M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust
Whitworth University (top left), Lane County Youth for Christ (bottom left), International Deaf Education Association (right)

There are times in life when you have an experience that provides the perfect life lesson to help shape your view of a challenge or obstacle in your path. These lessons from life can be as simple as reading a story in a new way or a chance meeting with a stranger on the street that imparts unexpected wisdom. Or, it can be flying through the trees in the middle of a tropical rainstorm.

I had the good fortune to experience that last one firsthand, and I felt it fitting to share with you in my latest update on the work of the Trust.

Our family was blessed to have the opportunity to gather in Hawaii for a few days several years ago. This is always a rare feat with school and work schedules being what they are these days for our bustling family.  We relish the chance to disconnect from the cares of everyday life, slow our pace for a beat or two, and reconnect with one another. When the kids suggested we try a zipline excursion, I knew it was an opportunity to which I had to say yes.

While the weather for most of our stay was good, the day of our zipline was far from paradise. It didn’t just rain, it poured. Despite mother nature’s curveball, we still geared up and launched ourselves out into the forest. It felt like we were flying as we breezed through the trees one by one, the wind and rain pelting us head on.  There are some who would say that the drippy weather would ruin this kind of unique experience, which we could not reschedule. Yet, I felt just the opposite.

For many months, the news has felt a bit grim. As the days of 2022 turned to 2023, we saw international conflict, political division in our halls of government, and economic uncertainty create hardship for individuals and organizations across our region. The weight of these challenges can feel impossibly heavy at times. I have long held the belief that those who can lean into change and the challenges that often come along with it will find success over the long term. And it is important to note that this is far from an easy task and not one I wish to minimize. That said, success in these circumstances cannot be found simply by accepting that our life or work will be different or difficult moving forward. Success is found through innovation. We can lean into the storms through an active process of reframing our thinking and by approaching an existing problem in a new way with fresh ideas. It also helps to do it with others in whom you can find genuine joy in the experience of working through it together.

Like the first bits of green life that we see breaking through the soil this time of year as winter passes into spring, we can also find signs of joy amidst the hardship. As just one example, our Trustees recently gathered for our Winter Grants Meeting. During this conversation, we reviewed dozens of examples of incredible individuals and organizations working to serve the common good. We are grateful to approve 93 new grants, totaling $26.2 million. Every one of these grants represents a story of new life in that organization, whether new staff or a new building or a new strategic initiative. Each project represents a point of innovation and renewal for these organizations and an opportunity to bring new light to help crowd out the dark. When we think about the difficulties in the world, we can also remember all the ideas, innovations, and collaborations underway to serve the common good.

As I squinted my eyes against the rushing wind, braced myself in pouring rain, and felt the pools of water in my shoes, I had opportunities to regret and despair. Rather than linger in disappointment or discomfort, we chose together to make the rain an asset, reducing the inconvenience of being wet and reframing it for one of the most unique family experiences we could have together. I celebrated the truth that the pouring rain would help breathe life into the lush forest in whose beauty I was immersed. I relished the notion of each drop working to wash the world clean once again. For every day of bright sun and clear skies, there will be a day of rain and storms. For every gorgeous view, there will be a mountain to climb. For every delicious garden, there is soil that must be tilled. While ziplining in a tropical storm is far from some of the challenges we face in our daily work, it is up to us to determine if and how we hold hardship as we try to zipline our way to the joy that sometimes must be discovered as we seek to serve.

To all who continue to find ballast by bringing joy in the light, we say thank you. I wish you all a joyous spring and a season of sunshine.

Romanita Hairston

CEO, Murdock Trust

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The Trust guides nonprofit organizations through every level of their development through grants and other resources.

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