Friday, March 14, 2008

How close should we get?

We were “late” to pick up my son from daycare this week. We’re usually there shortly after 4pm but it was a nice day so we all walked up to get him and didn’t arrive until just after 4:30. Officially they don’t close until 5:30 but Ian was the last child of the day and they were expecting us at our usual time. It was a little bit awkward because the providers had dinner plans and were waiting for us. I felt pretty sheepish about it at first, but afterwards not so much. The issue was really that we’ve tried to have much more than a professional or contractual relationship with the daycare. If they are going to be caring for our son a couple days each week we want to be personally connected to them. Which makes it a little harder when any of us are disappointed or frustrated by one another.
As a foundation we’ve decided that we aren’t just about handing out novelty cheques and waiting for annual reports. We want to become personally involved with the work our partners are doing. Sometimes that means mentoring one of their staff, sitting as a board member, taking part in one of their programs, or just really getting to know the people who make things happen. It’s a big part of what I love about this role.
But it does make things potentially awkward. When we are the ones evaluating grant proposals and the results of our funding we need to be somewhat at arms length. Personal relationships make the professional aspect of what we do complex if not conflicted. What happens if someone who has become my friend doesn’t get the grant next year that they need to maintain their salary? What changes if I feel personally offended by someone over something that has nothing to do with their programs and projects?
My hope is the both we at Catalyst and those we partner with are willing to face those complications. If we can be up front about the possibility for issues to arise and be unafraid to take the risk of becoming involved there is little doubt that somewhere along the line something will blow up in our faces. But, isn’t that always the way of humanity; and the way of Jesus?
The Incarnation means, at the very least, that God risks giving up his professional distance and seasoned objectivity and gets into the muck where we live. It is profoundly costly as Easter will highlight for us again very soon. But it I the way God chose to work to bring not only obedience but actual transformation through love.
If anyone has experience or insight into the pitfalls and pleasures of these more subjective partnerships I’d love to hear some thoughts…
(Oh, we worked everything out at daycare and things are cool again now.)

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