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?

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