Last year, I attended the Quality in Sustainability Conference in Anaheim, California. The conference was part of the World Conference on Quality and Improvement (WCQI), sponsored by the American Society for Quality (ASQ). The conferences were great, and I met some wonderful people who believe in sustainability and the need for organizations to step up and take the lead in solving many global problems.
However, I was really struck by one individual—another “hope builder”—by the name of Majora Carter. Majora is the entrepreneur who coined the phrase “Greening the Ghetto.” She was the driver behind the initiative Sustainable South Bronx, which turned around a devastated area of Bronx, New York into a thriving community (www.ssbx.org). Go check this out. It is a demonstration of how vision, belief, a sense of real community, and creation of green collar jobs can breed incredible success. She essentially went back to her roots, said “I can change this area and make it thrive,” and created a miracle. Check out her speeches on TED. You will quickly see why Majora is so special.
So, I had the unique opportunity to have breakfast with her, along with a few others whose belief in a sustainable future is part of their DNA. For those of us at the breakfast table, we all considered Majora the star because of how well-regarded and recognized she is. In fact, you could say I was a little giddy to meet her. Just to be sure you don’t think I am a bit off on my hormones, let me tell you about her. She received a Liberty Medal for Lifetime Achievement from the New York Post, was described as “The Green Power Broker” by the New York Times, and named one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business by Fast Company magazine in 2010. Okay,can you see why I was giddy?
The breakfast began as usual…some chit chat, the five of us at the table getting to know one another, and deciding if we each wanted to order from the menu or take the buffet. Really important stuff, don’t you know! But then the conversation turned to the role of social innovation and how one person can make a difference. Majora started to share her BELIEFS, not necessarily her own story. She believes that one person can make a difference. She also believes that thriving urban communities will only come if you engage the community and build a local economy that cares about its future. Give people work that will build their own community.
I listened to Majora and learned, and watched her face light up the more she talked about what she believed in. But what I really heard was hope…she knew that she did, and could continue to, make a difference. It was not her ego talking, but rather conviction and her belief. And she knew it was part of her calling—her ministry, if you will.
The hope spilled out over the coffee cups, the omelets, the yogurt, into my ears and down into my heart. Her smile lit up the room. When I left the breakfast, I hugged her and thanked her for building my hope. I left believing that there are the right people out there working on the right things for our future, and thanks to Majora, my “hope cup” was refilled.
Thanks, Majora. You are pretty special.
And to those of you reading this, leave a comment and tell me about the people who give you hope.
Image credit: QueenofTheSun/Flickr