We Like Easy Causes

At Cultivate earlier this week Clint Runge of Archrival marketing made a statement about the ease of causes. He was talking about generational marketing and the differences between Generation X and Generation Y. While general principles and trends may be true, I hate when marketers try to split people into clearly defined groups based on when we were born. Babies aren’t born into neat categories like that.

But that’s besides the point.

He said that the most important cause for today’s generation is the environment. Easily the number one cause they rally behind. Why? He said because it’s easy. Few will argue about the importance of protecting our planet. It requires little research and little knowledge. You can do simple things to be more eco-friendly and you’ve done your part. Compare that to health care. There’s a cause that’s not simple. It requires loads of research, you’ll face lots of opposition and argument, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a simple way to get involved like recycling paper or turning off a light.

“Social cause used to mean marching and burning bras,” Runge said. “Today it means wearing a bracelet or a T-shirt. Putting a sticker on your laptop. It’s too easy.”

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Conference Week: Story & Cultivate

I’ve been working in church communications since 2004 and this week I went to my first church communications conference. Two of them actually. Making up for lost time, I guess. I hit up Cultivate in Chicago and Story in Aurora, Ill. (I had to skip out on the second day workshop portion of Story). It was a great couple days of getting out of the house and meeting folks I’ve followed online for years but never actually met. Of course I’m also an introvert, so it was a bit overwhelming and I wanted to curl up and be alone on several occasions.

Getting to the events was a miracle in itself. I owe a big debt to my mother-in-law for watching the kids, Michael Buckingham for splitting a hotel room with me, Cultivate for being cheap, Story for hooking me up with a free ticket, Brad Abare and Matt Kerner for posing as chaufers, and United for having cheap flights to Chicago. Thanks!

Cultivate vs. Story
The two events are like a study in contrasts. While the subject matter was the same (church communication) the style and approach of the two events couldn’t be more different.

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Milo’s Day in Court

Day in CourtWe got up early today and went to the Dakota County Courthouse to officially finalize Milo’s adoption in the United States. This is one of the steps in the finalization process and is essentially the United States government recognizing the adoption, granting us official parenthood, officially changing Milo’s name and issuing all the important paperwork of citizenship. We were already officially Milo’s parents, but this gives him a Minnesota birth certificate and then we can apply for proof of citizenship and a Social Security card. Plus, we can claim Milo on our taxes. In some ways today was just a formality, but it is an important legal step and was pretty exciting.

We’ve heard that most judges love doing adoptions, and in our case it was no different. Judge Richard Spicer greeted us at the probate window and talked to Lexi while we were checking in. During the hearing he read over our home study and asked us a few basic questions, more or less getting to know us and making sure everything was in order.

Lexi talked pretty much the entire time, pausing only to spin her office chair. Judge Spicer thought it was hilarious and near the end when he was making the official decree he said, “based on the evidence I’ve heard today—or tried to hear—I officially pronounce…”

It was quick and easy and actually went by in a blur. I went with the ellipses above because I can’t even remember exactly how he said it. While we were taking the pictures—something Judge Spicer seemed very excited to do—Lexi apparently exclaimed, “We’re a family!” I must have been so wrapped up in the moment I didn’t even hear it. Abby told me about it while we were having our celebratory breakfast at Keys.

We still have some paperwork to file and pay for (you think I’m exaggerating, but I’m not—it truly never ends) that will get Milo proof of citizenship and a Social Security card, but we’re almost there. This process has taken over two years now (we started in August 2007) and it’s so good to be nearing the end. Thanks for everybody’s help and support!

Homeless Again: Cardboard Box City 2009 Recap

So last Thursday I spent the night outside. It was part of Cardboard Box City, an event designed to raise money and support for homeless shelters in the Twin Cities. We raise money for two emergency overflow shelters for families, Families Moving Forward and Project Home, and then sleep outside to get a tiny taste of what homelessness is really like.

Thursday morning it snowed. The overnight low was 35 with a 30-40% chance of precipitation. This year it was moist, but the snow and rain mostly held off. Last year I didn’t dress warmly enough (I foolishly packed lightly) so this year I beat the cold with seven layers on top and four on bottom. Last year when I did this I got sick and had an awful night. This year I managed to stay healthy, but I still didn’t have fun.

Homelessness sucks. There’s no putting a pretty spin on it. After my tiny glimpse of homeless life I got to go home. All my needs were met and I didn’t have to worry about my next meal, my next place to stay, what would happen to my kids or even deal with the emotional crisis that goes along with losing everything.

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UnSummit: Private vs. Public

On Saturday I went to the UnSummit in Minneapolis, a kind of counter-conference. It was on a Saturday. It was free. It involved more conversation than declaration (kind of like Idea Camp). I wanted to summarize some of what I learned before it slipped into the ether.

One of the big topics of the day was the separation between private and public. One of the sessions specifically addressed this issue, but other sessions kept coming back to it. It’s kind of ironic that it kept coming up because it’s an issue I’ve dealt with a lot recently. I blogged on this a while back and determined that nothing is secret. As Seth Godin said, “Always act as if you’re on Candid Camera, because you are.”

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I’m Going to be Homeless, Again

Handing Out SocksLast year I particpated in Cardboard Box City, an event where nearly 500 people slept outside at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds and raised $11,000 to help the homeless. It sucked. I ended up getting sick in the middle of the night and having no other option but to stick it out. Basically I had a much more real homeless experience than I planned on, and it’s not any fun.

I’m doing it again this year on Thursday, Oct. 15.

Honestly, I don’t really want to. But nobody wants to be homeless. This is a small act of solidarity with the homeless to experience the tiniest taste of what they go through every day. And a chance to do some good. We’ll be raising money for the event to support Families Moving Forward and Project Home, two organizations that provide emergency shelters in the Twin Cities.

That kind of shelter is in high demand with the continuing recession. Last month I talked with a number of homeless people in downtown St. Paul with homeless advocate Mark Horvath. It was amazing and heart-breaking to hear the stories of people who had lost jobs or had one calamity too many and ended up on the street or living in their car. Most of them had become homeless in the past few months. The stereotypical view of the chronically homeless is not the norm. The majority of the people Project Home helps are children.

Your Turn
You can help the homeless in the Twin Cities by making a donation.

  • Homeless for a Night – I’ve set up a cause on Facebook that lets you donate and recruit your friends to the cause. It’s a great way to spread the word. (There is a minimum donation of $10 on this site.)
  • Donate Online – If you’re not Facebook savvy, you can use this online form and donate directly to the St. Paul Council of Churches (the nonprofit behind Project Home). The online form is a little convoluted, but on step 2 the 5th item lets you designate your gift to Project Home. Next you can note that your gift is for “Cardboard Box City.”
  • Donate w/ PayPal – You can make a donation directly to me using PayPal and I’ll pass the funds on to Cardboard Box City. This method would not be tax deductible.
  • Donate by Check – Make your check payable to “FMF” or “SPACC-Project Home” and send it to me (contact me for my mailing address). This method is tax deductible.
  • Donate in Person – If you’re in the Twin Cities you can just give me cash or check (made payable to “FMF” or “SPACC-Project Home”). This is also tax deductible, assuming you give me your address so they can mail you a receipt.

I hope you’ll consider making a donation and supporting my sleep out for homelessness.

If you want to learn more about homelessness, spend some time with Mark Horvath on InvisiblePeople.tv as he talks with the homeless and shares their stories. You can also check out 10 ways you can help the homeless for specific ways you can help (the advice on responding to panhandling is especially helpful).

Homeless Advocate Mark Horvath

Mark Horvath Ready for ActionA couple weeks ago homeless advocate Mark Horvath came through the Twin Cities on his InvisiblePeople.tv road trip. I had the chance to hang out with Mark, see him in action and briefly join him in his work.

We went to the Dorothy Day Center in downtown St. Paul (driving in the fancy Ford Escape Hybrid that Ford generously loaned Mark for the trip), handed out socks courtesy of Hanes and talked to homeless people. Mark tapped away on his iPhone, posting updates to Twitter, pictures to Posterous and recording video for InvisiblePeople.tv. It was a humbling experience, especially hearing their stories of facing one hardship too many and losing it all. Many of them had lost jobs and homes recently and were on the street thanks to the current recession. A homeless ministry was serving lunch while we were there and a number of people kept coming up and asking them for blankets and sleeping bags. Cold is coming in Minnesota.

Handing Out SocksI really value Mark’s perspective on the homelessness issue because he’s been there before and understands it in a way many people don’t. He also understands the practical realities. Frankly, it’s devastating to walk out here and talk to people, knowing I have a cozy warm bed and home, plenty of blankets, sheets and even a spare room. Whatever I’m doing to help the homeless, there’s always more I could do. I realize inviting a stranger into my house isn’t always practical (nor approved by my wife), but tell that to the person sleeping on the sidewalk. I don’t know how Mark has traveled the country doing this. He always talks about it wrecking him, and now I can understand why.

A few people asked me for money and I had to say no. I could empty my bank account handing out cash, but who knows what good it would do. I took great comfort in the garbage bag of brand new Hanes socks we were handing out. The very least I could do was hand out socks and listen.

Mark called me one of his heroes, but I don’t get that. He’s the hero. He’s the one practically homeless himself, living on the ragged edge without a real job or steady income trying to tell the stories of the homeless. On Tuesday night my wife and I took Mark out to dinner. It was my wife’s birthday and we’d gotten a babysitter so we could have some actual conversation with Mark. When the check came I got totally schooled in the credit card draw. Mark had grabbed the bill and slapped down his card before I could even react. Even the waitress was impressed. I tried to protest but it was too late. Mark insisted and paid for our dinner, including dessert. That’s the kind of guy he is. He’s the hero.

Check out InvisiblePeople.tv and watch the stories of homeless people. Hear them. See them. Open your eyes and your heart. If you want to know more about helping the homeless, Mark suggested this resource, 10 actions you can take to end homelessness. If you want to support Mark and the work of InvisiblePeople.tv, you can make a tax deductible donation online.

Share Your Story Now

“Don’t wait for your story to be done before you share it.”

I came across this quote from Jon Acuff (the guy behind Stuff Christians Like) in a discussion on blogging from the Catalyst Conference.

Here’s the quote in context:

Writing is just about writing. Perfectionism says it needs to be perfect, which is crazy. Your story is like your life… it is not done. Don’t wait for it to be done before you share it. Often you audience helps guide your story.

What I love about this is the acknowledgement that we all have stories to share. Our lives are journeys and the story isn’t the end of the road, it’s how we get there. Which means we don’t have to wait until we’re old and gray to have something valuable to say.

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Turned on the Heat Today

I broke down today and turned on the heat. Milo’s sniffles and an inside temperature of 63 degrees seemed like a combination for bad parenting. Currently the thermostat is set for 67 (aka the cheapskate setting) and it feels nice and toasty. Nothing like taking the edge off.

Here’s the breakdown of when we turned on the heat the last few years (I don’t know why I find this fascinating, but I do, so roll with it):

Olympic Host Cities

The International Olympic Committee announces the host city for the 2016 Summer Olympics today. It will be Madrid or Rio de Janeiro. Despite the presidential push from Obama for Chicago and the green-friendly reasoning for Tokyo, both cities are out on early voting. It would have been cool to have the Olympics in Chicago, but only for selfish reasons (when else will the Olympics be only six hours away?).

When you look at the history of the Olympics, it’s been mostly contained in wealthy western nations in North America and Europe. South American and Africa have never hosted an Olympic games. The Middle East and much of Asia have gotten the shaft too. This Olympic host country map provides a pretty startling view. Only twice in history have the Olympics been held south of the equator (both in Australia: 1956 and 2000). I understand that infrastructure and security requirements need to be met, but it seems like those challenges can be dealt with. Besides, location doesn’t guarantee security (remember Atlanta?).

Here’s to hoping the official announcement later today will mean history for the Olympics. (Update: They picked Rio for history!)

Until then, let’s explore some Olympic minutia when it comes to host cities.

  • The selection process hasn’t begun for the 2020 Summer Olympics, but a number of cities are lining up. In the making history department we have South Africa, Qatar, India, Peru, Malaysia, Morocco, United Arab Emirates and Turkey. Even if the Olympic Games makes history today and go with Rio, it seems the 2020 games should continue that ground-breaking tradition.
  • In the not-so-historical department, a number of U.S. cities will be salivating now that Chicago is out of the running: Denver, Boston, Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Birmingham (?!) and Pittsburgh have all shown interest.
  • Detroit has more unsuccessful Olympic bids than any other ultimately unsuccessful city with seven official attemps (Los Angeles has made nine bids, but they also hosted twice). Detroit made attempts in 1944 (3rd place), 1952 (5th place), 1956 (4th place), 1960 (3rd palce), 1964 (2nd place), 1968 (2nd place) and 1972 (4th place). If Detroit couldn’t host the Olympics at the height of their prestige, it seems almost laughable that they could win a bid now.
  • Yes, my hometown, the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul are considering a bid for the 2020 Olympics. There’s even a horrible web site that uses Comic Sans and a Facebook Group with 80,000 fans. The Twin Cities have tried and failed four times to host the Olympics: 1932, 1948, 1952 (2nd place), 1956. They also placed second to Atlanta as the U.S. host city in 1996. I love my city, but somehow I’m not sure if we’re Olympic caliber.
  • Time offers a glimpse of what happens to Olympic stadiums (auto racing in Athens is the coolest) and ponders the potential cost if Chicago hosted the Olympics.

Here’s a quick overview of some of the challenges Rio will face.