August 30, 2022

POV: What Lies Beyond

By Jill Bennett

I like answers. Full stop. A yes? A no? It’s almost irrelevant. An answer—the shorter the better—means that I can take my next step and keep making progress.  

And yet. 

Not all questions have simple answers, and some of the most interesting questions have no answers at all—or worse yet, have answers that contradict themselves. In the field of science there are symposia devoted to unanswered questions. They ask, "What is the universe made of?" and “What is dark matter?” (If you’re wondering, I will not be attending that lecture.) 

The questions philosophers pose are even more interesting and equally confounding. Do we really have free will? Can we know anything at all? Who am “I”? That the answers remain in dispute after centuries makes me believe the debate will continue for centuries to come. As I consider these questions, a few questions of my own appear. What lies beyond? And what is love, really? Here’s my take.  

This year’s UNA Annual Conference, Beyond Passion, offers hope. This hope comes in the form of solutions to many of our challenges, including living authentic, powerful lives (Carson Tueller), making change happen (Deepa Iyer), strengthening our leadership abilities (Dr. Susan Madsen), as well as creating supportive working environments, developing sustainable fundraising models, and so much more. 

And yet. 

While Beyond Passion brings focused answers to many of our everyday questions, I believe that its true value lies beyond the sessions, networking, and exhibitor hall. Don’t get me wrong, these components make for our best conference yet. The keynotes, sponsors, and opportunities to meet new people have come together in an exciting, intentional way. But I believe the real value of attending the conference lies, well, beyond the conference. It’s in that spark of a new connection, a new idea, or a new way of thinking. It’s the value of knowing that you are on the right path. It's the realization that you are not alone. It’s knowing that there are other people who share your passion, drive, and belief in the power of nonprofits to create happy, healthy, resilient communities—communities that provide shelter, solace, inspiration, nourishment for bodies and souls, and healing for our air, water, and land. 

If you were to ask me, “What lies beyond passion?,” I’d have a one-word answer for you. It's LOVE. I believe that love is an action. It’s the work you do every day to advance your mission in the face of unending adversity. Every act of kindness you muster is an act of love. Passion is exciting, invigorating, and the stuff of romance. Love happens when passion is nurtured, cared for, and allowed to grow. So if this leads you to conclude that attending the UNA Annual Conference is an act of love for your organization, well then, I’m good with that.