Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Capitalism vs. Philanthropy are they friends or enemies?

I just finished reading a couple of articles and a book written from the 1% that have the privilege of talking about philanthropy and the impact they are having in the world both on a large scale but also in the life of one. I know it is easy at times to feel as if you are a little fish in a big pond that is owned and managed by someone else. It is inspiring to think that there is actually collaborative competition amongst the most wealthy to consider how to impact the world around us where having food at night before you go to bed is an ongoing question. Whether there is clean water will determine if a mom will see her latest baby grow up or become another statistic. I know that it is very difficult for normal people, like you and me, to relate to the Buffets, Gates and others who are turning their entrepreneurial skills into a movement to change the world.

I know that many today truly want to do well by doing good. I have a close friend who recently opened up a new coffee shop and church in downtown Phoenix. He is taking a huge risk because of the expense of starting both a new church and new business in a downtown that still is coming of age. His slogan is, ‘drink good coffee and do good’. He doesn’t have the backing of a billionaire father or uncle but the support of normal average people.

What struck me as I read a book written by the father of one of the wealthiest men in our world is that he was raised in a typical family that could have been like yours or mine. I know that paying it forward is a popular expression that is starting to take root. The book focused on how this family did your typical Sunday dinners, the parents were very involved with community service organizations, their kids were raised learning how to read and not be vegetables sitting in front of a screen. They did family vacations and learned the importance of learning about life from their grandparents. Sounds rather normal and almost boring, yet, it is this background that ultimately influenced this individual to challenge others to give their wealth away in an organized planned out fashion.

It was interesting reading a couple of articles that dialogued about the evils of capitalism and apparent conscienous laundering of the Billionaire Philanthropists. The bottom line is that those in the know are talking and actually acting out on seeing that it is time that everyone sees their part in making a difference in the world around us. It is incredible to think that a Laruen Busch or a Blake Mycoskie can birth businesses that will change the face of the world and influence others to give back but in a very different way. Yes, the issue of poverty is a very complex and confusing topic that is more than a discussion on capitalism or cultural norms or educational reform.

I know that too often we can allow the inner voice within to tell us that we could never be like so and so that is doing it. I had a text from someone at a new job that was too quick to throw in the towel and say, ‘same ol’ stuff’, after a couple of weeks on a new job. I texted back, so then do something that is ordinary in an extra-ordinary way. Yes you can make an impact in the world around you if you are willing to listen, learn and do something ordinary in an extra-ordinary way. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Don't Freak Out!

One of the greatest gifts and strengths in life is other people. I am so fortunate to have lots of friends and a few that are great best friends. I had recently connected with a new friend who shares much in common with me when it comes to life passion and commitments. It is always so refreshing to be around others who share much in common and energize me to do community work and keep focused for my life. I know that making choices whether it be about simple no brainers or very important life changing choices are made best with advice from good friends.

I know that most will agree that as a youth it is easy to make decisions based upon spur of the moment thinking. We live in an instant fix generation where everyone wants everything today. I’m so glad that Amazon can get me an e-book in seconds. I’m thrilled that I can order something today and get it tomorrow. I was able to send a birthday gift via Facebook to one of my teens. Easy, simple and it works. The challenge is that there is something real that happens when I’m forced to actually shop for a gift, think through a decision to purchase something or listen to another who has gone through a difficult circumstance.

I am involved with a lot of youth and adults that are ongoing life crises. Yesterday I ended up talking with a teen that will be a mom soon. She has lots of decisions, which are not easily thought through without outside support and help. I also spent time with a mom and her kids who are going through hell because of a deadbeat dad, a brother and other family members. I was with another friend who has life threatening health issues and is totally dependent upon others to live.

So how does anyone not totally shut down or pardon the expression, ‘Freak Out!’ Here is what I’m learning:
  • ·      Don’t go alone – wisdom is seen in the advice from multiple friends.
  • ·      Be honest and talk about what is happening which means you have to be transparent and venerable.
  • ·      Change takes time so take baby steps to see improvements as you replace a bad life pattern with a better life pattern.
  • ·      Open your eyes and learn from those around you, even those you might not like or agree with their life choices totally.
  • ·      Last – be patient, see life as an adventure and make each day count! Do something for someone else and get your focus off of yourself.

My best friend, my wife, would kick me and say great advice but are you able to follow your own guidelines. My response would be, 'No it isn’t easy but today is a new day to experience life before God and her. 'So go for it and make better choices that will have greater benefits for you, your family and friends. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Call the Police!

I get rather upset or I should sad MAD when I hear another story of someone I know that chooses to let violence happen and not to do anything to stop it from happening again. I live in a gang area where there is always the possibility that I could do something or just be in the wrong place at the wrong time and get hurt. This week I had one of my teen guys get jumped close to his house.

I know that my teen at first thought it wasn’t a big deal and protected himself. He assumed that he was buffer and quicker than the other teen that went after him. The unfortunate reality is that another teen joined in to hurt my teen and then another joined to hurt my guy. The end result was a broken arm. My teen spent most of the next day at the hospital getting his arm x-rayed and deciding whether his arm needed surgery to get it fixed.

My teen at first acted like it wasn’t a big deal but my wife and I reinforced that it was a big deal and that he needed to call the police and file a report. Then another one of our teens said that if he didn’t do anything that the gang would return soon to get him. The following day we find out that the gang grafittied his house and then threw a brick through his window. His mom had someone come and paint over the graffiti and eventually will get the window replaced.

I asked my teen to plead with his mom to call the police. He said she didn’t think that they would do anything and that everything would actually get worse because of calling the police. She assumed that they would find out that she had called and then come back and do even more damage to her house or more likely to her son.

I was and am ready to call the police and ask a few of my Phoenix Police friends to intervene and talk with the mom and my teen. I don’t want another statistic to come into place. Yes, this was totally about race wars and being in a gang neighborhood. The challenge is that my teen’s house happens to be in that neighborhood. I have no idea if they are getting even for something that had happened earlier and my teen isn’t being totally honest.

I have watched too many drive by episodes to see most of my grandmas choose to do nothing. My obvious response is WHY? Does someone have to be killed? Do you really believe the police in Phoenix aren’t going to respond or be racist in their response? I know that there is always a history behind people’s choices. My hope is to help everyone stand up against the violence that continues to happen in Phoenix. When we partner together against gang violence and racism our neighborhood will become safer! So call the police! Tell a neighbor to watch out for your house. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Get Turboized!

I was a little apprehensive with taking 30 plus little kids to see a movie about being a turbo-powered snail! We do lots of big group events but usually not in a public setting like a movie theater. We ended up taking 40 to the movie and it turned out that we were the only ones in this big theater. Most of these kids don’t get to do much outside their home situation. It was awesome to see a movie that focused on the little guy actually being able to beat the big guy.

I didn’t know whether my little guys would be able to sit for a couple of hours to watch the movie. They have been raised in an instant generation where an attention span is about 5 minutes. Most are hooked on video games, Facebook or texting. So I was totally jazzed to see them get into the movie and be excited about a crazy little snail, who didn’t allow his friends and family to stop him from dreaming big, real big.

I know one of the biggest challenges in life, regardless of age; sex or background is having a sense of what life should be about. It is humorous watching a little snail watching the same clip of a famous racecar driver thinking that some day he can be just like this superstar. The difficulty is that most youth and 20 something’s of today don’t know how to dream or think outside the box much if at all. I know that dreaming and stepping out is at times learned from a parent, grandparent or special friend. Too often as we get older we choose what is safe and never take risks to experience life to the max.

It was hilarious watching my 87-year old father in-law jump out of a plane to proof his masculinity. I know that my mother in-law was very apprehensive with having him put on a parachute and actually jump out at 10,000 feet. Looking back I’m sure he would say it was a piece of cake and no biggy. I got a sense that while he was signing the liability waiver that it was a big deal. Watching the guy repack the parachute was really scary thinking that if he messed up what might happen at 10,000 feet.

I know that the leadership gurus are so quick to talk about dreaming; taking risks and making something happen that is unexpected. This is all great talk but takes a different environment for this to actually take place when you don’t have any role models in your life. I know that it is so easy to always play it safe in life. You won’t get hurt if you don’t take any risks. No one wants to purposely stick out their necks to have them chopped off. It is so easy to talk yourself out of doing something that is outside the box.

Our little snail in the movie starts to picture in his mind’s eye what it would be like to live in the real world and push himself to do something that seems impossible. It is rather hilarious to see a group of snails think they are going to race and more interesting to see our turbo charged snail take on his super racer hero. The awesome learning curve from this silly movie is seeing a group of friends choose to back another friend in taking a risk to improve their situation. What’s even crazier is to see the bigger than life taco guy go to extremes to get his little friend snail get into the Indy 500.

We can sit back and laugh at this funny well crafted movie but the reality is that for most of my younger kids watching they are like the snail before he was turbo charged. They can be afraid to ask for help or definitely not willing to take a risk where everyone can laugh at them as they fail. So how do we go from normal to turbo charged? How do we go from being laughed at to being admired for going the extra mile? Is it possible to face the biggest obstacle in life and actually blow it out of the water?

As the movie finished my group of little guys all started to clap and scream GO TURBO. My hope is that they too can be turbo charged in their lives by dreaming, living out their dreams and not being afraid to do the impossible right now!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Tough Day?

I always love going to Matt’s Big Breakfast for my morning outings! I had an e-mail from a close friend who was in town for just a few days. Fortunately, for him, I look at my e-mail before I go to bed and he checked his early in the morning. I know that it isn’t easy for guys especially to be honest about life circumstances. He has had a tough last six months waiting to do something with his life. I enjoyed our time together because it forced me to be a little more honest about my life too.

I had just been in San Diego, which should have been a mini-vacation, but it was for a funeral of a close friend whose daughter is also married to my brother in-law. I didn’t initially love nor understand the attraction to an old church that was filled primarily with old people. My life has changed significantly since the 70’s so now I’m someone who is in the old category and am starting to appreciate how generational friendships and churches matter to the aging baby boomers like myself.

I had been married in the amazing sanctuary at First Presbyterian Church in downtown San Diego in the early 70’s. It was a church that was at a crossroads because the demographics and culture of the downtown had changed significantly since the church was birthed at the turn of the century like 1900 not 2000. I wasn’t too excited about the pastors wearing robs or there being a pulpit that was 20 feet above the pews but I adjusted and worked at this church as a youth guy and family pastor in the early 80’s. The church took on great meaning because of my mom working as a financial secretary for almost a decade and my being on staff for 5 years.

As I sat in the Sanctuary I was overwhelmed with memories of both working at the church, getting married in this Sanctuary, attending my mom’s funeral and a year later a remembrance celebration of her life. I love coming to San Diego but the death of this friend struck too close to home and my wife and I both were in tears as we listened to the funeral ceremony. It seemed like only yesterday that my mom and dad came to Chandler to tell about mom’s cancer. Now fast forward almost 20 years and now my dad has severe dementia and my mother in-law has ongoing health struggles. Life in the past was full of adventure and seemed like nothing could stop you. Now I had to take notice that the church, which I had despised as a youth, now had become a home that welcomed me back.

I saw a few of my former youth group at the funeral that were now 40 something’s with kids in college or flourishing businesses. I also understood the struggles of an aging downtown church that lost families to the mega churches in their backyard. I listened to a good friend who is the family pastor reflect on her life as she had been reduced from full time to part time because of budget constraints. She is an amazing servant who saw all of this as giving more time to be with people and not in the office. Wow!

The real point of this blog is that I drove back early from our San Diego get away to go to court with one of my teens. He was having his probationary hearing that would determine the consequences of his unfortunate actions of a few months ago. The good news for my teen was that the judge was gracious and gave him shortened probation. I knew that there was a good chance this could happen. Yet, regardless of the good news the incident, which caused the hearing, had left a weight on everyone that made it difficult to celebrate. I was much more emotional on the inside then expected. I didn’t think that going to a funeral and then a court hearing would bring my own mortality to the forefront.

I was back in court again today after my friend’s breakfast to appeal something that required me to actually go inside and write something out. I wasn’t thrilled to have to do this but after being in court the day before it reminded me that this old building could be viewed as a protection zone for those who have been hurt by the world around them. I didn’t relish having to go downtown to do this but I’m glad it is over. The outcome of the day was that I felt like I had been beat up emotionally even though no one had laid a finger on me. My friend at breakfast had much more to complain about or be burdened over but the reality is that it is great to have good friends who will listen and care regardless of who is right or wrong.

I know that the royal birth brought much attention to Great Britain, excitement about even the economy picking because of this little baby. Yet, the reality is that the Queen will soon be making her way into eternity and the tone will be different. Yes, life is full of good things, bad things, birth and death. I’m thankful for friends and a God who uses even old falling apart buildings to remind us of His faithfulness.