A recent conversation with a valued colleague, Imari Paris Jeffries, helped me to understand the difference between equilibrium and balance. Before having this discussion, I thought of these two concepts as pretty much the same thing. But as he explained it, he used the analogy of sharing the responsibilities in a healthy marriage. Balance is where one spouse agrees to cook the meals three nights, the other three nights, and both do the meals together the other day that is left. The task split right down the middle — mathematically equal. Equilibrium factors in context, interest, relative convenience. It would be where one spouse might do all the meals (because they agree that one is the better cook), the other spouse takes care of the bills (because they agree that one is better at keeping the accounts balanced); then every now and then one spouse agrees to spring for dinner to give the spouse that cooks a break; the other spouse might agree to pay an accountant to get the taxes done during tax season to give the one who keeps the accounts a well-deserved break. What is the difference between balance and equilibrium? Balance is keeping score, equilibrium (a much more dynamic process), is keeping the focus on harmony and growth in the relationship, and the relationship feels better for all concerned – which is the point of all the sharing of the load in the first place.
As I consider reciprocity — the give-get principle at the heart of Boston Rising’s vision of co-investment — equilibrium, not balance has to be the spirit that underlies the exchanges. Each gives what each is capable of giving while taking when the need arises. If the spirit is that in our giving and taking it is all about bettering ourselves to help better ours and others’ circumstances — to strengthen our relationships, our network, and our community so we all can rise — then it will be so. And we all grow in strength and pursuit of happiness. This is the spirit I see as I see and participate in Boston Rising’s evolution and watch and help the work unfold. I am not saying we have the balance right yet, and am sure that it will be an ongoing enterprise — I am saying it is not about the balance! It is about equilibrium.