This November we said goodbye to our dear colleague, Jonathan Leaning, as he entered retirement.
For more than 10 years, Jonathan served as the Institutional Giving and Communications Coordinator at Grassroots International. Alongside the rest of the development team, he was able to build long-lasting relationships with our funders and move more and more resources to the movements that needed them. And he did it all with an infectious enthusiasm, laughter, and humor that we loved.
We very rarely get together these days due to COVID. With Delta and now Omicron, there’s always a health risk we have to weigh. It’s unfortunate that retirement or goodbye parties, whether for Jonathan or Malkah before him, have been the thing that puts a little extra weight on getting our community together — even though it means losing a member of that community.
It’s even more bittersweet as I write this now, at the end of December. Around this time every year, Jonathan would put in a mammoth amount of work collecting all the stories of victory our partners had over the prior 12 months. We’re continuing that tradition, but without its main conductor.
A Very Grassroots Party
There’s nothing like a Grassroots staff outing. Even when we transitioned from lunch breaks around the large meeting table to Zoom, our small community cares. Each of us brings not only a deep fire for justice and liberation, but also love and comradeship for all of our fellow staff, partners, and allies we accompany.
We brought that to Jonathan’s party. He’s a musician, a multi-instrumentalist even. Every Halloween he gets a band together and plays the Monster Mash in his neighborhood. So, of course, music had to come into play at the celebration somehow.
Different groups of staff members got songs together and performed them live (or in the case of one, we got a free salsa lesson!). In classic Grassroots fashion, we took the lyrics and made them our own. By far the best (as far as I’m concerned) was the ABBA-inspired, “Grant Machine” (based on the ever-popular “Dancing Queen”) and “The Leaning Sleeps Tonight” (a play on “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”).
Meanwhile my group took “When I’m Gone” and made it personal:
We’re gonna miss you when you’re gone
We’re gonna miss you by your hair
We’re gonna miss you everywhere, oh
We’re gonna miss you when you’re gone”
Jonathan, we so appreciate all the years you’ve given to Grassroots. We hope you enjoy your retirement, and even if we don’t see you everyday, you’ll always be part of our community.