abundance and limitation

Leah Hebert, Director of Open Arms of Minnesota

Why would 7,000 people volunteer to help others they’ve never met and may never meet?  This may seem at first glance to be an unanswerable question, but perhaps for once there’s a simple answer. We help because we ourselves know what it’s like to need help.

 The volunteer pool for Open Arms of Minnesota is quite large (over 7,000 in fact) and their impact shows it. They are a Minneapolis-based nonprofit which prepares and delivers meals to people and families dealing with chronic illness. Leah Hebert is the executive director.

She is clear to state that the nonprofit belongs not to her, not to the employees, not even to the board, but rather to the community.

The term community has nearly become cliché but what, really, do we mean when we speak of it? At Open Arms they aspire to create a space that people want to be a part of. The employees are “ambassadors to the volunteers.”

Leah speaks of the kitchen at Open Arms as a unique place where a compelling assortment of volunteers gather to work for a common purpose. Many of these volunteers have never met each other and come from vastly different backgrounds. Church groups, school groups, Edina residents, folks living in homeless shelters… a sort of microcosm of the broader community.

That gives me hope: that people come together and they can cook together. There’s something about food that allows people to do that. They can cook together and they leave, and they all still like and respect each other
— L.H.

Integral to the work of Open Arms is a strong degree of trust.

*Open Arms does require applicants to list an aid worker of some type so as to ensure some degree of accountability.


This may appear to fly in the face of what’s logistically possible but Open Arms speaks a language of abundance rather than scarcity.

We believe that the resources we need are available in this community, that what it takes to do our work is already out there. We just have to find it.
— L.H.

- - What if we as individuals approached our tasks with a mindset of abundance rather than scarcity?- -

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Abundance: opening the door to the possible

This mindset of focusing on abundance, invites constructive and creative action. It liberates us from the constraints of what’s not possible and opens the door to the possible, no matter how unlikely it may be.

But being human, we don’t tend to spend all, or even much of our time in this  mindset.

- -How do we maintain our values when we feel like the world is telling us to drop them?- -

It may be obvious but a good place to start is by knowing what our values actually are and where they come from.

Leah mentions the importance of having a sense of self and giving this as a gift to future generations, to our children. Her parents illustrated to her that they had values and were guided by them, which was instrumental in helping her develop her own.

If you try to save the world, you’ll go down with the ship...
— L.H.

Along with knowing our values, we must also know our limitations.

 In order for her to do her work most effectively, Leah says, “I have to be a whole person and so if I don’t recognize my limitations and my ability to stay whole, then I won’t be able to do my job… If you try to save the world, you’ll go down with the ship. That doesn’t mean we don’t care. We have to find and build small communities to continue to solve problems… Part of what I need to do is help find and support the people who can do something [about the things I can’t do].”

So may we live with a mindset of abundance ingrained with an awareness of our limitations.