Give the Gift of Inspiration: Lessons from The Blue Sweater


A while back I wrote a post about Jacquline Novogratz, the CEO and founder of the Acumen Fund. I just recently read her bestselling memoir, The Blue Sweater and was amazed at the grace, humility and compassion with which she writes. Enter some guilty pleasure reading of the latest In Style magazine, which had an idea to leave a jar full of inspiring things to do that guests can grab one on their way out of a soiree (i.e. Pay for someone’s coffee behind you) in lieu of a traditional party favor and voilà, you have today’s blog post! A week’s worth of inspiring quotes from The Blue Sweater that challenge us to reframe who we see as the Other, live with a deep sense of purpose, humility and happiness on a daily basis, and find what’s truly important in life. Enjoy!

“Why do some people stop growing at age 30, just going from work to the couch to the television, when others stay vibrant, curious, almost childlike, into their eighties and nineties?”

“Give people a way to walk so that eventually they can run, and then you’ll see them dance. Some of them will even fly.”

The following are taken from African women Novogratz met after the Rwandan genocide:

“There is no reason to hold anger against another person…to many of us have died over small conflicts. It is time to heal…why should I bear a grudge?”

“When you have everything you start to think that material things are the most important. When you lose them all at first you think you have lost yourself as well. But with faith, you begin to see that it is only those things that you build inside-things that no one can take away from you, that matter. Now we try to live from a place of love. And we understand that you can only have great joy if you also know great pain.”

“We listen to one another and look into one another’s eyes and we see suffering. It is that suffering that binds us. It is that suffering that reminds us that we are all human.”

“Living in the service of other people I finally felt fully alive….You must radiate and shine despite the difficulties you have on earth…in the end, goodness triumphs over the bad. It is our challenge to do good and to serve others without waiting for the good to be returned. I’m convinced that those people who cultivate universal love will have good fortune on earth. In serving others, I found light in a place of utmost darkness.”

Novogratz on her work:

“Build a vision for the people and recognize that no single source of leadership will make it happen: This is our challenge for creating a future in which every human being can participate. Just imagine the inventors, scholars, teachers, artists, entrepreneurs who will grace the human race once this happens. The first step for each of us is to develop our own moral imagination, the ability to put ourselves in another person’s shoes. It sounds so simple, and yet it is perhaps the most difficult thing we can do. It is so much easier to pretend that others are different, that they are happy in their poverty, that their religion makes them too difficult to engage in real conversation, or that their faith or ethnicity or class makes them a danger to us. Each of us needs to develop the courage to listen with our whole mind heart and mind, to give love without asking for thanks in return, and to meet each person as a chance to know a new individual, not as a way of reaffirming our prejudices. Our work should remind us all that the poor the world over are our brothers and sisters.



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