don’t go to our church. He heard a rumor that you might not go to church at all. Do you know Jesus? I can’t play with you if you don’t know the same Jesus that I know.”
Teeter-totter boy responds, “I know Jesus.”
“Well I knew him first! You don’t get to claim friendship with him.”
Number five: “My dad said that your dad used to date my mom. Luckily my dad’s the best looking man around, so you’re dad never had a chance. So I can’t teeter-totter with you. My mom would be confused.”
“C’mon guys, all I need is someone who weighs about the same as me to come sit on the other end of this teeter-totter. Who cares about our dads? Who cares if I even have a dad? Maybe I have a single mother. Maybe I have two moms. Maybe I was raised by wolves. Who cares? Let’s teeter-totter!”
Somewhere else in the world, in a country where children probably don’t have playgrounds to play on, nonprofit managers are doing the same thing. Too often I feel like this is the world that I’ve entered into. A world full of other nonprofit people all arguing about rules and principles and methods and models and whose is better when all I want to do is teeter-totter. That’s what I came here for. But I’m the only one who cares about the teeter-totter. Everyone else is lost in pissing contests that distract them from the honorable missions that they claim to pursue. No one cares who can piss farther when you’re all pissing into the wind. Everyone just ends up smelling like urine. We need to zip up our pants and start caring about things that really truly matter in the grand scheme of things.
The essence of being involved in a nonprofit is that we’re not looking for a profit. This doesn’t just mean that we aren’t focused on making money but it also means we’re not interested in making a name for ourselves or even receiving praise for all the good things that we do. Theoretically, people would get involved in a nonprofit because they believe that the work needs to be done despite it not being financially profitable, popularly glamorous, or personally lucrative. It’s also pointless to get involved if it’s believed to get you a ticket to heaven. And yet these seem to be the reasons behind many nonprofitty people’s missions, however not stated in word, but in their actions. We are supposed to be in this line of work because we believe in justice and beauty. Because we believe that every human life has value worth defending and every human deserves a chance to enjoy the life that’s been given to them. We are not supposed to be in this to defend structures, including governmental, religious, educational, or whatever, even including nonprofit structures. We are supposed to be defending humans and their rights to a more beautiful and whole existence. That’s what we came to the playground for. If the organizational structure that we work for is more important than the humans we were meant to serve then we should each just become politicians instead.
Of course, I wouldn’t get elected if I was a politician because I don’t play their games. Unless of course I was a Haitian politician, because they like to elect men who have tendencies to pull their pants down in front of thousands of people and dress in drag, so maybe I’d have a chance then. But I digress. The point is that nonprofits shouldn’t be conducted like politics. Too many involved in these noble works talk about caring like it’s a crappy used car that they’re trying to sell some sucker. They talk about caring as if it’s some sort of campaign that they’re on to persuade the world to elect them as the new messiah sent to save the destitute and downtrodden. They care only about what holds the potential of turning them into heroes, if not for themselves, then for the name of whatever organization they represent. But in order for them to become heroes while everyone else calls their name for help, they have to make sure that all of those helpless, weak common-folk continue needing help. They have to keep tight restraints on the common-folk to make sure that they don’t try to help themselves, because that’s dangerous and it breaks the rules of living dependent on heroes.
Lately I’ve been involved in multiple cases of nonprofit politics getting in the way of what I really need to be doing. Drama, drama, drama impeding progress. This rant isn’t directed anywhere specific, because the last few weeks I’ve run into multiple situations with people from several different nonprofits all arguing about things that have very little to do with the Haitians we are supposed to care about, and much more to do with our own egos and proving that one way is better than another. And I’ve had discussions with other nonprofit friends around here who’ve been dealing with their own drama with other groups. And while I’ve been having these discussions and sending emails and sitting in meetings to debate all this drama, I could have been teaching and writing and painting and inspiring others.