Hazel Bull

Wispy Peaks

Whipped to airy heights of 2-3 inches, Hazel Bull’s lemon meringue pies were masterpieces that seemed to defy gravity. A few weeks before Thanksgiving each year, I would mail a letter to her with a dime pasted inside to cover the cost of “the lemon,” and ensure that pie would be on the buffet for the holiday meal. Close to forty years later, Hazel is 102 and lives with that and many other memories in her heart and head. With her wits, humor and appetite in place, her macular degeneration and the realities of aging took her out of her kitchen 15 years ago.

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On the Chairlift

Connecting on the Chairlift

My husband shifts gears when winter comes to our mountain town, blanketing it in deep powder through April if our collective community snow dance pays off. He winds down his construction projects until spring, and spends the winter months sharing his gifts and passion for skiing and snowboarding as a snowsports instructor. He completed the necessary training, memorizing, drills and mastery of technique in order to be certified in all disciplines as governed by PSIA and AASI. Fifteen years later, he’s still teaching, both students and new instructors, but his approach is not formulaic, and does not follow specific linear steps. His approach is 100% relationship-based, heavy on listening, and heavy of co-creating the lesson with the student.

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Experiential Learning

Board members are community members, however broadly or narrowly you define community, and they are passionate about your organization, its programs and services. Board members are sharing their time, wisdom, skills and much more with your organization on behalf of the community.

What if you offer board members new ways to tap their passions, re-energize, and increase community engagement with your organization? What if you take the often dreaded and always on fire “fundraising” topic off the table for a while and see what happens when you engage your board members in new ways?

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What Does Sharing Make Possible?

Community benefit (nonprofit) organizations will regularly serve up a list of volunteer needs, seeking people to sign up for pre-determined time slots to complete pre-determined tasks, or to provide pre-determined wish list items. Sure, the envelopes must be stuffed for the mailing, and a table host is needed for your info booth at the farmers’ market. An assortment of very legitimate organization tasks is not being challenged.

What opportunities are being missed that can have a far greater impact in the community? Community benefit organizations exist for the benefit of the community, not the organization. What might be possible if the focus shifts from WHAT WE NEED to WHAT DO YOU WANT TO SHARE?

Ask yourself: What gifts/passions/skills/wisdom/stuff would you want to share with your community, but you have never been asked? Sit with that question for a while, as it may not be one you’ve ever considered before. What did you unearth, or awaken inside of you? What excites and energizes you when you think of sharing THAT with others?

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Self-Labeled Pragmatic People

A common self-label I hear in conversations is “I’m pragmatic.” This is the response served up when I’m asking questions about a shared vision, or what the community would look and feel like if there was an abundance of resources and the individual/organization was 100% successful in everything they were setting out to achieve. Words mean things, and that means words mean different things to different people.

PRAGMATIC – def: When we deal with things sensibly and realistically in a way that is based on practical rather than theoretical considerations.
PRACTICAL—def: Concerned with the actual doing of something rather than with theory and ideas.

Yet is it not sensible and realistic to start with what we are aiming to achieve before we actually do something?

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Changing the Questions Starts at Hello


Last month I wrote an article for Creating the Future’s monthly journal about what happens when we frame our conversations with different questions. What happens is it changes everything!

A little back story: Creating the Future is a living laboratory for accelerating change. As a Fellow with Creating the Future, we envision communities where people are living well, individually and collectively. We know such a future is possible, simply because it is not impossible. When we change the questions embedded in the day-to-day work of individuals and organizations everyone naturally brings out the best in each other and in our world.

Creating the Future is home for me, sharing and learning from my fellow Creating the Future Fellows who are located all over the world. Each of us is aiming for what is possible every day in and with communities, organizations, individuals, and ourselves. Simply put, it is how I BE.

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Creating the Future Fuels Me

A few years ago, I was listening to a keynote presentation by Hildy Gottlieb. I was about to explode. Front and center was a kindred spirit speaking so powerfully about what I felt to my core. I’m not usually a head-nodder when listening, but that day I was nodding vigorously, grinning, and shedding a few joyful tears.

Copies of Hildy’s books were at my office, dog-eared, underlined and stacked in close proximity to my desk for easy access. That day she was talking about The Pollyanna Principles, her latest book about creating the future we want with our communities. Hildy also spoke about Creating the Future, a living laboratory for accelerating change and the Creating the Future Fellows all around the world who are a part of the organization. I no longer felt alone with thoughts I had about community benefit (nonprofit) organizations and community building. Here was a thought framework and approach that was screaming my name. Incredibly brilliant souls were freely sharing their wisdom, experiences and passions. I didn’t just dip my toe in the pool, I cannon-balled off the high dive.

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At Last: Creating A Space to Be

This space has been a long time coming for me. Creating a blog has been on the “to-do list” for many moons. I’m grateful it didn’t launch until now. Otherwise, it would continue to be on the list with “write a blog post, ” as an recurring to-do to myself. Now, it is a space that allows me to breathe, to be, to explore, and to share freely.

Over the past year, I’ve come to understand and hold sacred the power of reflection. It’s what I unleash by hitting pause and getting off the productivity train. We live in a world where the focus is on DOING, without appreciation for the power and potential that comes from BEING. I also realize what is possible simply by creating a physical and public space to share inspirations, reflections, and questions. Welcome to this shared space.