People often comment about how amazing the work we do at Operation HOPE is, and it is amazing. Others comment about how impactful it is in people’s lives, and I am continually humbled by its stated impact through our clients, partners and advocates. But securing the resources to “do” that work is not nearly as easy and effortless as it looks. I guess I make it look easy on some levels, but believe me, it is anything but.
The key is, I am absolutely passionate about the work and what we do, so that makes it easy to do on some levels, and the frustrations easy enough to put up with, but frustrations are everywhere in my work. Everywhere.
I have often said that in some ways Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and my mentor and personal hero, Ambassador Andrew Young, Dr. King’s most senior aide in the movement, had it easier (I am sure that I am incorrect here in the literal sense, but I am only speaking about what comes next in my statement). Easier in the sense, that they ran into people who seemed to fit into one of two paradigms — people really, really supported what they were doing, or they really, really were not. It was love, or hate. Even the envy that Dr. King collected like banks collect deposits, could be cataloged as ‘aggressively non-constructive’ energy. But it was energy. People took a position.
Often times in my work, the issue I find is neither love nor hate, but what I now call “radical indifference.” People who don’t care enough to hate you. Radical indifference, this is the worst thing imaginable. And a sense of “whatever,” no matter how casually it is communicated, is the worse blow-off anyone could encounter. Imagine your child sharing the most important thing to you, their parent, and what they got back in return, time and time again was “whatever.” It would absolutely devastate their self-esteem. For years, that is precisely what I felt in our push for silver rights empowerment for all.
And so, sure, as Operation HOPE and I have become more prominent and noteworthy over these past 20 years, the interest has increased, the indifference, less so — but it is so still there. Most notably with almost every new interaction of major-monied-interest I run into. Equally frustrating, is when someone says they are interested in the work, but in reality, they are merely interested in basking in your after-glow.
I have to first get these ‘radically indifferent’ so-called leaders to actually care about the issue, and the poor, and then to get them to want to do something about it. And all of this before I can even approach the issue of them supporting our work. Like building a ship, set to sea. It is nothing short of exhausting, and draining, and I am glad to do it.
As the late Dr. Scott Peck said in his famous book THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED, “love is work,” and “life is difficult.”
Whatever you do in life, anything worth a damn, it is going to take time, energy, sacrifice, and in the end it will hurt you. It may break your heart. It will damage a part of your soul, tied to your hopefulness if you are not careful. But that does not mean it is not fully worth doing.
Love is work, and rainbows only follow storms. You cannot have a rainbow, without a storm first.
John Hope Bryant is a thought leader, founder, chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE, Bryant Group Companies, Inc. Magazine/CEO READ bestselling business author of LOVE LEADERSHIP: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World (Jossey-Bass) the only African-American bestselling business author in the U.S., and is chairman of the Subcommittee for the Under-Served and Community Empowerment for the U.S. President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability, for President Barack Obama. Mr. Bryant is the co-founder of the Gallup-HOPE Index, the only national research poll on youth financial dignity and youth economic energy in the U.S. He is also a co-founder of Global Dignity with HRH Crown Prince Haakon of Norway and Professor Pekka Himanen of Finland. Global Dignity is affiliated with the Forum of Young Global Leaders and the World Economic Forum. Mr. Bryant serves on the board of directors of Ares Commercial Real Estate Corporation, an NYSE Euronext publicly traded company, and a division of $54 billion Ares Capital.
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