Butterworth’s book was first written the year I was born (some of the content shows that), but Twist’s book combines her reflections from a career in non-profit development, fundraising, and work on tough social issues like resolving global hunger and helping Amazon residents preserve their forest. Not all of Twist’s anecdotes resonate with me, but it’s clear her thoughts are grounded in her life and professional experiences.
Butterworth and Twist agree that we thrive as we practice giving, living generously (“contributing whatever [you] have without fear of loss”), partnering with others, and pouring our energy and affirmative attention into people and projects that we fully believe in.
They also agree on what now feels like a basic life principle: expecting one’s beliefs to be beneficial. They don’t mean that our beliefs should turn us a financial profit, necessarily. They mean that there’s no point building our lives around beliefs that leave us fearful, anxious for the future, or invested in the assumptions that violence, poverty, and hardship are inevitable and that efforts to resolve them are futile.
What if I could be radically present in my life, appreciating the beauty and challenges of existence moment by moment, giving my full attention to the people, work, and opportunities to contribute that come my way, and centering myself in who I am, not merely what I have or can get? What if I judged my choices and contributions, as Butterworth says, “out of the expanse of [my] wholeness, not at its expense”?
When I was about to complete my last year of college in Jamaica, I had a series of life-disrupting health events. I withdrew from school with a letter to the registrar—still one of the hardest letters I’ve ever written—and spent nearly 9 months back in the UK recovering. It wasn’t that I’d been living my life in getting mode and suddenly understood what giving meant; that’s not my story. But the experience did teach me a lot about what it means to simply be, even when I’m not in a position to meet cultural expectations and frenetically produce.
My presence is the greatest gift.
In the decade and a half since that experience, I’ve only become more inclined to spaces where people are valued for who they are, not primarily for what they can give, how much they possess, or what they can get for themselves or for others. When we show up in these kinds of spaces, we do bring all of our gifts and skills and perspectives and community resources with us, but we aren’t valuable for the gold in our backpacks. We are the gift.
From that perspective, imagine the power of entire teams of people who know who they are and bring their whole selves into collaborative relationships. Imagine communities filled with people who reach out to other people they respect and whose work they love enough to amplify without drama, score-keeping, or the hope of extra credit. Relationships win the race!
In a you-or-me world, reciprocity and collaboration don’t fit. A you-and-me world is full of collaborators, partners, sharing, and reciprocity… Collaboration becomes the circuitry through which the energy, attention, and resources of sufficiency flow and are continually renewed. Implicit in collaboration is the trust that says there is enough and we will figure out how to use it together wisely.” —Lynne Twist and Teresa Barker
These are counter-cultural priorities, yes. But they yield innovative, financial, and relational results that are far better long-term than living small-hearted, grasping, isolated, and suspicious.