Firstly I must apologize – a lot’s been going on and I’ve fallen behind on sharing it. I’ll try and commit to being better at it, it’s not that I don’t want to include you all in what’s happening, sometimes I just get overwhelmed by how much there is to do.
One question that’s been coming up a lot is the balance between “Heart to Heart” the organization and the personal stories of people whose lives have been touched. I firmly believe that those people and their stories are more important, but that organization is necessary to cultivate, spread, and sustain the requisite ideas.
Anyway, last year at Penn I took a class in Non-Profit Leadership, so I could gain some familiarity with the latter. The first week of the class we got broken up into random groups, and then within our group, I ended up paired with one woman for our section of an assignment. After finishing the ‘business’ side, we started to chat, and after hearing about my major (bioengineering) she started getting a little inquisitive. I guess it was a little weird, because the rest of the class were grad students in a program for Non-Profit Leadership in their mid-to-late twenties. “Why are you taking this class, Hart?”, she asked me. “Oh, well, it’s because I’m starting a non-profit organization”, I answered hesitantly. “Really!”, she said, now even more interested, “So what does your organization do?” (Side note: she had let slip earlier in the conversation that she was going home next weekend for “some holiday or something” – and being that the next weekend was Rosh Hashana, I deduced that she was Jewish.) So now I started freaking out – how do I explain the ideas of H2H as an organization, especially now that I’m talking to a potential “invitee”?! Shoot, this is exactly what I didn’t want to happen! And so, blushing with embarrassment, I started mumbling something about Shabbat dinners…Jewish experiences…bridging religious and social gaps…being friendly. After I finished, there was a pause for a few seconds, during which I was sure I would die of shame. “Oh my goodness!”, she exclaimed, “This is perfect for someone like me – I’m also Jewish! Do you think I can come to one of your Shabbat dinners?”
We ended up talking for a while, about her experiences with Judaism (or lack thereof – she hadn’t been to Shabbat since her childhood) and how she was looking for just that, an entranceway for someone with no background, and someone to welcome her in. We also talked about H2H and the organizational progress I’d made so far. She added at the end “You know I’m in a graduate program which trains us to help manage non-profits – do you want any help running your organization?” It was too perfect.
Walking back from the library to my room, I laughed so hard I could barely breath. It was such a revelatory moment for me. And I tried to think what was better – that she wanted to come to a Shabbat dinner, or that she wanted to help me with my organization? Which was such a meta-distinction, because that balance was something I had been struggling with. This story ended up being a perfect blend of the two, how because I was there for her to help her Jewish involvement, she was able to offer her non-profit organizational advice and support. To be perfectly honest, the thing that excited me most was her personal interest and wanting to come to a Shabbat dinner, because as much as the organization is important, I don’t do this because I love building grassroots organizations – I do it because I love connecting people like this woman.