Today, I made my weekly pilgrimage to the television set to watch one of my favorite shows, CBS Sunday Morning. As usual, there was a moment in the ninety minutes that spoke to me. It wasn’t one of the headline stories. It was a much shorter story about what might be considered a small issue in a small community.
At the far end of Islington Road in Newton, Mass lives two year old Samantha Savitz. She is deaf. And for whatever reason, her community has decided that not being able to communicate with her, as she takes walks around the community with her parents, is not okay. So, with the help of a hired instructor, a group of community members has decided to learn how to speak in sign language. Yep – as a group – they are gathering in someone’s home, on their own time, to be tutored by a sign language teacher just so they can talk with Samantha.*
This story spoke deeply to me – and not just because it is a sweet story…which it is.
To me, this affirms something that I am continuing to become convinced of in my work with communities and organizations. Unless there is not only a clear “why”, but a compelling “why” I just don’t see why anyone would waste their time and energy by giving their best selves and efforts to a company or community in order to help it move forward.
Generally speaking, just getting paid is not enough to get the best out of employees.
Generally speaking, just believing that your community should be a great place to live is not enough to get the best out its community members.
Generally speaking, just believing that people should love God is not enough to fill the pews each Sunday.
In my opinion, there’s got to be a why – and not just a clear why – a compelling why in order to really make progress.
But getting clear on purpose (be it individual or institutional) is hard. Getting to the compelling part of purpose is even harder. Why? Here are just a couple of ideas…
First, none of us have time to think about deep purpose. We just need someone to make the widgets. We need someone to mow their lawn. We need someone to volunteer in the Sunday School nursery.
Next, many of us have just not been schooled in thinking about deep meaning. We pride ourselves in being “can-do” people. Just get the job done and suck it up.
Simon Sinek says, “People don’t care what you do, they care why you do it.” Whatever you think about that quote I (personally) think there is some truth to it. The “why” of a matter…what I would call “purpose”… invites all of us to think more deeply about the things that really matter to us – and until things really matter I just don’t see how we’re going to be able to make progress around the stories we hunger to be told about us.
*Here is the link to the video: https://www.cbsnews.com/video/a-sign-of-the-times-2/