Fierce Kindness, Willful Love

Posted: 11th January 2015 by admin in Blog
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I met my first warrior at Corner Bakery on a cold, grey afternoon in 2007.  She’d been recommended to me by two colleagues who thought she’d be able to help with some of the work our agency was doing at the time around funding and fundraising. I was still fueling my caffeine habit and over several cups of hazelnut coffee, we introduced ourselves to each other and began to see where our professional puzzle pieces fit together.

She announced, laughing, that she knew we’d be friends forever when I showed her a photo of my Golden Retriever, Zach, before I showed her a photo of my partner, and then she told me about her King Charles Spaniels before she told me about her husband. She asked all the questions I expected, offered help on several fronts and made a few suggestions about places I could dial back and ask the board members to step up.

She fell in love, she told me. With the agency’s mission, with the stories of the kids I told her, with the volunteers and board members she met, with that picture of Zach and my description of him. She wanted to commit something to us—something tangible and long lasting.

The more I learned about her, the more I wished for a Vulcan mind meld, in which all of the knowledge she’d acquired over her years could be transplanted into my brain. She served on the boards of national social justice and human rights organizations. When she told me how we could better do something, I paid attention as if in a scene from the old TV show, Kung Fu.  “As quickly as you can, snatch the pebble from my hand…”  Just when I thought I had it figured out how to best snatch the pebbles out of her hand on the topic du jour, I usually ended up my nose in the dust, and she’d go wandering nonchalantly away with her handful of pebbles intact. And usually laughing at me. Most often, laughing at me.

Then there were days we did not laugh–could not laugh.

I shared with her some comments made by some of the youth group members about the agency being the whole reason that they were still alive. There was no laughter that day. There was a fierceness, a protectiveness, an outrage that drove our conversation that these kids she thought so much of were at such risk of harm—by others and by themselves.

There were no excuses after this conversation. Not by me. Not by board members. Not by staff. Everything boiled down to one thing—“How much do these kids’ lives mean to you?”  Being tired was not a reason not to achieve. Not getting something done—indefensible.  She got it in a personal way that I hadn’t seen anyone outside the agency ever get it. “How much is Tim’s life worth to you? Or TJ’s? Or Sarah’s?” And to me, “I know you FEEL this. Now make ME feel it with you.”

She was the first person to tell me that I, too, was a warrior. There could have been no greater compliment.

In my mind, she stood 6’ tall and wore a black leather duster coat that reached almost to her feet, sweeping in and out of town for our meetings. Her presence was huge and disarming. In reality, she barely reached my shoulder and I had to lean over to hug her good bye. She came to the agency to volunteer. She became my mentor and she taught me about commitment, about passion, about willful love, about disobedience and rebellion couched in compassion, about waging peace and cultivating respect for all the people on our paths, and about deep, fierce kindness that I could see touched everyone around her.

“When you can snatch the pebble from my hand, it will be time for you to leave.”

I never did get that damn pebble, but it seems not to have mattered. She picked me up, dusted me off and called me a warrior anyway. There will be no greater compliment.

Pay attention on your next trip to Corner Bakery. Or Panera. You never know where you might run into a warrior unexpectedly who might want to commit something long-lasting to you or –as happened for me–who might change your view of your whole self. Don’t let the absence of the leather duster coat fool you!


  1. Kate says:

    Perfection. She would be honored.

  2. Thank you, Kate. That was the idea!

  3. Holly Phillips says:

    Beautiful story…..

  4. Thank you, Holly!

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