TWO YEARS AGO I was introduced to De’Amon Harges, an expert in asset-based community development, by a mutual friend in Kansas City, who arranged to connect us due to our common pursuit of neighborhood flourishing. Harges described himself in his bio as a “roving listener.” When I later met him via Zoom, our conversation began with Harges saying: “José, tell me a story about yourself and your gifts.” I felt like I was being recruited into an ensemble of action heroes.
I responded by sharing my passion for being a collaborator and connector who supports people and neighborhood institutions around personal and collective flourishing. Our conversation was imbued with a cosmic energy as we swapped stories about our purpose in the world, as manifested through our purpose in the ’hood. Harges’ sacred curiosity made me feel buoyant, even seen and heard. In Harges, I connected with someone who bore witness to my gift in the world, and I was blessed to be awake to his gift when presented to me.
Ultimately, we live in a society that makes visible those gifts it deems most valuable. One only needs to search through the cultural happenings in New York City this fall. For instance, the New York Philharmonic hosts a stellar lineup of some of the best symphony orchestras in the world. In corporate America, CEOs will work to ensure their companies finish the last quarter well, to receive bonuses that average 74 percent of their annual salary. And paparazzi will chase Hollywood stars to produce tabloid fodder, showing how gifted people can be center stage even at our checkout counters.