By Gary Gunderson
I wish I was handing you this in person in a decent restaurant with a bit more ceremony involved. But I didn’t want to wait to get my new book in your hands.
Speak Life: Crafting Mercy in a Hard-Hearted Time, is written for you who have given your life to advance the health and well-being of the places and neighbors you love. Like you, most of the people captured by such a movement persist year after year for decades sustained by shared spirit, intelligence and sweat. I hope this new book will deepen and strengthen your energy for that movement.
The book being released in Orlando June 20th at the Distinguished Lecture Series sponsored by Florida Hospitals, one of our Stakeholder Health partners. Most of the speakers and all of the audience are distinguished by their people and places they care about and the Spirit that carries them. If you’re anywhere nearby, please come (You can register here).
If you’ve read my other stuff, you’ll recognize echoes of Boundary Leaders and the earlier Deeply Woven Roots. And of course, Leading Causes of Life and the Fellows Jim Cochrane leads. Speak Life is a more radical take on both leadership and Spirit. I’m quite sure you’ve experienced the same dramatic move yourself in these hard-hearted times.
Grit and courage
Speak Life is published by Stakeholder Health Press and all the profits go to Stakeholder Health. This learning group traces back ten years to the tough streets of Memphis, Detroit, San Bernardino, Bithlo and several times at the White House (back a couple of years). Speak Life is, in a sense, a radical view of the life of leaders that undergirds our earlier book, “Insights from New Systems of Health.” Nearly all of those practices demand grit and courage to cross over many lines of discipline and institutional politics.
The learning is accelerating: we will be releasing a third book in the Fall that is more technical exploration of how the Leading Causes helps us understand how to organize and set priorities for our work in community. And then we really do put the pedal down in November in a bold “See2See Road Trip” traveling from San Diego to Raleigh: the move in movement.
Jerry Winslow, the Chair of the Stakeholder Health Advisory Group, writes in the forward: “From one perspective, the movement might appear to be merely the sharing of smart approaches to what is now called population health. But a more careful look, with focused attention to the spirit of the work, reveals something deeper and more lasting. It is life-giving joy in the hard work of the journey toward social justice. The real fuel for this movement is the conviction that together we can build communities in which every person counts, where no one is left out, and no one suffers needlessly because of institutionalized unfairness. To speak life, then, is to adopt the ways of life so that every person is celebrated by a community that genuinely cares.”
Lending their lives to mercy and justice
I want you to see Speak Life in the light of all of that highly collaborative learning. Writing is about the least impressive—undistinguished—thing you can do with a large number of hours. It is typing, often with a lot of silence between the clicks. When I slowed down, I thought of all the astonishing people who were generally not typing, but lending their lives to the urgency of mercy and justice. I tried to see what matters most through those many eyes.
I’m like one of the nameless grey neurons way back behind the eyeballs trying to connect the signals those many eyes are seeing. I’m not qualified to do very much useful most days, but I am privileged to work among wide extended webs of those who know what to do in the middle of the night standing with the First Responders at a suicide with weeping parents, who build a school for young women in the fire and dust of Kabul, who do surgery, administration, therapy, research and discovery into the mysteries of molecules and neighborhoods.
Some of those agents are named Big Dog (the benevolent gang leader in 38109 of Memphis) and R. Ernest Cohen, the Jewish Integrative Medicine Chiropractor who runs a free clinic in Wilkesboro so frugal it borrows its Wi-Fi signal from the tattoo parlor next door. Richard Joyner with his anointed prophetic tractor, the weekly amazements of Oakhurst and Green Street and so many more. You can get a sense of this in the new article about Soma Stout 100 Million Lives, which U.S. News & World Report is smart enough to cover, too.
Through this collective eye we can see life, tenacious and fiercely protective of its most tender edges.
And together we find the words to Speak Life.
I hope you like the book. Oh, it’s available on Amazon for $15. Here.