How to do the work when you don’t want to do the work

A man walking alone in the dark tunnel

I have re-written this opening sentence eight times.

Ironic, isn’t it?

I want to write about how we have to continue to do our work when we don’t feel like doing our work.

When our heart is sick. When we feel sad, or angry, or afraid.

Which is the case for a large portion of my friends, clients, family and neighbors right now.

Defining moments

Last night, while walking to the soccer field to pick up Josh, my husband walked past a mom and her 5-year old son.

The little boy looked at Darryl and pointed.

“Look Mom, it is a fucking Indian!”

The Mom looked at Darryl and said “Sorry.”

He looked at her and said “It is not his fault. He is a kid. He heard it from his parents.”

She started screaming at him. I won’t quote what she said but suffice it to say it was a tirade of profanities and racial slurs as she spit in his face.

He lifted his hand to wipe the spit.

“Don’t you raise your hand at me!” she said.

“I was wiping the spit,” he said.

“You are lucky my husband isn’t here,” she said.

Darryl walked away.

When he recounted the story when he was back home, he told me “She must be in a lot of pain to react that way.”

This was not the first time this had happened to him.

It was more like the hundredth time.

There is work to be done

Our work is community building. Helping people feel safe, seen, heard and honored.

This is not easy work.

In the situation I described, I will admit that my first reaction was fear for my husband and son’s safety. What if her husband had been there? What if they carried a weapon? What if she called him and he confronted my family in the dark parking lot?

Then I got angry. I imagined what I would have said or done had I been there. I wanted to punch her in the face. I wanted revenge.

Waking up today, I know that situations like these, and the thousands that will continue to happen every day, require us to either disconnect from or reconnect to our work.

My friend Todd Henry said you know you are close to your purpose when you ask yourself “What am I willing to lay my body down for and say ‘Not on my watch?'”

For me and Darryl, we will never stop doing the work of connecting people to themselves, their power and the work they are meant to do. We are willing to lay our bodies down for people who feel afraid and unsafe and without power.

We believe in the leadership capacity of people in our communities. We believe in small business and interdependence and collaboration.

We believe in the concept of kinship and K’é: we are all related. We believe that love has the power to heal. We believe that our work is our prayer.

We believe in grieving with gratitude. Gratitude in grief keeps you free of cynicism and bitterness.

We want to be a safe and secure harbor in our community.

Which means that when things get grim and scary and overwhelming, we need to stand up, not sit down.

Do your own work your own way

There has been much said this week about what we should be doing, and how we should be doing it.

Do it your way.

Tap into what you know about yourself and your mission.

If you need to grieve, grieve.

If you need to protest, protest.

Honor yourself.

We honor you.

On Work

When I feel uneasy, I always lean on one of my favorite books, The Prophet, by Khalil Gibran. This is an excerpt from On Work:

“…You have been told also that life is indeed darkness, save when there is urge,
And that all urge is blind save when there is knowledge,
And all knowledge is vain save when there is work,
And all work is empty save when there is love;
And when you work with love you bind yourself to one another, and to God.
And what is it to work with love?
It is to weave the cloth with threads drawn from your heart, even as if your beloved were to wear that cloth.
It is to build a house with affection, even as if your beloved were to dwell in that house.
It is to sow seeds with tenderness and reap the harvest with joy, even as your beloved were to eat the fruit.
It is to charge all things you fashion with a breath of your own spirit,
And to know that all the blessed dead are standing about you and watching.”

We love our work, and we love you.

May our work build strength, peace, and justice in our land.

Reader Interactions


  1. Phyllis Nichols says

    Thanks for such a hopeful post in a time when I’ve struggled to find any. I am determined to be part of the solution – to be the change I want to see in the world. Thanks for your courage and tenacity.

  2. Diane Hunter says

    Thank you. Thank you Pam for sharing your family’s story and expressing with vulnerability and integrity. It is so inspiring the way you and your family share your medicine. I am incredibly grateful for your examples of love in the world and the way you all lead with your heart. Grateful, grateful. Loving you.

  3. Paula G says

    Thank you for sharing this personal story Pam. Sending love to you and your family. I can just see and feel Darryl responding in a loving and strong way and yet am so sad he (and so many others) are experiencing this rise-up of the dark side.

    Love the message of doing your work in your own way. It is the only thing that ever changes the world.

  4. Yvonne W says

    Dear Pam, thank you so much for courageously and vulnerably sharing this story about your family. I am so sorry this happens. My heart breaks for Darryl that he experienced that vitriol. No one deserves to be treated that way. And it is sad to see that a young mind is being poisoned as well.
    I am sorry. I stand with you and your family in solidarity. You matter. Your story matters. You are making a positive impact in our lives and the world. Thank you for all you do. And thanks for modeling integrity, grace under fire, love and truth. And thanks for generously sharing pearls of wisdom as inspiring us to keep showing up to work even as we grieve. I love you.

  5. Charlie Gilkey says

    So. Much. Love.

    I hope I would have the courage to walk away like Darryl did, rather than asking her to call her husband so we could get it sorted out. I know the latter is what I’d want to say.

    And … you beat me to the punch, sis! You always do that. 🙂 <3

    I'm so glad you did.

  6. Becky Bacon says

    Thank you Pam for this beautiful, vulnerable and honest post. My heart is aching for our country and everyone who experiences these hurts shed upon them from others also in pain. Darryl’s response was so kind, noticing the pain and fear in others. You are living your life’s work, and such a light you are to follow. Thank you for finding my words for me in this post. Sending you and your family love, strength and resilience to carry on.

  7. Jennifer Lyle says

    How do I thank you? How do I express my gratitude? How do you know what’s in my heart – your headline that you rewrote 8 times spoke directly to me as I am right now, this day, this week.

    How do I express my heartbrokenness for you to you? You – and Darrell – are such fierce, deep role models for me and for us all. This story (even that word belittles the experience) epitomizes Michelle Obama’s great cry “When they go low, we go high”. How do you find the words to relate what happened? My God, you and your family embody Love.

    May I have the courage, the love, goodness to do and be as you are.

  8. Nancy Nesyto-Freske says

    Thank you, Pam, for sharing this with us. It can’t be easy, on many levels, to let us into your family situation. I also am standing up and stepping up. I’m doing all I can and will continue to do so. It’s hard to try to understand why people reacting as they are. There are so many loving souls behind you and your family, supporting you and so many others. This is about Love and fear, about not understanding, about staying safe within our beliefs and not willing to pry open the box to see who else is out there, as our brothers and sisters. Please continue to speak with us, to share with us and I will continue to help bring peace and love and understanding to others.

  9. Wes Roberts says

    I have sent a response to you via Jason Isaak, you recently interviewed you. Deep care and concern is coming your way from up here in Colorado. I did not have your email, thus using Jason to get it to you.

  10. Jenn says

    Thank you, Pam, for sharing this story. I am deeply saddened that there is so much hate and fear in this world and truly appreciate and honor those who work to build people up instead of tearing them down. I am so sorry your husband has had to deal with this over the course of his life and that there is seemingly no end. I can picture him responding in a strong and calm way though, embodying kindness and striving for understanding. I hope that I can also do the same in those situations. Thanks again for all you do with working to build a better community.

  11. Andy Pels says

    What Darryl and you teach is magnitudes more powerful than any of the trash that woman could ever teach. It simply has to be.

  12. Kathy Dolbow Doran says


    I am so sorry you and your family experienced such hatefulness and bigotry. The last thing you probably want to do right now is revisit the situation again. However, the Southern Poverty Law Center is keeping track of the increase in hate crimes such as yours. It might be helpful and cathartic if you reported your family’s incident. Here’s the website: or #reporthate.

    Peace, dear one.

    Kathy Dolbow Doran

  13. Ryan Deegan says

    Wow. My first thought was this is coming at the perfect time…with my Grandma having multiple strokes and me being her POA, making most or her medical and financial decisions while trying to do business and keep my emotions in check all at the same time.

    Then once I got further into reading, that disappeared and it was quickly replaced a deep love and gratitude for who you and your family are, what you represent, and how much I appreciate you all.

    Thank you Pam.

    Sometimes we are the small rays of light shining through the darkness, but as long as we are the light… 🙂

    Much love,

    Ps. Please tell Darryl I say hello and thank you for being such a great example of love.


  14. Ashley Folsom says

    My words are inadequate to describe my sorrow that so much hate was aimed at a man who is the very epitome of love. Co-mingled in my heart is the hope you always bring with your words, my beautiful friend. You and Darryl are gifts to this shattered world. We do not deserve you or your children. But I, for one, am so very glad you walk among us, even as you do so at your own expense. Love to each of you. And may the Light begin to spread again and heal us all as we change for the better…because truly we must.

  15. Amy says

    Ugh. This breaks my heart at the same time that it inspires me to do what I need to do in my own way to help people to remember how to love. Thank you for this reminder. And fuck! This makes me angry.

  16. Karen McMillan says

    Thank you, Pam for sharing you story, a bit of Gibran, and helping to keep us real.
    Thank you, Darryl for walking your talk, living your values. Remembering who you are, not what they say. I know (personally) this can be hard work. Yet, still you can look at your wife, your children, your community and say “I Am” and mean it. K’é. This is real power!!!
    Thank you and Pam for living it. Modeling it. Helping me to walk this path too. We are in this together.
    Lov & practice.

  17. Vonnie says

    Your family provides a light for the world so that we all may see better. Thank you for the wisdom, courage, and fighting spirit. I love you all!

  18. Daryl Gerke says

    So very sorry to hear this — in fact, it sickens me! And it makes me very ashamed of our home town. But thanks to you, Darryl, and the community of K’e there is hope.

    The spin has started. “This was a protest vote by the disenfranchised” or “I just didn’t trust Hillary.” To which I say — Bullshit! This was our neighbors going into a voting booth, and secretly expressing their hate. And feeling smug about it.

    What type of message did this send our kids and grandkids? I guess you have already seen the results of that.

    So Pam, I am proud of Darryl for his response, and his grace under fire. Keep up your good work, and please know that my family stands solidly with your family.

  19. Laura D'Ambrosio says

    Thank you for writing with such vulnerability. Thank you to Daryl for kindness and grace and for seeing what lies beneath the anger. It takes great courage and strength to share the medicine you both share with the world. I am grateful and inspired.

  20. Kitty Wooley says

    This bothered me all day. My first thought was, there was no possible reason for the woman’s demeanor. I did not want to let her off the hook. I thought, Josh is a way better person than I am. I hate this situation and don’t want it to exist anywhere. It arouses the part of my nature that’s warlike. Only problem is, when violence is answered with violence, peace and love go farther away. So what it comes down to for me is, will I have the courage to answer violence with love when I have to choose? I hope so. And I kiss the ground in gratitude for every person who has decided to hold fast to love, not hate.

  21. Richard Harvey says

    Pamela, Darryl. Much love, especially to Joshua, who had to be there in that moment, but gratefully got to see his father’s pristine example. We are all blessed by your example and work. Thank you for caring for our world like it is your own child.

    Richard Harvey

    The Metta Sutta:

    This is what should be done by one who is skilled in goodness
    And who knows the path of peace:
    Let them be able and upright, straightforward and gentle in speech,
    Humble and not conceited, contented and easily satisfied.
    Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways.
    Peaceful and calm, and wise and skilful,
    not proud and demanding in nature.
    Let them not do the slightest thing that the wise would later reprove.
    They should wish:
    In gladness and in safety
    May all beings be at ease.
    Whatever living beings there may be,
    Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none,
    The great or the mighty, medium, short or small,
    The seen and the unseen,
    Those living near and far away,
    Those born and to-be-born,
    May all beings be at ease!
    Let none deceive another, or despise any being in any state,
    Let none through anger or ill-will wish harm upon another.
    Even as a mother protects with her life her child, her only child,
    So with a boundless heart should one cherish all living beings,
    Radiating kindness over the entire world,
    Spreading upwards to the skies, and downwards to the depths,
    Outwards and unbounded, freed from hatred and ill-will.
    Whether standing or walking, seated or lying down,
    Free from drowsiness, one should sustain this recollection.

  22. Jan Richards says

    Tears in my eyes as I read this, Pam. So sad/mad that this happened, and that it does happen. As I reflected on your story, I found myself thinking that we must each do what we can where we are, and even more now, to make the world better and safer for all.

  23. Erica says

    I was heartbroken while reading this, then so deeply heartened by how you, as a family, have responded. I’m so grateful that you’re sharing what it looks like to stand strong in loving kindness in the face of hateful acts. We need to embolden one another with reminders of what it looks like to take brave action, holding tight to the truth in the darkness. The Todd Henry quote you mentioned last weekend, and again in this post, has come to mind daily, “Not on my watch!” Now, more than ever.

    Love to you all.

  24. Lisa says

    Pam-Thankk you for sharing this! I want to honor your husband! He is strong like an oak tree and his spirit is so needed in this world right now! As a Parent Coach I want to echo his statement to the mom of “It is not his fault. He is a kid. He heard it from his parents.” I so want parents to know our kids learn from what we are modeling for them. We model 24/7 and they watch, observe, and mimic our thoughts, feelings and values. Most parents don’t understand the power of modeling!

    I am doing my part to help parents in the world connect with themselves and heal so they can show up for their children! This is my work and my contributions and I feel more passionate about it now than ever!

    My gratitude to you and your husband for showing us a better way!

  25. Sara Korn says

    Thank you for sharing this powerful message Pam. At times like this when we feel afraid and want to separate ourselves from others, that is when it is most critical to come together and show compassion, even to those who “don’t deserve it.” Especially to those people.

  26. Kit Brown-Hoekstra says

    Thanks for sharing this painful story, Pam. I’m so sorry to hear that Darryl and Josh had to go through that. You must be so proud of his self-control and dignity.

    I am so angry on his behalf, and on the behalf of everyone who is being targeted. While I have always stuck up for people on a one-on-one basis, I feel like I need to do something more strategic.

    Would love to work with you!

  27. Carol Braddick says

    This hit me just as I was thinking about how do I do the work we all need to do more of now, to speak up to our government that they need to take a stand against – racism, misogyny, anti-Semiticism, white supremacy – and take a stand for tolerance and community. It is dispiriting work – calling a Senator’s full voice mail box, filling out contact forms on a Rep’s website – wondering if this makes any difference.

    I am buddying up with siblings and friends to share alerts/calls to action and letters and to have my peeps send things out in my name from within the US (I am based in the UK). I think my go-to stocking stuffer for our family Christmas will be US postal stamps, maybe pre-addressed envelopes too!

    I am figuring out how to do this work, when I’m still dismayed that it is still so necessary, as Pam’s story let us see again. Thank you, Pam.

  28. Carol Ross says

    Thank you, Pam, for sharing this painful and personal story. I’m sorry that your husband and son went through this experience–and that it will likely not be the last time. I can understand the mixture of feelings, including fear, anger, and revenge. And, you and your family are the embodiment of the power of love. Thank you for shining your light brightly.

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