Taking a Punch

P1010020Washington I’ve often told this story.  It’s about a big, rookie mistake I made as a green organizer of 20 years old trying to figure out how to be head organizer of Massachusetts Welfare Rights when total craziness broke out between two contending groups of leadership.  Because of some idealistically pure view of staff and leadership roles I had at the time, I sought to keep the “staff out of the middle” of the dispute by closing the office for a couple of days until everything calmed down.  Maybe a good idea, maybe a bad one, but it turned out to make everyone even madder, because they didn’t have me available to yell out for better or worse.  In retrospect I learned that I should have closed the office perhaps, but sat in a chair outside and waited until leaders showed up, and then taken whatever yells and shouts they had to offer until a plan was made moving forward.  They needed someone to take the punch, and I was too young to understand that was part of my job and came with being an organizer, and that it was political and not personal.

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