Once upon a time, a weary traveler happened upon a village, carrying nothing more than his staff and an empty cooking pot. Upon arrival of this stranger, the villagers become suspicious of him and are unwilling to share any of their food stores. Realizing how hard the times were in this village, the traveler gives careful consideration. He takes his cooking pot, fills it with water at a local well and places it over a fire. All the while, he is watched by the villagers. As he crouches beside the pot, he drops a large, round stone ceremoniously into the water. The traveler then begins to stir the pot, all the while making sounds of enjoyment. The villagers, becoming curious, come out and inquire about the pot. The charismatic traveler answers that he is making a very special soup, which tastes wonderful, although it still needs a little bit of garnish to improve the flavor, which, sadly, the traveler is missing. The villagers, captivated by the idea that a stone could produce such a thing, realize they do not mind parting with a few items from their meager stores to help this soup along. In the end, a delicious and nourishing pot of soup is enjoyed by all with very little effort.
When I first read this story, I imagined the villagers as a wary, hungry, war-torn people struggling to make ends meet, and that any help extended meant less for them or their families later on. Then, one day, a stranger walks into their lives and completely changes their perspective on sharing with others. There is a simple moral to this story: when we set aside our differences and work together, with everyone contributing what they can, a greater good is achieved. Many seem to think that the term “passing the hat” is an awful, uncomfortable thing and makes people feel pushed, cajoled, wheedled, soft-soaped or prevailed upon. Just as the charismatic traveler did, we too need to change the perception of participation. Participation has many levels… passing the hat is just one of them.
TAWN is a non-profit organization working toward a greater good within our community. But, what does “non-profit” mean? The definition of “non-profit” does not mean that we work with dry coffers! The literal definition of a non-profit organization means that we do not earn profits for any owners, and all of the money earned by or donated to TAWN is used in pursuing the organization’s objectives. But, who are our mysterious owners? And what are these unknown objectives? Believe it or not, we are all owners of TAWN. Any member is the face of TAWN. As such, we have responsibility to ourselves and our neighbors, whether or not they believe the same as we do. Those neighbors are also owners of TAWN… any contributions they choose to make are just as effective as a member’s, whether through volunteering or donating. And those unknown objectives? They are simply the stone in the pot. Think of all the amazing things we could cook up together!
Asking for donations shouldn’t be viewed as a gambit. The villagers may be a wary lot, and seem unwilling to participate. However, if we change our perception of the word “donation” just a bit, we can help others, as well as ourselves, realize that in order to reach our full potential, all we need is to add is a little ingredient to the pot.