last month’s nomadic wandering led to a pretty da*n good and happy birthday. actually, it was a celebratory week that took me from the south carolina coast to the hills of north carolina’s wine country.
“Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.” — Proverbs 11:25
“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” — G.K. Chesterton
Remain mindful throughout this season…and may your Thanksgiving Day be ever most wondrous. — VF
Now through Oct 14, you can enter a Goodreads.com giveaway to win one of two free copies of Giving Back: A Tribute to Generations of African American Philanthropists.
After orchids, the rose is my favorite flower. Its unmatchable beauty and famous symbolism have inspired my “Stop and Smell the Roses” parties over the years. Roses forever stir the poet and lover and philosopher in me.
A stalky rosebush grows at the edge of my driveway, just where I pull up and park every day. I imagine it could be nearly as old as my 75-year-old house. Constant and kind, my tall rose greets me upon arriving home and bids adieu when leaving. Just seeing it makes me happy. And it makes me think, too. Sitting in the car, before turning off the engine or driving away, I often take a moment to breathe in its metaphorical messages. Day to day, season to season, it seems to have something new and important to say.
Bare of blooms and thorny, sometimes draped in ice or laced with snow in winter, its stems and its leaves stay green throughout. Budding feverishly at the hint of spring, it bodes a host of hopes yet to come. Bowed with bursts of blossoms before summer, it beckons boldness with humbleness. Sometimes, I am tempted to oblige with a quick curtsy for its gracious and welcoming bow. The weeks pink petals litter the pathway, I’m convinced it has strewn them just to make my day.
The other day I came home to find my rosebush lying prone across the driveway. It had fallen over from the weight of wild new growth and from the neglect of an admiring but challenged gardener. Roots intact and still vibrant, it just needed pruning and a secure fastening to its trellis. Yet another message. A reminder of life’s delicate balancing act. Stretching, growing, climbing, reaching can its toll. This I know. While I have taken time to do some pruning and can show scratches for proof, struggles in keeping my own balance have kept me from re-anchoring it. So, it still blocks my driveway.
Yesterday as I drove up, a surprise. There, in the spindly, thorny mass that has sprawled the drive for days, perhaps weeks now, a single blossom. One rose eked out by my fatigued floral friend. A tiny gift. And a monumental message. Even when weary from this world’s weight, keep doing your thing. — VF
“The Philanthropic Five” featured here are friends and donor-members of the giving circle New Generation of African American Philanthropists (one of my fav photos!):
- Men Tchaas…the philosopher
- Lovell…the musician
- Rashad…the entrepreneur
- Michael…the artist
- Eric…the advocate
“Religion without humanity is poor human stuff.” — Sojourner Truth
“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” — Leo Tolstoy
Selected advance readers of Giving Back have begun sharing their commentary on the book over the last week. With an easy willingness, both strangers and acquaintances known widely for intense work and demanding itineraries have, one by one, agreed to read my 400-page manuscript. That astounds me. And then, after reading the work, one responds with these words . . .
“Through a rich tapestry of voices and images, including inspirational interviews, stunning photographs, thoughtful commentary, and wide-ranging quotations, Giving Back captures the essence and generosity of African American donors as never before. No one—including the leaders of non-profit organizations—could fail to be moved and enlightened by these vivid reminders of the potential of African American philanthropy.
“The book is beautiful and so inspirational, I now know what I will be getting everyone as a Christmas present!”
— Michele Minter, Vice President for Development, The College Board
Still over the moon.
“Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.” — Henry Ward Beecher
Today is the birthday of Charles W. Thomas, Jr., the photographer for Giving Back. I’m taking the occasion to publicly thank Charles for collaborating with me on this project. Our dispositions and skill-sets proved a good match; however, it was a shared pride in our cultural heritage and love of our community’s stories that defined our work together. (Though, my loyalties as a Tarheel might rightfully be questioned for working so well with a Duke grad! Sorry about that.)
Still an amazingly vivid memory, my initial conversation with Charles happened almost four years ago. We had crossed paths professionally, but neither of us truly knew the other or had never even had a one-on-one conversation. Months earlier, I had conceived of and mapped out the book project and was now in search of a photographer.
I wanted to find someone who would approach the project with an artist’s eye and could capture the striking beauty of our people and our stories. Knowing of his affiliation with The Light Factory Contemporary Museum of Photography and Film, Charles had been on my list of prospective photographers, and several people in Charlotte’s arts community also had suggested I meet with him.
During our meeting, I unfolded my vision of the book and shared notes from a concept paper. Charles held an amused look as I rambled on about what I envisioned and the timeline and the resources and the logistics for making it happen. He expressed his past desire to pursue a similar concept. As we talked further, there was clear alignment of our values and artistic aspirations.
A crucial move, choosing Charles as my photography partner on the project was no doubt divinely inspired. His collaboration has been a God-sent steadying force—from his initial blind faith in my vision to his level-headedness, patience, professionalism and generosity. During the photo shoots, he established a trusting rapport with each person and thus captured telling images. He also was easy about the unexpected twists and turns of the project and the constant stream of ideas coming from me.
Thank you and have a happy birthday Charles!