Investigation in the RAP

It's Friday night, and at this point, I'm somewhere between Ohio and Massachusetts, a solid 33,000 feet in the air. I'm heading back home to Boston after an enjoyable, fun, and sure... I'll admit it... exhausting week in Rapid City, South Dakota.

Let's just say that I'm not used to 5 consecutive days of 5:30am alarms from the iPhone. That's a fact.

I was in Rapid this week to join my colleagues Matt, Kelly, Patrick and Lilly for our monthly Morning Fill Up, a 24-hour blitz of conversations with a special guest to talk about issues that are meaningful to the community. This month, we welcomed Lisa McNulty, producing artistic director of Women's Project Theater in New York City, an organization that we have the honor to work alongside.

Listening and participating in the dinner conversation the evening before, the public conversation the day after, and the series of coffee talks and South Dakota Public Broadcasting interviews that were held, I walked away with quite a lot on my mind and, well, in my soul too. First: the message about the value of investigation.

Art forces us to investigate what we think about things. It’s important to foster curiosity in the world.
— Lisa McNulty, Producting Artistic Director, Women's Project Theater

It reminded me, first, of one of my favorite exchanges between Will and Grace in that great, much-missed sitcom, "Will and Grace":

Grace: “I know, I’m just curious. I’m a naturally curious person who’s interested about how things work in the world.”

Will: “I thought you were a naturally lazy person who didn’t care how things happen as long as you didn’t have to do them.”

Grace: “Oh, yeah. That’s who I am.”

But I digress.

I think curiosity is absolutely essential in our world today. The ability to walk down a street. In South Dakota. In Boston. In the Quad Cities. In Lucca, Italy (where I just vacationed earlier this month). And investigate what it is you are witnessing, feeling, and experiencing, and asking yourself: "What does this mean in the grandeur scheme of things?" That enriches my life. It feeds my soul. It makes me want to do more. Explore more. Be better.

The more time I take to be intentional in that investigation, the more ideas I come up with. The more inspiration I have. The more happiness overcomes me. It informs so much of who I am, and what I do. 

The second thing I loved about the time with Lisa was her, and her wife Jo's, enthusiasm for the Black Hills of South Dakota. They absolutely loved it. The people. The community. The hills and wide-open spaces and Badlands and small towns and everything in between. Morning Fill Up was created after a visit David Brooks paid to Rapid City. During his conversation, he said that people didn't think about South Dakota. It was "fly-over country." And we thought: well, heck, that should change. We know how great it is. How do we start dialogue to own that?

Because South Dakota ain't "fly-over country."

(PS: I love David Brooks.)

Lisa and Jo both said that they hadn't ever planned to come to South Dakota... it wasn't on their mind. But:

I’m going to be an evangelist for South Dakota when I get back to New York City.”
— Lisa McNulty, Producing Artistic Director, Women's Project Theater

I'm grateful that they saw what we, at Numad, see: A thoughtful, smart, creative community of people who are doing good work, in a place that is not just beautiful--but unique. People who are willing to own the things that make RAP different from every other community. An arts and cultural center that rivals those of big cities. Shared learning that will inform what Lisa goes back to NYC and does with her theater company, and insights from her that will help us to investigate where we can go, and what we can do, together.

I'm excited to get home and see my partner. But I always do hate leaving the RAP.

Beyond Morning Fill Up, it was personally neat for me to be back at The Garage for a solid amount of time, to meet new members and catch up with folks that have been with us since the beginning, to connect with our friends Events by Lady K in the Twin Cities who came into town to visit for the week, to sit alongside my colleagues because sometimes video chat just doesn't cut it, and to imagine and dream new things for the future.

I'm exhausted. Like 6-hours-of-sleep-a-night-exhausted. But as I look at the screen in front of me in the airplane and see I'm about one hour away from my bed (I'm totally sleeping in tomorrow), I feel energized for the future. For Numad. For RAP. And for the community in which we get to call home.

Thanks for a good week, Rapid.