By Dean Whittaker

Death and dying may seem like a strange subject for our newsletter, but I want to share with you two experiences that I had this month.

First, during our recent local TEDx Macatawa event we showed a video featuring Candy Chang in which she tells the story of how she turned the side of a derelict building in New Orleans into a space for people to express their wish for what they would like to do before they die.

We asked the participants at our TEDx event to write their hopes on red X’s. The results were amazing. Several of the 350 participants as well as passersby took time to share their dreams. The wishes ranged from: “tell my dad I am sorry,” “visit another planet,” “teach my son about love,” “be a friend and have a friend,” and many more.

Second, while I was attending the IAMC conference, I was struck by how collegial the event is compared to many conferences I attend. I had heard from many economic development colleagues how much they preferred to participate in this organization over others but did not understand why until I attended the new member orientation. I learned that they ban the exchange of business cards.

It seemed like an odd rule of etiquette for an association created to foster networking until it was explained that the purpose of the organization is to build relationships/friendships and not about transactions. This shed a new light on what I felt from those attending the conference. I felt a genuine openness to the sharing of ideas and concerns to help each other in both the work they do but also in the lives they live.

No wonder there is a waiting list to join as an associate member. They maintain a ratio of active to associates members in order to preserve the collegiality of the organization. While transactions may occur between members, it comes from their friendship and the relationships that have been created over time.

So, how do these two stories connect? Both are about how relationships are the source of much of the joy in our lives. How can we build better ones that connect us to each other and share this journey we are all on together? What is on your “bucket” list? What would you like to do before you die?