Thursday, October 30, 2014

Boring or Colorful?

During the summer time I had the opportunity to visit San Diego, our second home and while enjoying the beach decided to go for it and get a few new beach T-shirts. My choice might be rather surprising to some but I selected the eye-catching colors of bright orange and bright green or lime. What is even more fun or surprising is that my new jogging shoes have a bright green overtone with laces that jump out at you and my other new pair is similar but the same orange as my T-shirt. I’ve decided that it’s time to enjoy some spice and color in your life! Why stick with the same usual choices and come across as rather bland or boring.

I found a great quote on LinkedIn that shows a picture of an old motel sign with the following, “Life has no remote. Get up and change it yourself!” I tire of hearing people moan and groan about their lives and then do little to bring or seek change. This isn’t a race or socio-economic ‘thing’ but a common malady in our society. I have friends both young and old who are so afraid to add color or spice to their life. So instead they settle for a rather mundane existence and then blame circumstances for their lack of initiative.

Yesterday I had one of those days that at the end I’m glad I can put on my shocking lime green hoodie and take the dogs for a walk at night. I was blessed to have one of my moms in need actually repay me some money that I had given her to keep her lights shinning. I quickly texted her back and helped her see that her choice to give back meant someone later in the day would have that money be put on her empower card so her lights could keep shinning. Adding color or spice to your life can help see changes start to happen.

We do live in an age where remotes and smartphones have taken over. Yes, life can be so much easier if you don’t have to get up to do anything, yet, the downside is that we don’t get up and do anything. I go in circles with a few 20 somethings about how you make life change. What is so puzzling, very different from my youth, is that it is so easy to live in a ‘stall mode’ and allow totally circumstantial things cripple you. I wasted an hour arguing with a younger friend about why he should he a cell phone if he really wants to be employed. His response, which ultimately pushed my button, was totally circuitous and pointless. He wanted his freedom but was willing to live off of others, mostly me and then live a hand to mouth existence.

If you want to see life happen then clearly get off the couch, get some bright colors going and then do something that counts for yourself and those around. Otherwise put back on that same bland hoodie and those stinky shoes and stay on the couch searching for the remote. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Dear White, Black, Brown, Yellow or Red People

I know that satire, humor and wit can become a divisive tool to hurt people that are different from yourself. I was raised by parents that should have been racists because of the neighborhoods of their youth changing radically over a short period of time. It wasn’t until I visited St. Louis in elementary school that my grandma enlightened me about the superiority of our race. My dad was very quick to silence her and explain to me that God made us all in His image with the same rights. Yet, he continued to explain how the outcome of fear, misunderstanding and hatred could make a person into a bigot that truly believed he was superior to others.

My wife and I decided to do a movie date on Friday and watch Dear White People. The clips for the movie had some humorous ways of showing how racism still exists amongst all people groups and not just ‘White People.’ I have purposely chosen to live and work in a multi-racial neighborhood where most of the time I’m the one in the minority. Often I realize that I’m viewed as an outsider who has no business of doing community work unless it is solely with my own race.

The movie used the college campus of a prestigious institution to poke fun at the extremes of how people of different racial backgrounds treat each other. My purpose in this blog isn’t to critique the movie. I will allow the various movie sites to do this but I will reflect on the sad fact that racism still exists to such an extent that a movie like this has to be made. The reality is that most people don’t believe there is racism today or use racism as an excuse for inaction. Just like the issue of equal pay for women is a huge issue today in addition to the cry of the need for racial diversity for most high tech companies. Yet, few are willing to fight for equal pay or diversity in the work place.

I’m fortunate to have many friends from a large variety of racial, socio-economic and educational backgrounds. What I’m learning is that it takes real effort to befriend someone that is different from you. Often this has little to do with race but with our interests, i.e. are you a sports fanatic or an educational snob? Yet, the onus is on me to pursue friendships with those that are outside my interest box. Initially it can be a little scary! I recognize that everyone is different from what foods they eat, what type of clothes they wear and even something as silly as hair care products can cause confusion unless you ask the obvious questions.

It’s clear that everyone reacts to the extreme stereotypes that the movie displays. So the discussion between the White President and his Black Vice President made it clear that too many today, regardless of age, don’t understand the impact of ongoing racism. The College President is too quick to address his counterpart in a diminutive fashion only to discover that the V.P. is doing something similar as he empowers his son to purse the President’s daughter as his girlfriend.

The part of the movie that strikes deep for today’s confused generation growing up is answering the ultimate question of who am I really? The smart gal in the movie is someone who has a Black mom and White dad. It isn’t until the end of the movie as this college gal’s dad is dying that she realizes how difficult it was not only for her but also for her dad who clearly received criticism. It was using the ‘M’ word, that describes our present President’s racial background and brought quick screams of don’t say that because it means that you might not fit in either world. Clearly this gal was the brightest and best in her class yet because of her being of a mixed race she could end up on the outside all-alone.

The hero of the movie is someone who is watching and writing from the sidelines about the extremes of all the different racial groups and how they treat each other. It took a Halloween party to push this student to stand up against the blatant racism of the President’s son. The difficulty with the movie and the response of most people today about racism is that it doesn’t do anything to create a path for multiculturalism instead of ongoing segregation in the community, church, work place and universities.

So yes I do need to hear a little about Dear White People or the reverse Dear Black people to help make my neighborhood healthier and more capable of accepting people from a diverse background. The difficulty is that it is easy to laugh at the movie but racism isn’t a laughable matter!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Great intentions don't always help!

It always surprises me, when it shouldn’t, that it’s so easy to have good intentions that end up offending someone else and backfiring. I chuckle when I get a call from someone who I know is going to complain or just vent. This initially is too easy to always take personally, yet, after some time you figure out that you had nothing to do with the situation and that your friend is just confiding in you with the hope of getting help. The difficulty is that this usually involves multiple friends who usually are able to see through differences but in this situation there is a clear misunderstanding.

It has been interesting helping an older teen this week that has a job that requires her to be up way too early. I know that in the past this individual would never be someone to get out of bed without much assistance. After a few days she is actually able to be up and moving around 5 am. What’s fascinating is how a person’s attitude and perception changes when they are venerable. This gal is someone in the past that would be quick to overact at times. I’m so proud of her ability today to be thankful for help and have a great attitude in working.

I know that at times I have spoken too quickly about someone else’s circumstances only to discover that I have outstepped my boundaries. It is always very difficult to back peddle and attempt to explain yourself after putting your foot in your mouth. It is much better to either apologize quickly and recognize your blunder and realize that next time I’d better just bite my tongue! Self-restraint isn’t necessarily something that I practice often.

Does this mean that I shouldn’t show concern and attempt to care for someone? Absolutely, not! Instead I need to be better at accessing situations and be more realistic about the journey of asking questions and even more important listening before I attempt to give advice. Often it is giving advice that turns a relationship sour. It’s much better when I wait for that friend to actually ask for help or advice. So I believe it’s great to be all about having good intentions but make sure those intentions are based upon circumstances that ask for a listening ear and a helping hand.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Do You Loose When You Snooze?

My wife often accuses me of being hyper and strange for getting up really early. This morning my alarm went off at 4 am so I could actually pick up one of our older teens that recently got her first ‘real’ job. This job is at Sky Harbor, Phoenix’s big airport, where she is on the morning shift. This equates to this individual having to be ready to leave so she catch the light rail around 5am. I know that most young adults struggle with getting up in the morning.

I was taught by my mom to be an early bird understanding that it was more likely that I would get a jump on the day and be able to accomplish more and not sleep my life away! She would always be up at dawn with her cup of coffee and cig. This habit became totally reinforced when I was in college with doing an early morning paper route with my wife. This required us to be up around 2:30am and we would finish around 5-5:30 am everyday. We would usually get an inexpensive breakfast at Farley’s a local hangout for many old timers and college students.

The birth of our first child saw this early habit continue because our Heather would get up at 5 am on her own to play in her room. I have found memories of listening to her go back and forth on her rocking horse. This could eventually become annoying if I had wanted to sleep in that day. Today our constant reminder about getting up before dawn happens to be our four canines. Freckles, my puppy pit-bull mix, has a habit of going wild around 5ish in the morning. She will lick you to death and that start jumping on and off the bed. She goes totally bonkers when we start walking downstairs to escape for our canal walk.

It is incredible how much better your day unfolds when you are able to take the time to reflect and think instead of rushing out of the house always behind the proverbial eight ball. I will usually read a Bible verse and have a thought for the day. I will then go over that day’s activities and then text those that are involved. I confess that often I will take a short nap in the afternoon between meetings or evening events.

I do believe that often when you snooze you loose! Yes, there is a difference between the person that struggles to rise and shine in the morning and the other that is up early and ready to make their day rock!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Volunteerism - time to step up!

Last night we had a dinner for 12 of our incredible interns that help tutor, mentor and love on our kids, teens and grandmas. I’m humbled to have such amazing young adults purposely choose to use their free time to be available to provide rides, an ear or some resources to make life better for many in my group. I’m so thankful for the local universities, ASU and GCU, in their passion to connect better with the community by providing academic programs that encourage doing neighborhood work.

It was fascinating to listen to each of our interns share their journey over the last 9 weeks. I know a few were initially overwhelmed with our outside the box teens that live in the fast lane but also crash and burn often. It was just as special to hear returning interns talk about how they were shocked to hear how the kids and teens missed them and ran up to give them hugs and high fives! It was also tragic to listen to our summer interns share the story of the five kids we had placed with us by CPS and the struggles they faced and how that impacted our lives.

I know that it is so easy for someone to go through college and get their degree without ever being involved with any type of non-profit that works with at risk population. It is exciting to see how this opportunity has changed the course of many of our interns who ultimately change their major to reflect their heartfelt sense of calling. This wouldn’t happen without the universities being on board with helping small organizations like mine!

I’m truly thankful for the 100 hours a week of work that our group does with our youth and families. It would be impossible for me to hire staff to do this much work. The benefit works in both directions where our intern’s lives are transformed as much as our youth and families. I value the amount of time that my team puts in on a weekly basis. What are incredible are the relationships that are formed and continue.

We have a few interns that moved away or just don’t have time to be involved. Yet, the kids talk about them often, want their cells and then the college students continue to reach back and ask about how their kids or teens are doing. It is so exciting to see lives being stretched and changed!

I would challenge everyone, regardless of age or life status, to consider volunteering for a local non-profit to make a difference and see their community become healthier!