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Unlacing the Heart: Connecting with What Really Matters

51u-Zn17I-L._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_By Henry B. Freeman. John’s Press, 2015. 130 pages. $14.95/paperback.

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Unlacing the Heart: Connecting with What Really Matters is Henry Freeman’s first book. He is a fundraising consultant, a philanthropist and a Quaker. He illustrates through personal stories the significant and meaningful connections we experience in our lives, and how those connections shape who we become. He reminds us—not just those of us who are fundraisers, but all of us—of the importance of opening up and being present in these safe and sacred spaces.

Storytelling has long been a favorite way to share our lives with one another. We use these word pictures to illuminate our message. Freeman uses several stories from his life to illustrate particular points. They are heartfelt and poignant recollections of significant events that have shaped his life both personally and professionally. It is often hard to separate the two facets of his life as they are so intricately woven together.

It is clear the impact that each person has had on him. He conveys his emotional state with clarity. His stories are touching and personal. One story in particular about his friend Alfredo in El Salvador is moving and heartfelt. How often do we walk past someone on the street and not even notice that they are there?

I was asked to review this book in part, I am sure, because I too am a fundraiser. I can also recall moments when the stories of my life are woven so closely together that it is difficult to separate. I would agree with Freeman: fundraising is so much more than just raising money. It is about building meaningful connections together. This work will often lead to support for some greater good.

I think that one of the unintentional outcomes of reading this book is that it challenged me to take time to think about my own story. Who are the people who have shaped the person I am today? Have I been authentic and open with them, as they were with me? It was a reminder to try to be intentional and present always.

This book is less about the fundraising process or the mechanics of raising money and more about understanding the significance of building connections. It is much more about reminding us to take the time to listen, to hear, and to learn from the individuals we come into contact with. These people are who we share our time with in both our personal and professional lives.

This is not just a lesson for a fundraiser. It is a lesson for us all. Whether we are a Friend or not—whether we are from New England, Colorado, or Kenya—this reminder of being present and open has value. The idea of weaving our stories together with those with whom we come into contact encourages us to stop, listen, and be vulnerable with one another.

This book is not long. It is well worth the time it takes to read and the opportunity it allows to reread. It is a gentle reminder for us all.

Ann Venable is the development director for Baltimore Yearly Meeting. She has been a professional fundraiser for many years.

Posted in: April 2016 Books, Quaker Book Reviews, Spiritual Nurture / Quaker Training

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