There is a difference between pointing out problems and solving problems. Without a doubt, we encounter a myriad of problems in our personal lives, our society, and our world. I have noticed people are pretty accomplished at pointing out problems in others, society and the world. Not so much in ourselves. Maybe that's because it's hard to point out our own problems and talking about the problems of society and the world are much less personal.
The issue is, it's easier to talk about problems than it is to come up with solutions for them - whether they are personal or bigger than just us as individuals. I have to admit, one of my pet peeves is when people complain about a problem, and get all worked up about it, but don't present a possible solution. Sometimes when they do that, they think they are problem-solvers, but really they are problem-pointer-outers. Being a pointer-outer is easier than being a solver. I often fall into that habit, and have to remind myself to either contribute a solution, or shut up.
The thing is, I don't have a solution for every problem, so I contemplate a lot, but don't say much. If, in my contemplations, I come up with something I feel could be a viable solution, I will state it publicly and see what happens. Often, someone will disagree, and sometimes he or she has a more viable and satisfying solution. Sometimes he/she has a less viable and satisfying solution. And sometimes we disagree, but the other individual has no suggestions at all. I listen. I listen carefully, because I want to hear all possible solutions.
Why does it happen that we can see problems, but not solutions? Maybe because solutions are harder to come by. I wonder if people are afraid to think too deeply about issues in our lives and in our world? Are they afraid that, as they search for a solution to the challenges humans face, they will find - nothing? Or maybe they, personally, will have to change? Or do they feel marginalized and as if their thoughts and ideas don't matter? Maybe they just don't want to? Do people not care? Have we opted for the easier road, the wider path of apathy? Or, are we just too darn busy and lazy to engage our brains on a deeper level?
There are a lot of big things happening in the world right now, and there are a lot of problems and issues we all face in our personal lives on a daily basis. I see them pointed out all the time. I am pretty sure we would agree that where there are problems there are solutions - but, often, I think we settle in our lives and our society by allowing others to think for us. We are short-changing humanity when we limit our contributions because we don't take time to think through a problem with the end goal of trying to solve it. We end up reacting in frustration or pain - which often compounds the problems.
I know it can be a scary proposition. My ideas and solutions are rejected all the time. I was told dozens of different ways the Torch would fail. I have to say, though, what I have observed is change in the very people who expected us to fail because our approach to serving our fellow human beings does not follow the conventional non-profit path. They are starting to adapt and change THEIR approaches to line up more with ours. I don't even know if they would admit that or be able to acknowledge it - but it is definitely happening. I believe that is softening the impact on human beings who need help - which is the best reward EVER for me. It was a risky solution, but it has worked.
So, what problems can you solve? What problems can I solve?
Maybe we need a national day set aside for thinking things through.
When you step out in faith and work hard to pursue and build a dream, you learn very quickly that the way is filled with obstacles and challenges. Not only do you have to overcome the limitations your own doubts and fears place on you, you have to stare down those who would seek to discourage you. You have to frequently check your dreams against God's plans, and, often, find your hope for what is to come by remembering what He has already done in your life and with the dreams He placed in your heart.
Choices and decisions constantly have to be weighed, prayed about, and made. Sometimes they work out amazingly well - like when Sarah sent an email to a company which was advertising on Craigslist that they built food trucks. Not only did the gentlemen want to build us a food truck, they wanted to build us the exact food truck we were looking for. AND they kept it in our budget. Crazy and true.
Sometimes, the decisions we make don't work out as well as we hoped they would. We entered a partnership with a start-up non profit organization in which we would share space in their building by renting the kitchen, dining area, and classroom. It was a blessing for us to have the space to teach our summer class. Sarah and I and our volunteers put in hours of work because the building was in pretty rough shape before we moved in - but we got our area looking beautiful and ready. We had a lot of plans and dreams as we pursued a commercial kitchen license so we could use our space as a commissary and serving area for the Torch - while we continued to teach students and grow 180.
As the other organization worked to grow, it became apparent that it would not work for us to continue to rent the kitchen, and so we decided to end the sublease before we licensed the kitchen. For many people, that might have felt like a huge setback, but the people who are behind the Torch and 180 are not like many people. We have rejoiced at the great things that happened this summer. Three of the six students are employed. During the course of the summer, we were nominated to receive a grant for a commercial refrigerator and freezer. We were chosen to receive that grant.
And Sarah and I got a powerful glimpse into the great potential there is to grow 180 so it can impact the people in our community, and beyond. We know we need our very own space. We will be relentless in our prayers, planning and pursuit of the perfect space.
We learned so very much - and look forward to what is coming next. Is closing the door on the sublease disappointing? Yes, it is. Is it debilitating? Absolutely not! There are so many options and opportunities before us. And with God in control - ANYTHING is possible!
So, in case you didn't notice, this is an election year. In light of the fact that the news has been filled with reports from both major parties' national conventions, I guess you would have to be living in a cave not to be aware. I like election years. Have you ever thought about what an amazing privilege we have to participate in influencing the future of our country through voting?
It's amazing. We can form our opinions and cast our votes without fear of retribution or condemnation from our government. Not always without fear of retribution and insults from friends or family, I'm afraid, but even that is one more amazing and great part of being a citizen of this society. We are allowed to think differently. We are allowed to have opinions about how our COUNTRY - the United States of America - is run, and they don't have to be the same as anyone else's! How awesome and special is that?
Do you feel the solemn responsibility that goes along with such a privilege? Contemplating these big thoughts made me feel like this would be a good time to tell you how to vote. Nobody ever really told me how to vote before, so consider this a service from me to you. I remember the very first time I went to the polls when I was 18 years old. I was so excited, and nervous. After I sat down and felt confident I understood how to mark my ballot, I realized I hadn't heard of most of the people or proposals that were listed! I freaked out! It had not occurred to me that I might want to gather some information before I went to the polls.
Those are both significant parts of knowing how to vote - first, make sure you view it as the awesome responsibility and privilege it is, and then, educate yourself about what you will be voting for. There are some steps to this process:
1. Take time to think about all the different issues we face in our world and as a society, both local and national. Really contemplate them, and make a list of the issues that make you feel the most concerned - and those that are very clearly hot topics for the election season.
2. After you know what your concerns are - start doing some research on those issues. Read whatever you can find about them - gather all the information you can. Find out what people are saying from all different perspectives. Think about what they are saying. Consider them in light of the world as you know it. Question them. How would certain policies affect you? How would they affect the people in your life? Those in our society? The world? Think it all through - and figure out for YOURSELF, based on YOUR research, what you think and believe.
3. Think about the candidates who are running. Research them. Read literature from their own parties and from other parties. Try to pick out how they are being spun. Look at their experiences, history, accomplishments, things they have done throughout the years that were newsworthy. Find out how their beliefs line up with yours. Remember, there are more people who are running for offices or positions than just the president. Research all those who pertain to where you live.
4. Record what you find out. Write all the issues down - and what you think about them. Write what you discover about the candidates. Think some more as you decide how you will vote.
5. Make a list of how you will vote on all the different issues and in all the races. Take it with you to the polls so you don't forget or get bogged down.
And there you have it! In order to vote, you have to know what you value, educate yourself, research, and apply your critical thinking skills. It might seem like a lot of work, but when you consider the enormous responsibility and privilege it is to vote, it really isn't.
That's how to vote. Exactly what you thought this blog would be about, right? I mean, I did say "how to vote", not "who to vote for"...
Happy Election Season!!!
My second beautiful and perfect grand daughter was born last week. I just love those two little girls so much. My older grand daughter is eight months old, and during these past months I have realized a lot of things about being a grandparent and being a parent.
For one thing, I am glad I am not parenting these girls in the society we live in today. So much about this world makes it really difficult to use the "N" word with children. And I don't mean the racist "N" word. THAT'S just plain old hate-filled ignorance, and the word should be obliterated from our vocabulary - another blog, another time. I'm talking about the "N" word that is spelled N-O. Yes. That one.
We live in a permissive society in which parents often don't seem to feel comfortable telling their children "no". I never had that problem. I used every form of it - no you can't, no you won't, no I won't let you, nope, uh-uh, ain't gonna happen and etc..
I watched a mom in a store earlier today, struggling with a youngster who was grabbing things off the shelf and putting them in her basket. Instead of telling him no, she was trying to sneak the items back out and put them on a shelf. I'm guessing she didn't want to put up with the ensuing fit if she had stopped him in his tracks with the "N" word.
My eight month old grand daughter is getting to the age where she will need to hear that word. Possibly a lot. She is a little sweetie, but she also has a mind of her own - and that means when she is told no she is not going to like it one bit. And she will likely be very vocal about her disapproval. But even if she is vocal and gets mad and throws embarrassing fits, we will all still need to stand our ground and make sure no means no.
Seriously, the world is full of "nos". And if children don't learn how to accept them and move on when they are young, how will they cope when they are grown? When I was looking for a job a few years ago, I had a lot of interviews, and I was rejected repeatedly. Yes, there were times it made me cry in frustration, and it often felt unfair and like I was being discriminated against - but in the end I accepted the nos and moved on to the next opportunity. What I ended up with was far better than any of the previous jobs. And I was also a much stronger person for working through my disappointment.
There are a lot of things kids don't need. They don't have to try every new Oreo that comes out. They don't need televisions in their rooms. They don't need a cell phone until they are old enough to drive. Yup. You heard that right. It's okay to say no to that. Well, not really in our society. Middle schoolers and younger have cell phones now, but that doesn't make it right.
Only one of my four children got a cell phone in middle school. I was completely against it, but I got outvoted 2 to 1, and that child got a cell phone. A week after the cell phone was in the child's possession - I saw a text from a person of the opposite sex - it said, "I love you." My child had responded, "I love you, too."
I called my child to me and said, "No. No, you don't love somebody of the opposite sex at 12 years old. It isn't possible for you to experience the range of emotions and commitment that goes along with loving somebody. So, no, you don't. You must end that relationship."
And that child did, unhappily. And life went on.
I could never have parented my kids without the "N" word at my disposal.
Let's hear it for NO!!!!!!!
It isn't easy to live a life of truth and honesty, especially in this society. For one thing, people seem to be afraid to admit there is such a thing as truth. We seem to pretend that anything can be true as long as someone wants it to be. But, the reality is there are certain things that are true and honest and should be acknowledged.
One thing that is true is that all people matter. If we are honest, we don't always act like we believe that. Nor do we treat people like that is a truth. Sometimes, we assume we are better than other people, which is not true. We are different, but not better. Sometimes we assume other people are better than us. Also not true. Others might be better at some things, but that doesn't make them better people. And it doesn't make them matter more. All people matter. Period. Inarguable truth.
Another true and honest fact is that sometimes humans make mistakes. Sometimes people are wrong. Sometimes I am wrong. Sometimes you are wrong. That's the truth. We tend to not make allowances for that. We can be way too hard on others and way too hard on ourselves. I think that fosters a fear of being wrong, and people lie in order to save face. It's not a safe society in which to make a mistake. It's not easy to live out that truth.
It is also true that we need community. We need other people in our lives. But we have become conditioned to staying behind closed doors and windows. We tell ourselves it is enough to concern ourselves only with our families, co-workers, and maybe some friends - and we have convinced ourselves what happens to the rest of the people around us does not affect our lives. Not true. What happens to other people in this society affects our lives, even if we pretend it doesn't. When people are isolated or bullied or hurting or lonely, they can be driven to do crazy things to themselves or others. And every time we ignore our community, we erode our society a little bit more.
And that's the last thing this society needs.
In 2012, Sarah and I made a choice. It was a significant choice that would change our lives forever, although we didn't fully realize it at the time. In 2012, we chose to start the Torch. When we started the Torch there were more odds against us than for us. I had only recently filed bankruptcy and my self esteem was nowhere to be found. Sarah was still unemployed, although she was going to school and working hard to complete her education. Both of us had been homeless just a year and a half before.
So, we made the choice to launch the Torch even though so many things indicated we would not, could not, succeed. We chose to do it because it felt right to us. It was time to take a leap of faith, after all, when you have nothing to offer - faith is everything. We sent in our incorporation paperwork, and applied for the nonprofit status. In an amazing two months, both were completed and accepted and the Torch was officially born.
Throughout the past few years we have occasionally doubted our sanity for making the choice. We have cried buckets of tears, had seriously painful disagreements, and been told repeatedly that our plan just won't work. Our support from others has been up and down. We have been criticized for everything from our food to how we utilize our helpers.
I have nearly knocked myself out when I banged my head on the gas can holder on the back of the truck. Sarah has been burned repeatedly on the grill. We have been bumped and bruised and torn. But we made the choice to do this, and we own that. And even though it sometimes feels like the dumbest choice ever, we know in our hearts it wasn't.
Because in the midst of the chaos and hurts there have been the most amazing highs we have ever known. Huge donations have come in that encouraged and lifted us. People have thanked us and, even better, told us that we bring hope. We have discovered how to help form community, and how, even though we didn't bring much to the table, our lives could make a difference. And we can stand tall and tell others that their lives can make a difference as well.
We have met amazingly wonderful, helpful people during this adventure. We have learned how important it is to always get back up when we get knocked down. We have discovered resilience, strength and wisdom we didn't know we had. We have learned how to keep a propane tank going, and how to run a generator. We have also learned how to ask for help when we need it - that one is kindof difficult.
I know sometimes running the Torch and 180 feels a bit overwhelming, but those times pass, and life is good. If you ever find yourself at a crossroads and you have a choice to make about following a dream - no matter how impossible it might seem - give it a go. Although it might get difficult and discouraging, it can also be amazing and wonderful. The Torch is a choice I am so glad we made.