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Wabi-Sabi and the Unpredictability of Life

We incorporated Red String at the end of 2019, and began our application process to attain our 501c3 approval from the IRS. We received our IRS approval on May 6, 2020. In between, the world as we knew it dramatically changed as the effects of the global coronavirus pandemic unfolded. Like for almost everyone, everything we had planned changed in an instant, and we found ourselves asking whether we should pause or move forward.

This is life. Unpredictable. When nothing is certain, everything is possible.

The Japanese call this wabi-sabi. Impermanence and imperfection are the basic principles of wabi-sabi, the Japanese philosophy of accepting change with the knowledge that nothing is perfect and the virtue of making the most of life.

The concept of wabi-sabi can be better understood if it is broken down to its roots of the word ‘wabi-sabi’ itself. The word ‘wabi’ (侘び) expresses the part of simplicity, impermanence, flaws, and imperfection. On the contrary, ‘sabi’ (寂び) expresses transience and imperfection. Together ‘wabi-sabi’ (侘び寂び) embraces the idea of the acceptance of impermanence and imperfections. The two separate parts when put together, complete each other.

We all face changes every day, whether it is a simple change of the weather or what we choose to eat that day. We each deal with changes in different ways. For the most part, we live through the daily ebb and flow of life and are contented with the small changes we see and make every day. However, sometimes life throws us a curve ball, and how we embrace this change will forever impact who we are, how we live, and those we touch.

As I look back at the past year and a half, I am glad that we decided to move forward and face the crises head-on. We did a lot of adjusting on the fly as we learned and adapted to changes in the landscape while staying focused on our principles and values that guide us.

As much as the pandemic affected our plans, it also provided us a lot of insight into the resiliency and adaptability of community-based nonprofits, the beneficial impacts that they can have in supporting a community and its residents, and the powerful role that effective philanthropy can have in creating positive outcomes.

This is one of the lessons I learned. We can face any problem and create better, more effective solutions and outcomes by working together and helping each other. There is power in numbers.

When life throws you a curve ball, it is always better to have trusted people who can help you through the change. Whether it is someone to talk with or someone willing to walk along your side, there is tremendous comfort in knowing you are not in it alone. In many ways, I think this is the importance of the work we do at Red String; to provide services and support, whether through our own programs or partnerships, to help people successfully navigate through life's unpredictability.

(to be continued)

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