Passion Like a Fire (Alarm)


(This is Part 5: Community-Driven Tour 2010 New Zealand. To read these posts from the beginning, head here.)

Workshop: UNITEC
It is Monday. We have been in Auckland for 2 weeks, with 1 day off. Dimitri headed out first thing in the morning to get a rental car for our drive to Hamilton, for our workshops on Tuesday. If you’re going to learn about driving on the left-hand side of the road, what better time to do so than during Monday morning rush hour?

(Dimitri quickly became a pro at left-side driving, although remembering that the turn signal is on the right of the steering wheel, rather than the left, was trickier. Suffice it to say we had the cleanest windshield of any car around.  Now that we are back in the US, the turn signal back on the left where it was before we departed, Dimitri is having trouble readjusting – we now have a clean windshield here, too!)

With barely a moment to rest up from Dimitri’s maiden voyage, Aly picked us up and whisked us off to teach a 4-hour Governing for What Matters workshop for UNITEC’s Not-for-Profit Management Program.


And what a workshop!  The venue was a lecture hall so steep there was a temperature differential between the bottom and the top – clearly configured for teaching rather than collaborative learning.  Even so, I began the workshop as I had begun the conference keynote the week prior, asking folks to talk with their neighbors about the path that led them to be in that room, as well as their dreams for the future they wanted to create. Again, the sound-levels confirmed the appropriateness of that choice, even as they had to crane their necks to see those behind them.


The participants continued that level of engagement as they talked about their vision for the future of their communities, the values they want to uphold and model as they do their work, the conditions that would need to be in place in their community to create the future they want.


We talked about the current emphasis this sector places on mission – the actual work being done – vs. the visionary purpose behind that work. How vision and values are considered a luxury in this sector, rather than the only practical path to creating real change. That without that higher sense of purpose, we will always be reacting, always hoping for baby steps to make a difference, always be whipsawed by day-to-day circumstances, feeling unable to control even the little things, forget creating an amazing future.

It is one thing to say, “The group was engaged!”  It is quite another to show proof – in this case “proof” in the form of a fire alarm.

We were about 2/3 into the afternoon when it started blaring. We all streamed out the door to the grassy area right outside the lecture hall.

We watched all the other classes on campus take the opportunity to head home early. But not our class. They simply splayed out on the grass outside the lecture hall and told me to keep going, the fire alarm blaring in the background until we got the “all clear” to go back inside.

With the sound of the fire alarm still ringing in our ears, we grabbed a quick dinner, packed up the car, and prepared for a full day in Hamilton the next day. We were scheduled for a double-header – a 3 hour workshop on Governance in the morning, followed by a 2 hour University lecture on Sustainability in the afternoon. It was hard to believe the pace of our journey could get even more intense.

The most intense, however, would be the trip to Hamilton itself.  That would be the first test of my ability to ride alongside Dimitri as he drove on the left-hand side of the road, doing my best not to mutter the words “We’re gonna die” over and over under my breath…

For the Next Post in this series – Meet People Where They Are (Then Sing to Them) Click Here
Photo Credits: Dimitri

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