What Does it Mean to Be An Innovator?

What does it mean to be an innovator? To go out into the unknown and create something that has never been before?

It often means creating something from scratch, with no research, no funding, no team already assembled, and to build, brick by brick, outreach by outreach a better world.

It means to be creative. To push boundaries and explore with only a few anecdotal experiences and a hunch. It means to explore programming, creating new things, and working to build the data needed to prove to the rest of the world there is a need, all of which needs funding and time.

What does it mean to be an innovator? To put out into the deep, to trust in your uniquely given purpose, and to run the race. This race comes with trials and triumphs. It is filled with people who will slam doors in your face and crack open a window for you. It is filled with people who will not see the vision even when it is clearly laid out for them, people who will take the easy path leaving you behind, and people who will be able to take your vision and increase the fruits of that vision 20 fold as they walk into the journey unknown.

Dementia and Faith. Two words that, when said, cause people to run for the hills, even those who are folded into those communities. People are private about their journeys of dementia and faith. This makes it difficult to navigate the research and development of ministries and programs. As someone who is private about my life as well, I understand why people are hesitant to open up. But without this vital connection, funding bodies, even those who are in search of innovators and new ideas, often don’t want to commit to assisting you. And, if we cannot get our own to support the work, it is only by an act of God that work is accomplished. Now, in all blunt and honest reality, the Protestant faiths have it much easier than Catholics. There are so many intricate aspects of our faith tradition that are left untouched by the dementia-friendly church initiative. So many elements are ignored by the new-age spirituality and secularism of our time.

Without community support, and organizations willing to take a risk on your “hunch” and handful of experiences, how does one innovate? When they are not willing to ask the questions or give you time to share those experiences, how do we do the work set before us by God?

Well, first it requires total faith and trust in God’s plan for the work. This can be difficult, feel impossible, and overwhelming at times, especially when that “always a day late and a dollar short” experience has overshadowed you. But trust.

Secondly, keep moving forward, and if God wants it to happen, He will find a way. Yes, everyone has free will that God never interferes with, but being God and all, He already knew what was going to, and what will happen. Our roadmap may have ink runs from our tears, and torn corners from our falls, but God knows what the original map looked like, and He cannot forget it. God has a backup of the map and knows the best way to our destination.

Third, and this is quite possibly the hardest element to accept, is that we don’t live for this life alone. God does not ask us to be successful, simply faithful. Now, He created us for Happiness, Joy, a life full and alive, but nowhere did He ask us to be successful. This can be hard to accept as you might sit and think of all the people you could be serving, all and answered prayers (both for others and yourself) that could occur if only that door had opened or that person or organization took a chance on you. But if we are faithful, prayers will be answered, God will take care of all of us in our multiple and endless needs. We might not be able to bring the Hem of Christ to those we wish to serve, but we can pray for them, and through that, maybe we doing exactly what we are setting out to do.

What does it mean to be an innovator? It means to run the race, to put out into the deep, to not be afraid, and to be faithful to God. It means saying Yes to the Holy Spirit’s callings on your heart, even if no one else wishes to see it. Even when people in your own faith and dementia community turn their backs.

If innovation is in your blood, continue to innovate. If God calls you to a mission, follow that mission until the very end.

Published by Kathryne Fassbender

Creative Gerontologist, Speaker, Catholic Innovator. I am also the granddaughter of someone who lived with Vascular Dementia.

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