The Three Bones

February 9, 2017

From the blog of our president and CEO, Buddy Teaster
Some of the best three minutes of a speech I’ve seen in a long time is Nina Turner, an Ohio state senator, at a January’s MLK day event in DC. In particular, the last minute really resonated with me when she talked about her grandmother’s wisdom of the three bones: wishbone, jawbone and backbone.  
I won’t do her a disservice by just putting a transcript here. She’s a powerful speaker and delivers her message in a unique and authentic way. She’s worth watching. But I can talk about those three bones and how they make me think about our work at Soles4Souls and with many people around the world. 
I feel really good about the wishbone…the act of hope that comes from starting a business, sending your first kid to university, feeling cared for after a natural disaster or collecting shoes/clothes in your community and how it can help people and the planet. The motivation to help another person is, at its core, a wish for a better world.
And backbone….all you have to do is meet one of our entrepreneurs. Some are illiterate. Some have been abused and abandoned. Some have to support a dozen people. The backbone of these women (for the most part) must be made of steel. And our patterns who work with them, juggling a business, social impact and a deep concern for their neighbors, they too have more backbone than almost anyone I’ve ever met. Their resolve to slog/fight/sprint toward a better future is unmatched.
But jawbone pulled me out of my little self-congratulatory moment. While the other two “bones” are very visible, how much do we give voice to these people we know? We tell their stories, which is very important, but how could we help them be better heard in their own communities? How do we help them learn and talk with other entrepreneurs? How can we play a role in connecting people after a flood or a hurricane so they can better pool scarce resources? I don’t know. Really, until I heard Nina Turner’s speech, I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t thought about it much.
I am not embarrassed at the impact we’re having by leaning into our mission of “disrupting the cycle of poverty.” Every day I’m proud of the collective difference thousands of people in the Soles4Souls “ecosystem” make. But there’s always more. And there are almost always other ways to think about how we do what we do. To keep our minds open to possibilities. By showing and doing the work, we can dedicate ourselves to our wishbone, jawbone, and backbone.