Philanthropy Quote Riff

“I have always felt that the action most worth watching is not at the center of things but where edges meet. I like shorelines, weather fronts, international borders. There are interesting frictions and incongruities in those places.”

Anne Fadiman
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

This is probably my favorite quote of all time. So frequently, we tend to pay attention to what is important today. But in doing so, we often miss the real action. When we focus on organizations, people and events rather than how they interact and the “interesting frictions and incongruities” they create, we end up focusing on what is rather than what will be.

As we prepare to enter a new decade, one which holds great promise for philanthropy, let’s remember to focus our attention “where edges meet”. If you believe in the ongoing transformation of the social sector, it is where the edges meet that you will find the transformation unfolding.

Happy Holidays!


  1. Rich Polt says:

    I read something the other day that really resonated with me. This is my new mantra for 2010:

    Don’t pretend you know where you are going. Because if you know where you are going, that means you’ve been there and you’re going to end up exactly where you came from.

    Wishing you and everyone at the TP community, a happy and healthy New Year!


  2. Ha! I love it. Great quote!

  3. Kyle Reis says:

    Sean – It’s funny you quoted this quote today because I only just sent a “different but same” quote to some of my colleagues:

    “Improvement makes straight roads; but the crooked roads without improvement are the roads of genius.” –William Blake

    While the freeways of life plough straight through the middle of town, obliterating everything in their wake, the crooked roads for me are the roads on the margins, the ones that roll by those dark and desolate corners where the Muse lies in wait, biding her time until someone comes along to reveal her secrets.

    So let’s all be sure to take those crooked road detours from time to time as you never know what gems you might find there.

    Happy holidays. Kyle

  4. Both quotes made me smile. It’s funny how we try and fool ourselves that the journey is linear. I have found the greatest struggle, learning and reward when a bend (or boulder) in the rock appears.

  5. Maya Norton says:

    I love this quote, Sean. Thank you for sharing it.

    Without some digging, I don’t have a parallel quote to offer, so instead I will give you one of my favorites by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Here it is:

    “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone.”

    Wishing you and your readers a warm and loving season of light.

    ~ Maya

  6. Thanks for contributing quotes! Happy holidays!