August 1, 2019
Crossing the Finish Line
Categories: Leadership, CEO Message,
As my fellow avid bicyclists may know, each year my husband Mike and I participate in RAGBRAI, Des Moines Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, journeying 480 miles from the Missouri to Mississippi Rivers with more than 20,000 other dedicated riders. Over this weeklong ride we push the limits of our endurance and perseverance while taking in the sights and marveling at the shared comradery shown by other cyclists, and the people in each community we encounter.
As you can imagine, this trek allows a lot of time for reflection. This year, as the miles passed, patience and its role in our community were on my mind, and I couldn't help but relate it to my experiences with RAGBRAI.
On this year's ride, we stopped in Anita, a town with a population of 943 people with an unwavering pride for their local library. While times have not always been kind to some of these small towns, those that are flourishing have found ways to reinvent themselves. I chatted with several young women in Anita who were raising funds for new windows for the library, creatively setting up a photo op with free will donations. I happily donated and loved how excited they became, telling me about the overwhelming success they have had raising funds from more than 20,000 RAGBRAI riders. Much like these remarkable young women, many communities across Iowa anticipate the opportunities RAGBRAI offers to implement carefully considered and developed ideas. With RAGBRAI in its 47th year, imagine the steady momentum and impact these ideas have had advancing communities and their families over the years.
Young women in Anita, Iowa, raising funds for new library windows with free will donations and a photo op.
The other shift I noticed this year came when we crossed the finish line in Keokuk. I stepped back and marveled at the different ages, sizes and abilities of each rider. While all of us had different abilities, everyone was able to cross the finish line and celebrate their journey. We didn't need to fit a certain mold of notion of what an athlete should be. This certainly wasn't the case 26 years ago when we began riding RAGBRAI. Today's "wellness" mindset was still the "fitness" arena. Over the years antiquated tropes of super-fit, athletic models have given way to a diverse collection of athletes of all different ages, sizes, levels of experience, and mindsets.
By no means did this change occur overnight: it was through the tireless efforts of multiple generations of athletes to alter this paradigm and broaden representation for all. These are both valuable parables for our community, especially as we work together towards common goals and visions for improving the lives of individuals and families across our region.
Community-wide impact develops and gains momentum, enthusiasm, and strength over time, as more and more community members stand united in supporting a cause. This process is not spontaneous, but it is intentional. For ideas to mature into achievable solutions, patience is the crucial ingredient for success, both on a long-distance cycling race, and in building community.
Patience allows innovative ideas and deeper insight to grow from the ground up.
I see these traits being reflected through our work at the Community Foundation. Over our 40-year history, we have taken careful steps to ensure our relationships with the community are grounded in trust, reliability, and stability. We realize that patience requires actively listening and learning from others with different life experiences and circumstances and involves building trusted relationships across sectors. Our donors and nonprofits partners certainly understand the importance of patience too, as they strategically plan their initiatives for long-term impact and build a charitable legacy.
Yet, much like the changing world of fitness, patience must meet with two other ingredients for long-term success - flexibility and a willingness to adapt as times change. This helps us all cross the proverbial finish line on our own terms, at our own pace, and share in this mutual triumph. This well-deserved success will be different to each donor, nonprofit, and community member, but in all cases, it'll be the result of a patient and passionate spirit.
As always, I'd like to hear from you. How can we better use patience to address needs, support causes, and build more meaningful relationships in our community? Let me know. We're listening.