Seeing What Will Be

Seeing What Will Be

Last week one of my clients said it feels like we are all stuck in a perpetual game of Donkey Kong. We laughed for a moment and I agreed, saying that every time we think the coast seems momentarily clear, that blasted gorilla throws another barrel in our path.

There is no question we have all been forced to overcome unexpected obstacles on a daily, if not hourly, basis — way beyond what we were used to in the “normal” course of business prior to 2020. It is certainly not as amusing as playing a silly video game, but we all keep forging ahead because our mission and the people we serve need us to do everything we can, but retreat.

Yesterday, another client’s e-newsletter arrived with the following “Mindful Minute.” (The intended audience is the first generation college students they work with, but my sense is the wisdom here is universal.)

Seeing What Will Be -John Horan

One fifth of a second.

Not a very long time to be sure. But that is the amount of time your eyes (optic nerve for you biology majors) take to transmit a hundred billion signals to the brain.  When it comes to “seeing”, your brain does almost all the work.

The brain takes the hundred billion signals from the eyes and interprets them.  It makes sense of all the information your eyes send.  It processes movements, colors, and shapes and sorts them into coherence.  So, what you “see” has actually happened 1/5 of a second ago.

Then the brain does one more extraordinary thing.  Because there is a 1/5 of a second lag between what the eyes see, the brain forecasts what the world will be a fraction of a second from now.  That forecast is what gives us the present.  Amazing!!

We never see the world as it is at this very instant, but rather as it will be a fraction of a moment in the future.  Thanks to the brain we see what will be

It helps us live in a world that does not quite exist yet.  And that should be comforting in these times of not knowing what will come next.

Things are not clear.  There are a hundred billion uncertain signals.  What will come next with our education, politics, economy, health, our city, our environment, and our hunger for racial justice?

We have to live in anticipation of world that does not yet exist.  Amid all of this uncertainly, we have to see what will be.  We have to forecast what we long for the world to be.
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I was stuck by John’s message on several levels, not the least of which were these words, “We have to live in anticipation of world that does not yet exist.

Whatever role you play on your organization’s team (staff, volunteer, donor), you’re invested in this work because you are driven by a desire to make your neighborhood, your city and/or the world a safer, better place. And, despite the obstacles that the past several months have thrown at us (and the ones yet to be launched in our direction), we all have to keep looking forward, seeing what will be. There is too much at stake for the people and the families we serve to do anything less.

The good new is, unlike Mario, we don’t have to face the challenges on our own. Your team and your colleagues and friends in the non-profit world are here to help and support you. If the barrels are coming too fast for you to handle, reach out and ask for help–even if you just need someone to empathize with you.

Even better, what if -once a week – we all committed to calling one of our colleagues or staff members at the organizations we support, just to let them know we are thinking about them and we’re willing to lend an ear or a hand. The truth is we are all doing our level best and the reality is, for some people, the challenges can sometimes feel overwhelming. Having a reminder that someone is in their corner might be just the boost they need to jump over the next few barrels.

Thank you, as always, for the life-changing work you do everyday!

David Gee, Vice President, HPS Chicago

PS: September is also Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. This two-page resource offers information on getting involved, including tips on how to take action to help prevent suicide in your community, such as learning about effective suicide prevention, sharing stories of hope, and empowering everyone to be there for those in distress.  Suicide Prevention Month – Ideas for Action Remember, It’s Okay To Not Be Okay.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at, 800-273-8255