Monday, September 23, 2013

Song lyrics (lesson in engagement)

I have heard the song “Even Flow“ from Peal Jam so many times. I sing along, I like it!

But it never connected emotionally until I was sitting in church listening to a message about "getting off your Donkey", where they incorporated the song.

The message at church was all about how to turn empathy into action through compassion tied to your Faith. We all know the story of the Good Samaritan. Jesus uses this story to illustrate the need for all of us to STOP and be the hero. There are moments in our lives where we have the opportunity to STOP and help, make an impact, change a life.

But how often do we let the moment pass because we are too busy? I was intrigued and spurred to thought by the message, I know there have been countless times my life, my busyness, made me miss an opportunity to be that HERO!

My thoughts drifted to my work at The Cara Program. I love working at a place making a real and lasting impact on homelessness and poverty. I feel like I am making a difference and giving back! Just as I was connecting emotionally and understanding intellectually to the church message, the band came out. They started playing "Even Flow" from Pearl Jam.

Suddenly it hit me, the song is about a homeless man. As the lyrics appeared on the screen, each one connected with me and dug deeper. The context provided by the church message, combined with the power of the song, really connected with me.

I didn't just hear the lyrics, I connected with them:
Freezin', rests his head on a pillow made of concrete, again
Oh, Feelin' maybe he'll see a little better, set a days, ooh yeah
Oh, hand out, faces that he sees time again ain't that familiar, oh yeah
Oh, dark grin, he can't help, when he's happy looks insane, oh yeah
Even flow, thoughts arrive like butterflies
Oh, he don't know, so he chases them away
Someday yet, he'll begin his life again
Life again, life again...
The song had real meaning, brought clear visuals and spurred new thoughts.

  • How many times had I heard "Even Flow" and missed the message? 
  • How many other songs have deep meanings drowned out by my humming along? 
  • Even though I work at a nonprofit, do I miss opportunities to be a Hero? How many times do I walk by a student at Cara and not talk to them?
This led me to think about engagement overall.  I wonder how many of the powerful stories we share about our orgs, our impact, or our work get missed just like song lyrics.

  • Do people listen, hum along and enjoy it, but miss the impact? 
  •  Does the way we tell our stories cause people to just walk on by just like the first two people in the story of the Good Samaritan? 
  • Do we provide enough context and framework before talking about our work? 
  • Do we work to engage people in understanding why we do what we do before showing out impact?
So how do we shift our song lyrics from something we sing along with to something that connects and spurs to action?

Friday, September 6, 2013

Please no #twerking for my birthday. Rather #TwerkingWWJD.

Sure everyone is talking about Miley Cyrus and her VMA performance (if you call it a performance). But I just get flustered when I think about it.

Why do women have to behave like that and dress like that to be a star?

By giving Miley and others who came before her attention, what are we teaching our little girls?

If we only talk about female performers who misbehave, are we only encouraging our daughters, nieces, granddaughters or any other little girls to follow in their path?

A little background, my daughter loves Dance! But I must admit, I was hesitant to let her get involved in Dance. So many of the costumes girls are encouraged to wear are just inappropriate. period. I don't even want to talk about the makeup and dance moves.

So we were excited to find a Dance program for our daughter through our church which integrated Faith and Worship into the experience! Little did I know the dance program would become a separate nonprofit and my wife would end up being the Executive Director! But that is besides the point.

My daughter blossomed and loved dance, even though her first performance was more singing and clapping than real dancing. Dancing as a form of worship has been an enormous part of my daughter's life and it has impacted countless people. My daughter has been able to share her faith through her artistic talent, what a gift!

So when we attended our early competitions, my fears were realized. Girls across so many of the other dance teams were encouraged to wear the costumes, cake on the makeup and resort to dance moves to win while sacrificing harder choreography, complex dance moves and simple enjoyment of Dance. I was not comfortable at these competitions.

Now I see so much of our media and entertainment focused on shows stressing how little girls can only succeed in arts if they participate in this #Twerked up behavior. We have Dance Moms or Tiaras and Toddlers teaching parents all about how to win in arts competition and how to push their children. sad.

I am saddened to see all of this.

What would have happened if Miley and those that went before her had the chance to learn their art as art? Or if they did learn it as an art where did it go wrong? If they had included Faith and worship in their expression of art, who would they be today?

But at the sametime, I am encouraged by the set of parents involved with Leap Of Faith Arts Ministries where my daughter dances. These parents get it. They talk about values, modesty and encourage dance to be as worship! They see their kids enjoying the arts as it is meant to be, a way to express yourself.

The parents at Leap of Faith have supported the org as it worked to find a location, secure its 501c3 nonprofit status and now face a staff transition. It is so amazing to see these parents put their kids first and grab on to a mission.

Leap of Faith is more than a building, a staff person or an org, it is a statement to the world saying we believe there is more to Art than winning a competition or becoming famous. Our artistic talents are a gift from God and should be used to worship Him.

So for my birthday, I want the attention moved from #Twerking to #TwerkingWWJD. What What Jesus Do about Twerking?

To show your support, either share this post, leave a comment, create your own blog post or just tweet using #TwerkingWWJD in September (my birthday 9/9).

We would also appreciate any support for Leap Of Faith Arts Ministries, visit the website or donate now.

I will leave you with this video which wraps up my thoughts about Dance Momz. Enjoy at your own risk.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Go BIG or go home (is mission the price for BIG though?)

As a teen every summer I spent a week at a camp meant to build values and leadership. My first years we had about 60-75 people. You had the chance to meet everyone. It was a close knit group and there was no hiding. This small group of people changed my life. I fit in.

But leadership wanted bigger impact and more kids! They had big plans and the only way to get there was more money and more kids.

My first few years, we had to earn our way to camp. We had to complete volunteer hours, attend fundraisers and be active in our local club.  But since we earned our way there, it meant so much more. We felt a sense of ownership in making the camp the best possible experience.

To get the bigger numbers quicker, you no longer had to earn your way. The hope was to get kids there, then show them the way. But the kids were not invested, they were there to have fun.  Suddenly there were more problems, which led to more rules. This of course led to more kids trying to get around the rules. All sense of trust and responsibility was lost.

With the rapid growth also came crowd mentality over individual expression. With the increase in attendance came a shift of ownership, now the staff had to be in change, just to keep control. It was no longer our responsibility to have a good experience. The staff now had to entertain us and if isn't fun, the staff were blamed.

In my opinion, mission was the price we paid for growth.

I often wonder if this is a common challenge for nonprofit technology staff. 

Do we look to increase efficiency, build capacity, innovate, help staff, and expand our organization through technology without considering the impact on our mission?

As technology staff are we connected enough to the mission to know the impact of our projects and plans?