Perspective. What a great word, even greater when one has it. For me it has come uneasily with age, but dang it’s finally here.
It’s been a pretty normal journey of life (Jewish mother, local high school, college, law school, marriage, career, kids, career, divorce, single-parenting, and alone) for sure, but with three milestones that are clear markers. The first a near-death experience (though technically I was firmly in and near the end of that tunnel with the light supposed to at the end…but wasn’t). The second, reading Father Greg Boyle’s, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion1. Print, and then meeting Father Greg Boyle in Chautauqua the summer of 2015-this is a quick but must read book if you like unbounded humor, love and man-made miracles in real life. And then last, but certainly not least and at the center of the topic here, a meeting with Ginny Donohue of On Point For College in March 2013.
If Mother Theresa were a kind, full of smiles and humor kinda woman, then Ginny Donohue would be her embodiment. You can look her up but suffice it to say that she has changed the course of life, for over 9,000 Syracuse high school and college-aged kids, and me. Well not only me, but you get the message.
Though I loved the law, and didn’t suck at it, as I got older the practice of it didn’t have the same gratification and joy. For 10 years after divorce, my kids were my life and my interest in law, and then my other business waned.
I wanted a simpler life. I wanted to be the person in my head and heart I always thought I would be, but at which I had fallen so far short. I wanted meaning in life beyond my kids. In short, I wanted, no needed to do good. I wanted to make a difference. While I taught entrepreneurship for 4 years at Syracuse University, and while I loved the growth of the students, I did not like and didn’t feel comfortable in the environment. And Ginny, with all of her generosity, starting in 2013, periodically and consistently mentored me, and gently, patiently guided me to understand (and by that I mean feeling it in my bones) an important truth; not a unique truth, but an important truth.
If we have passion, we are not dead. If we have passion, there are no barriers to our energy, love, compassion, patience or selflessness. And Ginny, by example, dwarfing any achievement I thought I might ever attain in my quest, and in her quiet support, led me to a new understanding about passion. And through her, my passionate self (a much more fulfilled, happier, thoughtful self) emerged. And in that emergence, came the fulfillment of my self, from being a critic and observer of life, to a participant. And by that I was engaged in every minute of every day in the moment of the world around me and what it had to offer.
So I think I forgot to mention that during the period I was still married, but running away from my life, and while still practicing law, I started three restaurants, one being The Stoop. It was a safe and warm hiding place serving people food and making them happy (certainly that part of my mother in me). And now, a decade later, in my more aware and awakened state, I had the clarity to better judge (i) was that feeling real, and was it passion and not just hiding out, and (ii) was a restaurant ENOUGH…enough of a vehicle, to be and do meaningful good.
So, while sittin’ on my stoop, I realized that it was enough, that my passion is what it is and it is up to me to make something important from it in its own way. It is up to me. And that is what I call perspective. So here we go. The Stoop will reopen as the Stoop Kitchen sometime (can I say god-willing) relatively soon, meaning when it is meant to (with not a little hard work and urging from me and others), and this will be my vehicle for good. I will not help 9,000 plus kids change their lives, but I will do what I can do, the best I know how.
This restaurant ties into my passion for food, and agriculture and community, and when we are open, we will do as much good as our hard work, imagination, creativity and community will allow. As a start, we have created the Stoop Kitchen Give It Back Initiative©, that will do cool things in and allow us to engage with the community through food, nutrition, teaching, agricultural relationships, as well as utilizing the restaurant as a vehicle for the contribution of a portion of our profits to deserving community socially-motivated not-for-profit entities and groups. And hopefully, by now, you will not be surprised to learn that our first recipient will be Ginny Donohue’s OnPoint For College. And that’s perspective too.
Footnote: To me On Point always will be Ginny’s creation, but Ginny has mentored her hand-picked successor, the very talented and deserving Sam Rowser, who is sure to bring On Point to even greater heights.
1 Boyle, Gregory, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion. New York: Free Press 2010