We are gathered here today, but do we know why?
“Never start a funeral with logistics.”
This was my favorite tip from The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters, which I read back in January. It echoes advice you hear often in writing classes: always start mid-scene. No preamble, no prologue - just dive right into the action. Whether literary or ceremony, those first moments set the tone for everything that follows, so make sure they matter.
This past week I attended two very different gatherings. The first was the annual meeting of my Democratic precinct, which I’ve chaired for the past two years ago. We meet roughly every other month to canvass for elections, register voters, host candidates, and raise money for the state party. To be considered organized, however, we must meet during a specific week in February with a quorum of at least 5 registered Democrats, which is no easy feat for a neighborhood with a lot of rentals, in a year with no big elections. The fact that 12 people showed up was pretty thrilling.
The other gathering I attended was my company’s annual kickoff. Once a year, the entire company - all 600+ of us, including folks from our international offices - gather in Wilmington for three full days to celebrate the past year, set goals for the future, and share a vision for where the company is going and how we can all contribute to its success. I don’t organize this event (thank god) but I work closely with the team that does, so I got to see firsthand the thought and care that went into it.
Which brings me to another favorite quote from The Art of Gathering: “Think about what you want to be different because you gathered, and work backward from that outcome.”
After the precinct meeting, I felt optimistic, hopeful for my city’s future, and a little closer to my neighbors, some of whom I’d never met before. After the company kickoff, I felt inspired, excited about my career, and grateful to be part of a high-growth company with an amazing culture.
These were, of course, the desired outcomes, and each gathering, from opening to end, was orchestrated with them in mind. At the precinct meeting, we began not with a rundown of the issues plaguing Wilmington, but by going around the room and introducing ourselves. At the company kickoff, the first speaker did not climb on stage and review the agenda. Instead, our CEO launched into a vision for the future that sparked our imaginations. No prologues or preambles. No logistics. We were there for a reason, and in those first moments we knew exactly what it was.
Ever since reading The Art of Gathering, I've paid more attention to how and why and when I meet with others. I think more about the purpose of each gathering, and what should change as a result. That includes virtual spaces, like this newsletter. We're here because you accepted an invitation, and having a deadline each Sunday morning feels like a standing date. I look forward to it, and I hope you do, too. I hope, like the other gatherings I attended this week, it's beginning to feel like a real community. 💛
A Story of a Fuck Off Fund, The Billfold. Speaking of communities, one of my favorite online publications closed their virtual doors this past week, and republished the best personal finance piece I've ever read as part of their swan song. I'll miss you, Billfold!
Oh, God, It's Raining Newsletters, Craig Mod."Newsletters and newsletter startups these days are like mushrooms in an open field after a good spring rain. I don’t know a single writer who isn’t newslettering or newsletter-curious, and for many, the newsletter is where they’re doing their finest public work." VALIDATION.
The Limits of Extremely Online Organizing, The Atlantic. "And so it was that #FuckFuckJerry ended up in the same boat as #DeleteFacebook and, before that, #DeleteUber: worthy, impassioned protests that have not changed underlying economic structures."
✨ Snack of the Week ✨
The fact that I waited four full weeks to feature Inner Peas (Trader Joe's just-as-tasty version of the delicious Snapea Crisp) is a testament to how I've grown as a person and a snacker. I still can't open a bag without finishing the whole thing in one sitting, but now I only buy them once or twice a month. PROGRESS. They're probably not the healthiest snack out there, but sometimes you just gotta live a little, you know?
A Tiny Challenge
What communities, in real life or online, do you belong to? Make a list and then think of one way you can tweak or change the way you meet, gather, or interact.
I'll start (it's only fair): I'm a sustaining member of my local NPR station. We mostly meet in the car, on my way to and from work, but this year I'm thinking it might be fun to volunteer for the pledge drive. Hold me to it!
Until next week! 💌
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