The Endless Immensity of the Sea

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”
– Antoine de Saint Exupéry

After the fourth or so night of collaboration planning, a Facebook friend posted the Saint Exupéry quote and it leaped out to me.

Capstone projects were dreamed up over coffee and conversation one afternoon while I met with Jo Krippenstapel and asked big questions.  What does the last year of Starfire U hold for people?  What honors people’s gifts, time, years spent learning and growing?  I’ve kept the notes, pinned above my desk from that day in January of 2011.  The notes shaped the basis of what capstones would become the first year and what could be possible for all people.

Blank canvas: do what’s most positive & possible

4th year is a blank canvas, build from 5 Valued Experiences

However, in the beauty of all the capstones that were worked on, completed, celebrated last year (all of which you can view here) the ideas/projects were decided before people were invited in.  One of the notes I took with my meeting with Jo was the snippet below:


people intentionally invited

People intentionally invited.  So this year, Sarah came up with a beautiful format that intentionally invited people to dream, build projects with us before we decided what the projects were.

Over the course of six evenings, each of the 22 seniors invited in neighbors, friends, family, people we had met previously to come together and plan.  What we were planning for was to get connected to our neighborhood with keeping in mind each person’s interests and passions as our theme.  What were capstones, people asked?  What were they for?  We had that answer ready for them.


What is a Capstone?

In Sheila’s room, Brandy, Melissa, her dad, mom, sister, two aunts, an uncle, three nieces, two cousins, Abby (Sheila’s connector supporting the project), Abby’s sister, Katie, and their mom all attended.  The group of people were all invited in because they care about Sheila or cared about kids and crafting and event planning.  Together, the group decided with Sheila that they will spend the year planning for “A Princess Ball” a little girl’s event for little girls who love dressing up, arts & crafts, and the finer things in life.

Princess Ball 2013

In Thomas’s room, his mom, Joseph, Dudley, Charlie, and Marvin all came together to discuss music, sound, recording, and events.  Together, they came up with the idea of Thomas bringing together musicians to collaborate on a new Cincinnati-based CD.  Thomas will also collaborate on the CD playing the piano.  The CD isn’t the only thing they planned.  There will also be a CD release party and other opportunities for the group and others who love music to get together and attend jazz nights at the Blue Wisp and other concerts around town.

Melissa’s night included inviting her 5 brothers and sisters, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, Carla, Stephanie, and Danielle, all college students who were interested in the project, Tim, her connector Erin, and neighbor and friend from Sayler Park, Andrea.  Together, with Melissa, they took her interests of kids, cooking, and Sayler Park, and came up with the idea of collaborating with an already existing neighborhood event, but adding something cool to it.  The Sayler Park 5k has been running (no pun intended) for 17 years.  Melissa and her invitees decided that an after-party would be just the thing to bring together neighbors, friends, and celebrate their town.  The 5k benefits the Cincinnati Recreation Center in Sayler Park, where Melissa volunteers with kids on Tuesdays.


Melissa presents with neighbor, Andrea

Kyle’s night included comic enthusiasts and artists who are coming together to write, draw, and publish a brand new comic called “Soul Ninja” and celebrate with a comic release party in Anderson.  The group needed to be interrupted because the planning process was nonstop.  Those in attendance were so excited about the idea that they couldn’t stop the flow of ideas for drawing, story-lines, and characters. Kyle presented the ideas with Joseph and Justin.

Joseph, Kyle, and Justin present “Soul Ninja”

Ashley’s night included inviting in photographers, her family, staff, and others who were interested in supporting her photography gift.  All together, the group decided, that Ashley would take pictures, attend gallery openings, and have her own exhibit in May of 2013.  So far, Ashley has already exhibited her photos at the Emery Theater, and will be a featured artist selling her work at Starfire’s annual ArtAbility next week.


Ashley’s Original Photography

Kasey’s night included volunteers from Crayons to Computers, where she has been a long-time volunteer, neighbors from her street, and Ashley, a woman she met who blogs about kindness regularly.  Together, the group decided that Kasey volunteering and giving love to people is important.  So far, she and others have shared mugs with kind notes and treats to her neighbors and friends who attended her planning night and are working on building a core group of people who love to do random acts of kindness and celebrate the gifts of others.

All told, this year’s capstones will be a bit different than last year.  Instead of “assigning tasks and work” as the quote says, we instead invited people to dream with us first, to long for the endless “immensity of the sea.”  To bring energy and ideas and then work together to narrow down a theme and project that could be done with people.

We aren’t building a ship, but we are building community.  Inviting people in to learn about why sharing places, building relationships, experiencing respect, making contributions, and making choices are so important is the long work.  The collaborative process is much different than delegating tasks.  We are inviting people to come along with us and contribute their gifts too, build community, because they also care about comics/photography/children/neighbors/music.
if you’re interested in getting involved in any of the projects written here or curious about the others that aren’t – please contact

Candice Jones Peelman