“If I am not for myself, then who will be for me?

And if I am only for myself, then what am I?

And if not now, when?”

Rabbi Hillel

The theme for my address cycle this year is “Facing the Community” and I am hoping that the addresses will dovetail with a significant uptick in the Society’s ethical action efforts – especially in regard to efforts to deliver forums and workshops to address concerns of the general public. This effort builds upon last year’s successes with No Impact Man, Race to Nowhere and Hidden Battles with an aim toward monthly events—most often in partnership with other organizations—that would provide a fresh and helpful point of view regarding important challenges our communities are either facing now or likely to be facing in the future.

This effort also builds upon the headway we have been making in encouraging more people to be involved in the leadership and implementation of the Society’s activities. At the Spring Membership Meeting, many of you participated in a planning exercise for articulating goals and objectives for the committees that are the backbone of the Society. A good number of you expressed interest in joining one or more committees, and the board has taken a very active role in recruiting committee members and supporting committee leaders.

These efforts are vital to the life of the Society and, more importantly, offer the opportunity for the Society to be more vital to the communities we engage with. As an organization committed to the motto “Deed Before Creed” it is what we show to the world that truly says who we are. And if we believe that eliciting the best of others elicits the best of ourselves, it’s incumbent upon us to show how that works in practice.

A number of the Society’s leaders attended the day-long workshop on September 24th by Natalie Finstad and her assistant, Emilia Allen, titled “Passion to Action: The Art of Public Narrative” which I hope will provide us with important tools for moving forward on the facing the community front. The workshop was designed to teach us how to use a community organizing technology called “Public Narrative” that was developed from the work of Marshall Ganz of Harvard University.

Public Narrative involves telling a story—or actually, three stories—designed to engage listeners and prompt them to action. Story telling is important because stories reach us in a way that plain facts and figures do not. Stories draw us in, stir our emotions, and, when told effectively, stir us to take action.

The three stories of Public Narrative are the Story of Self (the narrative that tells about you and your passion), the Story of Us (the narrative that engages the common interests of the community and shows why we are called to act), and the Story of Now (the narrative about the urgent need to act right away and the ways to do that.) The training helped each of us develop our three stories which, once combined, could be shared in five minutes’ time.

One of the workshop participants, Barbara Finiguerra, has worked in sales for many years and shared a saying from the industry that is especially apropos: “Facts tell, stories sell!” If you want to move people to action, a story will do what facts and figures alone will not do–stir the soul.

So what is your story and how might you share it? I’m expecting there will be many opportunities to do so in the coming year!