People simply don’t understand. They look at me with a hint of concern when I try to share with them the “magic” that is BRI. Yes, it is still a tad hokie. It is also imperfect. It is a long week, and it is tiring. But it is pure magic. To be slightly more specific, BRI is healing. Each year, we gather at Fall Creek Falls, Tennessee to dip into the waters of fellowship and compassion, honesty and openness, trust and learning, and … healing.

More than once in my 8 years as a “Ridger” have I arrived at the Falls with some bumps and bruises. And my battle scars are miniscule compared to the wounds many other Ridgers have experienced throughout their years of service to the world. During the 51 weeks of the year when we are not at the annual BRI Conference, we experience losses, personal and professional. Some of those experiences challenges our very purpose. They rip at our confidence, play with our fears, chip away at our physical and mental health, and dare us to rise again. And then we hit the Falls — and we rise.

tennIt is a challenge to describe BRI to other social sector leaders whom we believe to be potential beneficiaries of such a gift. As I write this, even I think it sounds a bit like a cult. Well, if by cult we mean culture, then yes. We have an established culture that is ever evolving to meet the unique challenges that each year brings, both in our own small worlds, and in the larger world around us.

As it was noted a couple of times during this week’s gathering, BRI is not a place, nor a conference. I would even argue it is not a family. I believe it is a holding space for our brand architecture, which is to say that it is a window of opportunity to LEARN, LEAD, and RENEW. Each Ridger has an individual perspective on what exactly BRI is, but for me, it is a place where I come to NOT be the expert. You see, I am one of the few Ridgers who come to the table with the “consultant” label now (even though I insist I am a coach, and not a consultant, but I digress). After 21 years of nonprofit leadership, I now must share some level of expertise with other nonprofits in order to earn my own living. At BRI, I come to learn. And learn I did this past week. Here are my simple takeaways from this week’s iteration of BRI:

  • Diversity does not mean “more people of color.” It means the presence and embracing of differences. And, it means leveraging those differences to make the whole greater than the sum of the parts.
  • I am soooooooo not the smartest person in the room! It may sound presumptuous that I would even list that as a takeaway, as if I actually came thinking I WAS the smartest person in the room. But the truth is, many of us experience that false thought throughout our 51 non-Ridging weeks, and it is so refreshing to be reminded that not only am I far from being the smartest person in the room, but it is an immense gift to not be that person!
  • There is healing through service.
  • We need each other, so we had better learn to get past our conflicts with each other. We start with reconciliation, and move toward a new way to work and build something meaningful together.
  • Technology is wonderful — and terrible. And wonderful. And terrible.
  • Fail. It’s ok. Just make sure you learn and apply! And make sure you forgive both yourself and anyone else you believe to be tied to that failure.
  • I have what I need to fulfill my purpose. I just need to use what I have.
  • Friendship is priceless.

To my fellow Ridgers, thank you. Just thank you.

More social sector leaders need to discover BRI. Let’s facilitate that discovery.