A day may come when the courage of the nonprofit sector fails. Today is not that day!

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[Image description: Three sleeping puppies inside a black shoe box. The puppies have their heads resting on one edge of the box. They are all white with brown markings. The puppy closest to the foreground has one front leg dangling over the side of the box.]

Colleagues of the nonprofit sector. My sisters and brothers. I see in your twitching eyes the dread of returning to work today. Scarcely a moon ago we looked forward to a time of relaxation. A few days where we could binge on some episodes of Black Mirror without guilt. An innocent, optimistic time where we resolved to clear out our fridge or otherwise take care of some household projects that we had been neglecting. A period of time that seemed so boundless, but that is now no more.

The dread you feel is pervasive, hanging over all of us, over me as well. It takes this heart of mine and squishes it in its calloused hand. Like you, I stand before the writhing tentacles of my to-do list, staring into the bottomless abyss of my email inbox, shuddering and cowering and clawing at my face in despair.

But we stand firm.

A day may come when the courage of our sector fails, when we break all bonds of our missions and forsake our community, but it is not this day. An hour of trolls and shattered faith in humanity, when the age of compassion and unity comes crashing down, but it is not this day! A day may come when Injustice snarls and bares its teeth and we go “meh,” but it is not this day!

This day we work! This day we run programs—deliver hot meals, advocate, provide counseling, help people fill out forms, facilitate workshops, rescue animals! This day we write grant proposals and little cute thank-you notes! This day we update our work plans, edit collaterals, contact volunteers, de-dup the database, analyze financials, design some surveys, prepare for a presentation, conduct interviews, orient a new staff, order supplies, clean the bathroom! This day we take out the trash and compost, which somehow we always neglect to do before break!

Above all, this day we remember our sacred duties to build a strong and just community. Colleagues of the Sector: Wielders of Light, Bringers of Balance, Sexy Jedi Unicorns of Justice, and unpaid models of Ross Dress for Less. Though our task is daunting, fraught with turmoil; though time and stress turn our faces to leather; though it feels on days like today that our actions are too little and our resources too few to hold back the forces of Inequity amassing on the horizon, cast all doubts from your hearts. ‘Tis true, you may not live to see your work bear fruit. As Gandalf said: 

“It is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till.”

Your work matters. You matter. Every action you take, no matter how small it may be, leads to the kind of world we wish to see. The vast waves of change cannot happen without the ripples you make. The ripples you are.

I know there is heaviness among many of us today. It does not help that some of us are probably freezing in our office, huddled over a space heater while waiting for the heat to be fixed or something. It bears down on me as well. My soul feels the way my fridge looks. Let us allow ourselves some time to feel like crap. And then, as always, we rally.

A day may come when the strength and integrity of our sector fail, and we give in to the hopelessness and despair. But it is not this day. A day when our spirit is broken and we abandon our duties and our colleagues to take up wedding photography like we’ve daydreamed about during some meetings. But it is not this day! A day may come when we say “F Equity and Social Justice!” But it is not this day!

This day we do what we live, what we breathe, what we are! This day we fight injustice and strengthen community! This day we make our world better! By all that you hold dear, I bid you roll up the sleeves of your Ross shirt, fellow brilliant and highly attractive nonprofit unicorns!

The inbox awaits!!!

Y’all go on ahead. I’ll catch up after I finish my cup of Maker’s Mar…I mean, coffee…

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Donate, or give a grant, to Vu’s organization, Rainier Valley Corps, which has the mission of bringing more leaders of color into the nonprofit sector and getting diverse communities to work together to address systemic issues.

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  • Lauri Goldkind

    De-dup the database with my hot, hot T J Maxx socks. Vu for Congress 2017.

  • Kathryn

    Exactly the pep talk I needed today! Onward to the timesheets!!!

  • Amanda Paveglio

    I was really hoping you’d drop in “Today we are CANCELLING THE APOCOLYPSE!!!”

  • Holly McGregor Anderson

    This was perfect! Forwarded to all of my staff members just after 6:00 am. I wanted this column to be the first thing they saw from me in 2017. Thanks, Vu!

  • Seth Ehrlich

    Thanks Vu! I needed that shot in the arm today. Let’s do this.

  • Stephanie Shain

    I just love you – this is perfect. Thank you.

  • Cheryl Snow

    Up with Vu!! — I love you for revealing my innermost thoughts on this first work day of 2017, and making me smile. And creating a space for us np-ers to feel less cold and lonely.

  • Carol Clarke

    Vu. You are the man. Now, on with entreating for in-kind donations! I am pumped!!

  • Meghan McCarthy

    Thank you for the Independence Day speech. WE CAN DO IT! Off now to move files from one cloud storage to another. One. By. One.

  • Becca

    Thank you Vu, this was much needed. Onto tackling the inbox!!!

  • That was awesome! Great post.

  • Shawn Sweeney

    And on Tolkien’s birthday no less.

  • You always seem to know exactly what to say. Happy de-dupping to you too!

  • Tarn

    The best. And soooo relatable, as I literally cannot feel my toes right now due to the lack of heat in our office. And yet, I soldier on, processing a stack of lovely year-end gifts and scrambling to write grants for foundations who have not-so-subtly let us know that they give more money to those who apply early in the calendar year, March due dates on their website be damned!

    Happy New Year, sexy Jedi unicorns!

  • Arik Greenberg

    Great post, as always. I had one additional day away from the office, for a variety of reasons too complicated to go into, so I am grateful to have this post to read tonight, prior to the commencement of tomorrow’s workday. Huzzah!

  • Thomas Slager

    Someone watched Lord of the Rings.

  • For Frodo!

  • Becca

    Several months after the fact, but I thought you would appreciate that I’m going to use excerpts from this as our opening reflection at staff meeting.