Homeless For a Night

Homeless For a NightI wrote this article after my homeless experience and hoped to find a publication interested in printing it (and paying me!). So far no such luck, so I think it’s safe to print it here and at least share it. If you’re interested in helping homeless families in the Twin Cities, you can still support my Facebook cause (thanks to those who already did show their support!). For more on homelessness, I highly recommend the videos at Invisible People.

I’ve never been homeless. I’ve never had to wonder where I was going to spend the night. I’ve never had to contemplate sleeping in my car. I’ve never had to consider who I would call if I lost my house and had nowhere to go. I’ve never had to consider how anyone could possibly sleep outside in 42-degree weather.

Until last month.

On Oct. 16, 2008 I spent the night homeless.

The Not-So-Homeless Experience
Now in the interest of full disclosure I should let you know that I signed up for the experience. I didn’t lose my house. I didn’t have to consider sleeping in my car. I wasn’t actually homeless. I joined more than 500 teens and adults from across the Twin Cities who became homeless for a night and camped out at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds to raise cash and awareness for homelessness. Our efforts raised more than $11,000 for Families Moving Forward and Project Home, two organizations that provide emergency shelters in the Twin Cities.

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You Can Change the World: Mama to Mama

baby hatsMy wife has been on a craft kick the past few months like I’ve never seen.

One of the coolest projects she’s talked about lately is called Mama to Mama. The idea is for crafty people (i.e., not me) to spread some peace and handmade love. The crafty mind behind the big idea is Amanda Blake Soule, author of the Soule Mama blog and the book The Creative Family. She describes Mama to Mama like this:

“The simple act of creating something with intention and heart—for someone in need, can have a beautiful effect on the lives of others. We can, indeed, do something to create a more just and peaceful world … all with the simple, mindful and crafty work of our hands.”

Their first project is to make hats for newborn babies in Haiti. They’ll be distributed with Safe Birthing Kits to help reduce Haiti’s maternal mortality ratio (1 in 40, which is the highest in the Western Hemisphere. My wife already made a pile of the hats.

Since I’m not at all crafty, I’ll just applaud and support these efforts. Changing the world through craftiness. That’s cool.

You Can Change the World: Compassion Bloggers

Nick Challies playing with a child in the Dominican RepublicIn February the child sponsorship organization Compassion International sent a team of bloggers to Uganda. They’re doing it again this week, sending a team to the Dominican Republic. This trip doesn’t seem to be getting as much attention, but the stories are just as powerful. My favorite is reading 8-year-old Nick Challies’ blog and reading about two sisters meeting the kids they sponsor:

“My sponsored child, Rosemary, is so nice. We had so much fun and we swung on the swings together. I asked her lots of questions: Her favorite color is pink, and she is nine years old … just like me!”

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A New Day in America

President Elect Barack Obama and his family at Grant Park in Chicago

I stayed up last night to watch history. I couldn’t stand watching the pundit chatter, so I kept checking in and out. We watched the Clinton/Dole-Kang/Kodos episode of the Simpsons, watched some more returns, and then watched an episode of the Office. Then when I clicked back to check the results I heard a commentator say “President Elect Barack Obama.” It took a minute to confirm it, to see the map and the huge electoral lead. But it was over.

America had just elected its first black president.

From there we stayed up to watch history, seeing McCain’s gracious acceptance speech and then watching the crowds in Grant Park as a visibly tired and emotional Barack Obama came out to address the crowd. The images of the first black president are powerful and moving. No matter your politics, this is an intense moment for our country, our world, our generation and our children.

There is a palpable excitement in the air like I’ve never seen before. Granted that has a lot to do with the fact that my guy won, but I think this is categorically different, both because I actually like this candidate (I can’t imagine dancing in the streets for any previous presidential wins in recent memory) and because of the historic nature of this win. And I’m clearly not alone in that first point.

But for all the jubilation, there is a lot of work to do. There are enormous expectations on Obama and it would be hard for anyone to live up to all of them. I’m eager to see how he proves himself and if he can live up to his promises to bring change to our caustic political climate. I’m eager to see if he can prove his detractors wrong, if at the very least he can gain their respect if not their support. In short, I’m eager to see if he can live up to the hype.

In the end Barack Obama is just a man. He needs prayer and support, counsel and wisdom.

And in the end this is just one moment in history. It is preceded by innumerable moments that won’t make it in the history books, but without which this moment could not have happened. It is only by concentrating on those many small steps, persevering in each day, that we can ever hope to bring about the change we seek.

Election Marketing Sucks

I’ve complained before about crappy campaign web sites, but this year I think election marketing in general sucks, from robocalls to direct mail to those darned web sites. And I’m not the only one: Marketing guru Seth Godin offers marketing lessons from the U.S. elections. Today’s election day, so it’s all over. Let’s take a look at what works and what doesn’t.

Election Calls
In Minnesota robo-calls are illegal. Yet that hasn’t stopped two robo-calls from coming through, one from the Campaign for Change-DFL and one from Minnesotan Citizens Concerned for Life. I guess that’s one from each side of the political spectrum, so at least they’re fairly breaking the law.

In response to that anti-robo-call law in Minnesota, the McCain campaign has had real people making those calls and just reading the robo-call script. That’s perfectly legal, but it’s also perfectly insane.

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John Piper On Women & Over-Investment in Politics

Came across a very interesting video from John Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist in Minneapolis and head of Desiring God, a nonprofit religious organization that advocates the “supremacy of God.” I’ve done some work for Desiring God and I always find them very interesting to deal with. Piper is intensely cerebral. Trying to edit and work with their copy is an immense challenge. I’m always trying to get them to use language normal people can understand.

And that’s all because Piper is smart. Very smart. Dude talks in heady concepts and lingo that’s hard to get your head around. I don’t always agree with all of it, but I often find it immensely challenging (his work on Don’t Waste Your Life is perhaps the most accessible and incredibly convicting [though I should note that I didn’t work on the DWYL web site!]).

I say all that because I have great respect for Piper and want to give some context of who he is before talking about this video.

So Piper made a conversational video explaining his heart and concerns about the 2008 presidential election. The nearly seven-minute video covers three basic topics:

  • Women
  • Race
  • Abortion
  • Over-investment in politics

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NaNoWriMo 2008: The Least

NaNoWriMo ParticipantOh yeah, I started writing a novel today. Again. It’s called The Least (it’s a working title, I know, I’m not thrilled with it either). This is the third time I’m participating in National Novel Writing Month, the pressure-cooker event where you attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. In both previous attempts I won (i.e., finished).

So far I’m at 3,832 words, which puts me well ahead of schedule for the first day (woot, woot!). I find it really helps to start strong. It gives you a needed cushion for days when the words just don’t come. To save you the math, you have to write 1,667 words per day to stay on track.

And you can read along. I just set up a quick Blogspot blog where I’ll be posting the novel as I go. It will be full of typos, plot holes and it might completely suck, so reader be warned. It’s also a work of post-apocalyptic fiction, so abandon all hope ye who enter.

Hopefully it will be interesting and fun. I’d appreciate your comments and support, as long as they’re all positive (if you think my novel sucks, don’t tell me until December).

War of the Worlds on Twitter

War of the WorldsYou may not have noticed yesterday, but aliens rose up and crushed mankind before succumbing to the common cold and dying off. One person described the mayhem like this:

“Smoking, smoldering hunks of buildings, cars, and people lay strewn about. The tripods have left the Warehouse District in ruins.”

If it sounds familiar, it should be. Some enterprising folks recreated the War of the Worlds radio drama on Twitter. Instead of fictional news accounts about aliens, people posted fictional Twitter updates about aliens. There were also fictional photos and even videos. Wired covered the story and perhaps as many as 10,000 happened upon the event.

And I’d wager many of them were confused.

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