Sometimes, it really is only a little thing that can make a big difference. A genuine smile may brighten someone’s day. A kind word or a sincere expression of appreciation can help somebody keep on going through tough times.
“Loving-kindness” was what the Tibetan Buddhist crazy wisdom master Chogyam Trungpa Rimpocheused to call it, and for him and his students it was a most pertinent practice. It helps alleviate the suffering in the world, the old masters all say.
And, yeah: It’s a cliché. But that’s the thing about clichés…often they are just old truths that we need to keep telling each other as reminders.
It’s often really, really little, this loving-kindness thing. It’s pretty much ordinary and every-day. Still, loving-kindness is the best way us humans have for connecting with each other.
The original story by Elizabeth Silance Ballard was first published in a 1974 issue of Home Life magazine as “Three Letters from Teddy.” Over the next three decades it spread, even making an appearance in one of the CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL books. It is a good story.
Here’s another video produced by the Fellowship Bible Church in Little Rock, Arkansas that was published on YouTube by Sarheed Jewels in 2011. It asks: What if you could see other people’s problems? How would that affect you?
One of the loveliest online sites about loving-kindness in action is the one put up by the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation (RAK), a group of educators and community leaders led by Gary Dixon who are all dedicated to the proposition that us humans are meant to go around spreading warm fuzzies. Their mission is to encourage you to go forth and be kind.
The RAKtivists believe that kindness is teachable and contagious. They can point to a lot of scientific evidence that seems to validate the fact that doing kind things is actually very good for your own health.
Among the findings they highlight are the following facts:
Kindness produces oxytocin, the “love hormone.” Oxytocin, in turn causes the release of a chemical called nitric oxide which dilates the blood vessels. This aids in lowering blood pressure and helps protect the heart increasing overall heart-health.
Harvard Business School did a survey of happiness in 136 countries in 2010 that found that people who were generous financially were happiest overall.
People who volunteer tend to experience fewer ache and pains. One study showed that people 55 and older who volunteered for two or more organizations were at 44 percent more likely to live longer. Other studies have shown that engaging in acts of kindness produces endorphins – the brain’s natural painkiller.
There’s a thing called the “helper’s high,” according to research from Emory University, that is a consequence of the fact that often when you’re kind to someone else your brain’s pleasure and reward centers light up. Maybe that’s because acts of kindness apparently stimulate the feel-good anti-depressant serotonin, which helps to heal wounds, calm you and make you happy.
So…here’s one other benefit to the whole kindness thing: When you’re kind to somebody else, it just naturally bounces back on you. And isn’t that a very good thing?
Here’s a poem:
I PROMISED ME
No one ever promised
That life would always be true and fair
Or that there’d be a shelter from the storm,
A warm fire waiting there,
That happy would perch on your head
And belt out one more song,
That reaching out a solid hand
Would find other fingers reaching, just as strong,
Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom): an understanding that generosity is not a down-payment on love. [Generosity is spill-over when you’re feeling full.]
I am reading a book, LOVE LET GO: Radical Generosity for the Real World, by Laura Sumner Truax and Amalya Campbell. It is a story about an amazing church congregation in Chicago, the LaSalle Street Church, who received a totally unexpected windfall: a check for $1,530,116.78.
The check represented the church’s share of proceeds from the sale of an urban property that they had bought in the 1970s with three other churches. The land had been used for a desperately needed low-income housing project in the neighborhood, Atrium Village, which had served the purpose for more than 25 years.
The church’s heartful investment had been returned…in spades.
This 2017 YouTube video of a “100 Huntley Street” interview with pastor Laura Sumner Truax, one of the authors of the book, is a kind of a teaser for the book.
As Truax says, the church leaders made a wild, counter-intuitive move that changed the game on a clear day in September, 2014. The leaders used ten percent of the windfall money to tithe back to the church members. Each church member received a $500 check with the injunction to go out and do good in God’s world.
The leadership of the church also encouraged the members to participating in the effort to study and pray on how they were going to allocate the rest of the windfall funds, the “Big Money.” More than half of the congregation spent nine months on the project.
The book tells the story of what happened and what the people involved in this exploration learned as a result. It was and remains an ever-evolving, extraordinary process and journey, one that makes my heart smile.
THE GIVING CHURCH
LaSalle Street Church was built in 1886 in the near north side of Chicago by Swedish immigrants who never once worshipped in it. The congregation had been left bankrupt by the effort of its construction.
Its history of hard luck and scarcity continued throughout the church’s long history of involvement with a community that is diverse and sometimes volatile. One of the primary principles the church has always held to is this: Giving is better than receiving.
They really did walk their talk even though most of the time the church was, like their neighbors, “just getting by.”
Giving didn’t change the church’s financial circumstances but it did change “the way LaSalle wore its scarcity,” as authors Laura Sumner Truax and Amalya Campbell lyrically puts it. They did it with style and their acts of generosity were truly appreciated.
During the 1960s, when Chicago exploded in the violence and vitriol of the race riots, local youth protected the LaSalle Street Church from burning. The angry young ones who were pressing for change remembered. They protected the people who helped them through their hard times.
The church has always been a major light in the community. Senior citizens who needed company and a meal, the kids looking for sanctuary and a safe place to go after school and residents who were caught up in a legal system they could not navigate all found what they needed at the church.
This video, which was put together by Faustino Productions in 2015, was published on YouTube by tinogon1942. It shows the aftermath of the Chicago riots on the west side of Chicago after Martin Luther King’s assassination on April 4, 1968 as the Supreme’s “Stop In the Name of Love” plays.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s Chicago officials embraced the concept of urban renewal and started creating high-density, high-rise dwellings like Cabrini-Green and relocated people from the poorer parts of town to these new developments. The joke going ’round then among the city residents was that the program would have been more aptly named “urban removal.”
In reaction to this government program, LaSalle Street Church’s senior pastor at the time, Bill Leslie, preached a commitment to turf. La Salle stood at the edge of communities in transition. On one side, some of the city’s neediest residents lived. On the other side was some of the most expensive real estate in Chicago.
Leslie thought that the church could be a meeting place where everyone was welcomed. He and his congregation of fifty-some members believed that at the bottom of it all the church was all about all of us people being in this old mess of a world all together.
The members who were better-off materially saw themselves in their poorer neighbors’ situation. They understood the struggles and they also believed that they needed their neighbors as much as their neighbors needed them. They looked for a way to help.
In this they were aided by local congressman Robert L. Thompson, an African-American who was also a long-time resident of the city. Thompson worried over the impact of urban renewal on the thousands of his constituents who were facing displacement.
When Thompson was offered a bribe of ten thousand dollars to influence the award of the rights to the land occupied by the LaSalle’s row house neighbors, he refused. Then he called Leslie.
Somehow the congregation found what they thought could be a solution to their neighbor’s problems. There was a plot of land for sale that sat to the west of the church, juxtaposed against the homes of high society to the east. It was big enough and near enough for a housing development to which their neighbors could relocate and still be neighbors.
Over the next two months Leslie rallied LaSalle and several other churches to invest one thousand dollars each in a campaign to secure the land rights. (When you consider that Leslie’s own salary hovered around three thousand dollars at the time, it was a goodly sum of money back then.)
The housing project that grew there, Atrium Village, was the first housing development in the country to be financed and constructed by state, private and church funding. It took years for all the players to finally agree to the vision of a truly diverse project: 50 percent black and 50 percent white; 50 percent market-rate and 50 percent under-market rate rents.
The first apartment tower was dominated by a nine-story open atrium. That atrium gave the “village” its name and it lessened a significant fear factor. The central atrium left no dark hallways in the building. Light flooded in.
Also, there were glass elevators that allowed light and visibility and the courtyard area around the buildings provided safe places for children to play.
Atrium Village opened to a flood of three thousand applicants. It became a solid anchor in the community and was a testing ground for finding the best practices for community-based housing. It was also the first of three building projects the church undertook in the neighborhood, all of which focused on building community engagement among people who were different from one another.
The other two were a building for senior housing and another for a legal-aid clinic.
Here’s a short YouTube video, a for-rent ad for Atrium Village apartments, published in 2012 by apartmenthomelivingA.
In the early 2000s, almost 25 years after Atrium opened its doors, La Salle got word that the primary investor in the development wanted to sell its interest. The restrictive covenants on Atrium would soon expire without possibility of renewal. The city was in the process of demolishing Cabrini-Green, the public-housing complex of 30-story buildings that had been a long-time neighborhood fixture.
The new model for government thinking on the public-housing problem was dubbed “scattered site” housing. Instead of monolithic structures, the vision now was lower-density, low-rise units that served a diverse population – exactly the vision that the people who made Atrium Village happen advocated.
The times they were a-changing…again.
Even though the churches who initiated the Atrium Village project represented only a 15 percent interest in the property, as a voting bloc, they could stop the sale of the property. Two of the partner churches faced almost certain closure by their denominations because their memberships had dwindled down to mere handfuls.
The church memberships had watched the Cabrini-Green towers come down, knowing that the retail developers were also watching it happen. Condominiums that cost upwards of half a million dollars were being planned.
The churches, all of whom were like LaSalle and framed their ministry on being bridge churches, understood that their neighborhoods were changing. They finally reached an agreement to sell their interest while negotiating hard for more units set aside for the working poor.
They were supported in this intention by the Chicago city tax assessor, their local alderman, and various community groups. Any redevelopment plan would be required to have 20 percent of its units available at below-market rate.
THE REST OF THE STORY….
And so it happened: the sale, and then the check, and then the tithe from church to its people.
You’ll have to read the book to get the rest of the story.
An interesting history of the church building and the neighborhood provides a glimpse at the background for this story. Here’s the YouTube video, “130 Years – History of the LaSalle Street Church Sanctuary Building,” which was put together and published by the church in 2016.
At a party recently, a bunch of old guys – artists, tinkerers and generally handy dudes of a certain age – were reminiscing about high school shop class.
They found it amazing that forty and fifty years ago it was not considered unusual for a bunch of silly-assed, overly amped kids to be dealing with hands-on fooling around using massive, old, industrial-strength power tools.
In fact, they agreed, shop class was the go-to class for all the worker-dude guys who were not academically inclined.
All those assorted spinning wheels, sharp cutting edges, power cords, burning and smoking things, flying sparks, mounds of debris and such were a natural part of the shop class landscape.
Every one of the guys remembered that their shop teacher was missing at least a couple of fingers. Every one of them remembered the safety lectures.
Mostly, though, they remembered how shop class got them fascinated with the joy of Making Something. Collectively they mourned the passing of this rite of passage.
Those old dudes were sounding “Taps” too early, it seems. The joy of Making has taken the world by storm again. It’s even got its own Movement now. Do-It-Yourself lives!
This “Maker Movement” is a convergence of traditional artisans, computer hackers, independent inventors, designers, tinkerers and other (often manic) crafty sorts who toil away in their cluttered workrooms and closet-offices making cool stuff that sometimes solve everyday problems, big and small, and sometimes is just for fun.
The first stirrings of the Movement in 2005 was spurred on by the vision and enthusiasm of the editors of Make: magazine, a publication that was born out of founder Dale Dougherty’s conviction that Making is a very good thing to do.
Before the magazine was a year old, it had become a nexus and a gathering place for a tech-influenced, grassroots, DIY community that spread and sprawled out like a kudzu vine. The magazine dubbed them “Makers.”
“I think the magic of [the magazine] was simply that we connected a lot of different groups that were making things but saw themselves as doing something separate,” Dougherty has said.
According to him, the artisans and artists saw themselves as different than the people who do robotics or electronics. There was a sense of disconnection among all of these creative folks. A knitter, a musician and a guy who builds a drone might not be able to feel like they belong to the same tribe, for example.
“To some degree calling them all makers kind of allowed for a flourishing of some different people coming together and seeing commonalities,” he said.
MAKE: MAKER FAIRES
The Makers also spurred the magazine editors on to put together the first Maker Faire, a festival celebrating the innovation and self-reliance of the folks who do-it-yourself.
The first Maker Faire happened in San Mateo, about 20 miles from San Francisco. It was billed as the “Greatest Show (and Tell) on Earth.”
The idea was to get all kinds of people of all ages and backgrounds to come together and show what they were making and share what they were learning with other people. It was also all about experimenting, playing, and having fun connecting with other people.
The first Faire was a grand success, stirring the imaginations of jaded consumers numbed by the overabundance of generic, mass-produced goods. It spawned what has since became a worldwide network of fancy flagship Faires in major cities that involve thousands of people as well as more down-home, independently produced mini-faires.
At these events, curious participants of all ages can experience the inventions of the Makers firsthand. The spectators are invited to join in the parade and fun is had by all.
This 2012 YouTube video, “Inspiring a Maker Movement” was published by CNN and features Dale Dougherty talking about the very fundamental human need to make stuff. You’ll also get a taste of what it’s like to be at a Maker Faire.
As Dougherty points out, it isn’t all high-tech, although 3D printers, digital manufacturing, drones and robots are all glittery highlights at the big international Faires. New forms of arts, entertainment, crafts, food experiments, and every other kind of human creativity is fodder for exploration.
You can learn to build your own smartphone or make your own toys.
You might be able to print out a pair of shoes.
Maybe you’ll make your own jewelry or a handbag for mom or learn how to cook up something new.
You might learn how to crochet.
You might even learn how to home-automate your house with just a few simple measures.
You could learn how to pickle, can, and preserve fruits and vegetables and check out the latest advances in bee-keeping, composting and growing your own food.
You might learn how to write better instructions.
Checking out all that’s new in the world of making things could lead you to the start of a new interest, hobby or vocation.
At the Faires, open-source learning, contemporary design and powerful personal technology rule. The strategy is to provide interested people with the right tools and the inspiration and opportunity to use them. Creativity and a lot of imagination-sparking ensues.
to check out the Faire schedules and locations. It truly is mind-boggling!
Makers make stuff. They want to know how they can do this thing or that. They want to know how other people have solved a problem they are facing.
Magazines (like Make: magazine) as well as books, podcasts and YouTube videos for do-it-yourselfers have grown exponentially as more and more people become interested in being a Maker of one sort or another.
Hobbyists, enthusiasts, and those who’ve gained a certain mastery in some form of Making might be encouraged to give demonstrations, classes or workshops that attract others who want to explore new ways of Making too.
Then there are the MakerSpaces that welcome a diverse group of builders, hackers, and hobbyists who share resources and knowledge. Hundreds have cropped up in the past decade or so in the United States.
Some are housed in existing community centers such as libraries, museums or youth centers. Others are sponsored by companies and organizations at conference centers. All of them focus on the love of Making.
This YouTube video put together by TheMakerSpace earlier this year explains further:
MakerSpaces have taken off in all kinds of directions. There are community-based spaces, spaces for kids, and spaces for explorers of all kinds.
Here’s another YouTube video, by Intel (yes, those guys) showing off their “Ultimate MakerSpace,” at the company’s Intel Developer Forum in 2014.
Both the dedicated and dabbler Makers have fueled the growth of companies that produce the materials and tools that people use to make (or fix) stuff. Sales of arts and crafts supplies and parts for all kinds of machines and electronic equipment are booming as well.
People who get involved in Making often find something that they feel is worth exploring further, that gives them great pleasure. Some of them turn their new-found passion into a life-long hobby. Others become entrepreneurial and turn their creations into a business of their own.
Besides distributing their creations to traditional brick-and-mortar stores or participating in venues like street fairs and festivals, many Makers sell their creations online to people all over the world by making their own websites or by using Craigslist, eBay, or Etsy to sell their own cool stuff.
The connections just keep multiplying.
More than one observer of economic and business trends have commented on the Maker Movement. It has gotten wide and deep.
The general consensus seems to be that it is a very good thing to encourage folks to ponder on problems and figure out how to make their own solutions rather than just going out and buying another doo-dad put together by someone else.
After all, it is the people who make things who have the potential to change the world.
Matthew Crawford, a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and the author of SHOP CLASS AS SOULCRAFT: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work, has this thought: “I think [the Maker Movement] is tapping into a really basic fact about us as human beings. From infancy we learn about the world by manipulating it, by sort of poking it and seeing how it pokes back.”
My own feeling is that each of us carries a little spark of the Creative within us. It’s a good thing, I think, to go play with that.
I was looking through an old poetry journal of mine, looking for something to use in a post. I found a folded sheet with a poem by a dear friend who died recently, Pat Masumoto. The poem was dated September 10, 2015.
I remembered that Pat asked me to read this poem for her at a Maui Live Poets gathering she wasn’t able to attend because of conflicts in her hectic schedule.
Memories came flooding back and I was missing my dear friend. Poems have that ability to speak for you when you’re gone, it seems.
Aloha no, my ‘aikane…aloha no….
Here’s the poem:
CHANGING THE GAME
(to be read with a perfectly straight face)
Self control. It works.
When I feel hurt by rude insensitivity
I talk a lot and sometimes shout.
If I’m not heard, I walk away,
even when I want to choke someone
until he turns a putrid green.
When I feel alarmed by injustice
I stand up against it,
And if I can’t get anywhere, I read about heroes…
instead of spitting at people’s faces.
and I don’t like using guns either.
When I find myself in fear,
I might compose a poem…or two.
I won’t cross my arms and crouch and I absolutely
will not growl and bite anyone coming near.
As I become stronger and tougher,
I’ll do a silly giggle and laugh like crazy.
If you want to know what else, I’m aching to
get down on all fours and
howl at the moon, but I won’t.
When I’m gladdened by kindness,
By patience and generosity, I smile and grin.
I don’t get naked and
run amuck in the streets,
arms raised and hands open, screaming with joy.
(visibly take a breath)
After exercising self-control for my whole life, I’m now bored with it.
The Light of My Life teases me. He says my eyeballs are getting square. A Luddite of the most determined kind – the man doesn’t even own a phone – he worries that this one-eyed monster, my computer, will eat my days and steal me away from Life-Its-Own- Self.
THE SOUND OF AWKWARD
Apparently, he has cause for concern. A couple of years ago, teacher Paul Barnwell wrote a thought-provoking article in The Atlantic magazine. He noticed that his students (juniors in high school), didn’t know how to have a face-to-face conversation.
I have a hard time imagining this. I come from a culture that values connection and takes for granted a certain gracefulness in our encounters-of-the-face-kind. Every so often I’ll meet an old friend who will bust out the pidgin and exclaim, “Ho, Netta! Some long time I nevah see your face!”
We laugh and fall into catching up with each other’s lives again as easily as walking into another warm hug.
That ease of communication is partly due to history and familiarity. Old friends don’t need to spend a lot of effort falling into Friend-Space. You know you’re accepted for who you are because the two of you have done a heck of a lot of silly, possibly embarrassing, things together.
Skilled conversation is also due to practice, I am thinking. People who are good at talking tend to talk a lot. They may be opinionated or dramatically expressive or grand storytellers. They might just like hearing themselves talk and, if they’re really good, they know how to make that interesting for their listeners as they do it. That takes a lot of practice.
Those who are good at being silent don’t talk so much but they don’t really have to. There isn’t that unattractive, overweening need to “audition” and to fill the air with noise just to prove they are there. Because they are comfortable in their silence, the quiet ones allow others to be comfortable with it too. That takes practice too.
GROWING UP TALKING STORY
I grew up in a large extended family on a very small island where ignoring other people was the height of rudeness. Going shopping along the main street of town could take hours. You pretty much had to stop and talk story with everybody you passed on the street (as well as wave or acknowledge the other people who were farther away) or run the risk of being considered arrogant or stuck-up.
As youngsters, we learned how to talk story. We hung out with each other and we talked. We learned how to be quiet together. We learned how to throw quick quips and exit on a laugh.
We learned to smile and wave to all the aunties and uncles and ask after their families. We talked to the neighbors, to assorted salesclerks, and to everybody else we met on the street. We were good at talking story.
Even though our world has gotten full of other folks who just got off the plane or who come from other less communicative places, we can still do face-time pretty well.
ENCOUNTERS OF THE FACE-KIND
If your whole world is made up of texting and words scrolling across screens, and all that, sometimes your mouth goes into sleep mode. It’s good to practice the face-thing and try to develop better skills at talking-story.
(Hey…it can even help you get a job or put together collaborations and projects and other good stuff like that.)
Family is a good place to start. So are familiar strangers.
Think of the people you encounter across sales counters. Acknowledge them, laugh with them, take a moment to pay a compliment or give them a kind word and it opens a new level of comfortable. You become a person, not a number. How cool is that?
One of the best YouTube videos I’ve seen on this is radio host Celeste Headlee’s TEDTalk, “10 Ways To Have a Better Conversation.” In it, she says, she’ll teach you how to “be a good interviewer.”
It is, she says, what good conversation is. When we talk-story, we try to step into each other’s worlds and find out more about them.
To reiterate Headlee’s tips:
Don’t multi-task. Be present.
Don’t pontificate. Assume that you have something to learn.
Use open-ended questions that can’t be answered by a “yes” or “no.” Say, “What was that like?” Say, “How did that feel?” See where that takes you.
Go with the flow. Follow where the conversation leads you.
If you don’t know, say so. No shame.
Don’t equate your experience with theirs. Your story may be nothing like their story. (Good conversations are not scar and wound competitions. Nobody gets a prize for being the most hurt.)
People don’t care whether you get every single nitpicky detail right. What they care about is you – who you are, how you feel about something, what you’re doing and so on. That’s the same stance you need to take too.
The best conversations are the ones that take you into other worlds that give you new insights and inspire you. They happen when you are prepared to be amazed by all the heartful people around you.
ONE CAVEAT – TAKE IT SLOW
You do have to make allowances for your own innate limitations. If you tend to go into severe overwhelm when surrounded by crowds of people, it might be better if you stick to one-on-one talks when you’re in analog world.
Here’s a poem that grew out of a weekend of me doing the networking dance at some industry conference or other. All the small talk and inane posturings and glad-handing got to me after a while. By the second day, my brain just sort of lay there, gasping, slumped over and drained.
(I did get a poem out of it so it wasn’t a total waste of time….)
SHE HAS NO CONVERSATION
Sometimes I cannot speak.
The words I need are dreaming
Deep down below the sea inside me
And it takes time to retrieve them.
I need stillness to get to them,
To dive down and find where
They are clinging to the rocks
In underwater caves.
It makes for sporadic conversation
And long, long pauses.
If I try to force it, churning and
Floundering all around,
What comes out sounds stupid –
Nothing hangs together right.
I have always envied the ones
Whose words are all
Laid out in neat rows on long shelves
(Probably categorized…and labeled, even.)
All THEY have to do is grab them up
And gift them to people easily.
They can do the small-talk game,
Easy fitting-in among any crowd.
Maybe they even have some neat
They can grab up and shoot off
To wow the Peanut Gallery.
Their words always seem to make a lot of sense.
(Until you think about them some)
And then they turn out to be breaths of air
Manipulated by clever tongues and teeth.
At their worst, the words are little more
Than those pressed-lips farts we used to make as kids.
Journalist and radio producer Dave Isay firmly believes that every person has a story to tell, one that the world needs to hear, and he’s been working on figuring out how to gather these stories together so everyone can share in them. It all comes down to taking the time to listen.
THE LOST STORIES
It started, the guy says, when he was a young lad. He was a loner and a nerdy sort who preferred talking to older people.
One time he “interviewed” his grandparents and other family elders gathered for Thanksgiving using an old tape recorder he had found packed away in a box at his grandparent’s house. The old ones were happy to entertain the boy with their stories. He was enthralled and a good time was had by all.
The elders died after a time, he says, and the old tape he had made of their voices telling stories for their young relative was lost. Isay has always regretted that loss.
This animated YouTube video tells that story (in the inimitable StoryCorps style) as an introduction to the ongoing work of the massive oral history project that he initiated.
HEARING THE CALL
Years later, Isay was a 21-year-old, freshly graduated from NYU. He was waffling about whether he really wanted to follow the family tradition of slogging through medical school to become a doctor and took a year off to figure out what he wanted to do. While he was wrestling with that problem the confused young man decided to try his hand at being a journalist.
Isay’s very first attempt at putting together a documentary was for a story about the 1969 Stonewall Riots, a series of violent, spontaneous protests by the LGBT community against an early-morning police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a gay dance bar, in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village.
The raid was part of the constant harassment and bullying the gay community faced during those times. It was a raid just like any other raid, but this time, someone got mad. Someone said, “Enough. Other people joined him. The angry protests spread and the Gay Liberation Movement was born.
In this YouTube video, “Remembering the Stonewall Riots” published in 2013 by Open Road Media, Martin Duberman, author of STONEWALL, talks about the significance of the riots.
Isay was really pleased with his work on that first documentary. It seemed to him that he had found his calling. He withdrew from medical school and started making documentaries. His favorites were about the ones about ordinary people.
The man’s life-work has been built on listening to stories. The company he built, Sound Portraits Productions, is an independent production company dedicated to telling stories about America’s ghettos, prisons and other neglected and hidden American communities in print, on the radio and on the internet. The company mission statement is emblazoned on the bottom of their emails: “Sound Portraits Productions…Documenting a Hidden America.”
IT’S BEEN DONE BEFORE
It’s not a new idea, nor one for which Isay takes credit. Instead he lists the ones he calls his heroes, other documentarians of the disenfranchised and the unheard:
Joseph Mitchel, the New York journalist of salon-keepers and street preachers
Dorethea Lange and Walker Evans, the great WPA photographers
Studs Terkel, oral historian extraordinaire
Alan Lomax, folk-life archivist
Alex Kotlowitz, documentarian of ghetto life.
Sound Portraits Productions went on to create award-winning radio documentaries that were featured on PBS.
Isay has said, “When we feel we’ve succeeded it’s because we’ve managed to expose – truthfully, respectfully – the hidden, forgotten, or under-heard voices of America. And where and when we fail it’s because we’re short of this mark.”
But the little boy who listened wanted to do more. So many people had stories they wanted to tell and the world needed to hear, but there was no way for them to tell the stories. Nobody even knew they were there.
STORYCORPS IS BORN AND GROWS AND GROWS
In October, 2003, the first StoryCorps soundproofed “Story Booth” opened in the Grand Central Terminal in New York City with an open invitation for people to interview one another. Friends, loved ones, even relative strangers were given the chance to conduct 40-minute interviews with help from the StoryCorps facilitators.
Anyone could make an appointment to record a session and it was a free service. One person was the interviewer, the other was the storyteller, relating some aspect of the life they’ve lived. The facilitator helped the participants record the interview.
Tens of thousands of people went for it. The storytellers and their listeners got a safe place where they could hold uninterrupted, meaningful conversations and ask and answer the important questions that very often get lost in the everyday daily grind of life. They also got a copy of the recording as a memento.
Another copy of the recording session was retained by the Story Corps and the stories became a weekly feature of the Morning Edition of NPR (National Public Radio) since 2005. (They’ve also been used to create animated shorts which can be viewed on the NPR website.)
The original Grand Central Station StoryBooth was closed down and a new one erected at Lower Manhattan’s Foley Square in July, 2005.
Meanwhile, that same year, StoryCorps converted two Airstream trailers into mobile recording studios and launched them from the Library of Congress parking lot. They’ve been touring the country ever since.
Here’s a YouTube video published by StoryCorps, “On the Road Since 2015,” that illuminates that story.
A second semi-permanent StoryBooth opened in San Francisco in 2008. Over time, additional booths opened in Atlanta, Chicago, Milwaukee and Nashville as well.
The StoryBooths, both permanent and mobile, were the major collection points for the stories at first, but not everybody could make it to them. The organization developed a couple of community programs to collect these other stories as well.
There’s the “Door-to-Door” service that sends teams of StoryCorps facilitators to temporary recording locations in the United States for several days at a time.
There’s also the “StoryKit” service that was started when the New York booth closed down in 2011 for a time due to a lack of funding. Professional-quality, portable recording devices were shipped to participants around the country for this one.
Another workaround that was developed was the “Do-It-Yourself” service that allowed individuals to download free step-by-step interview instructions, equipment recommendations and a “Great Question” list. This one was for people who wanted to conduct interviews using their own recording equipment.
A DAY FOR LISTENING
In 2008 StoryCorps launched an initiative called “the National Day of Listening” to encourage Americans to record stories with family members, friends and loved ones on Black Friday, the pre-Christmas shopping bonanza that occurs the day after Thanksgiving.
Then in 2015, the day was rebranded as “The Great Thanksgiving Listen” when StoryCorps launched their StoryCorps App. Teams worked with teachers and high school students across the country. The kids interviewed their elders and recorded their stories over the holiday weekend on an app on their smartphones.
The free app was developed by StoryCorps with the support of a 2015 TED Prize and 2014 Knight Prototype Fund award. It allows users to record the interviews on a smartphone. Users can upload their interviews to the StoryCorps.me website.
Over the years, there have been collaborations and initiatives with groups, organizations and institutions from all over the country that target various segments of the American population as well. Stories have been collected from the military, from people suffering memory loss, from Latinos and from African-Americans, from LGBTQ community, from people in prisons and the criminal justice system, and from those personally affected by the events of September 11, 2001.
Also, there’s the StoryCorps Legacy community program which partners with medical and disease specific organizations to provide opportunities for people with serious illness and their relatives to record and share their life story as well.
A LIVING RECORD
With the participants’ permission, the stories collected by all of these efforts (including the ones recorded on smartphones) are archived in the Library of Congress’ American Folklore Center. It constitutes the largest single collection of “born-digital” recorded voices in history. It is a massive living record of American lives by the people who lived it and it is magic.
The stories are slices of life that have been used in a wide range of projects. The collection has been useful as a resource for various researchers in language, speech-recognition, and history among other things..
Over the years StoryCorp founder Dave Isay has published five books full of stories from the collection as well.
One of the participants who conducted an oral-history interview with her grandmother in the Grand Central Station StoryBooth was featured in a Library of Congress blog post about the archive and how it was made.
Sharon DeLevie-Orey explained, “Last year my sister and I came to StoryCorps with my then-91-year-old grandmother. We had this fantastic interview, in which my grandma was candid and funny and loving.
“Yesterday she died. I just took out my StoryCorps CD and noticed the date, a year to the day. Tomorrow will be her funeral. I could only listen to about 20 seconds before bursting into tears,” she says, “but I am so grateful that I have this. Sure, I could have taped her anytime in the last 41 years. But I didn’t. Now the reward is so huge.”
Her conclusion: “Everyone should do StoryCorps—because we don’t live forever.”
Sharon’s story is echoed by many others who have participated in the StoryCorps process as well. For many it was the “best 40 minutes of my life” that added meaning and mana to their ordinary life.
Starting is a series of events. You decide to walk to Cleveland and you aim to do it on your own two feet – no bike, no bus, no train, no plane or helicopter…not even a hot-air balloon. You’re going to walk to Cleveland.
So you take a first step in the right direction. That’s starting. At the end of the day, however far you’ve gotten, you might stop at a hotel and rest. And what happens the next morning? Either you quit this silly project, decide you’d rather ride, or you start again…walking to Cleveland.
Up close and personal on this long walk, you’ll start to get the underlying idea after a while. What you’ll figure out is that every step you take on this long-haul journey is a new beginning.
Every time you take another step you are reaffirming your commitment to your goal and you are making another start. All the way to Cleveland. (The trick, of course, is to keep going until you get there.)
But, doing the walk all by yourself can be a long and lonely trip. A companion or two makes the journey much more fun. A whole tribe could get downright lively on the road trip.
Entrepreneurial thought leader Seth Godin wrote a book, TRIBES: We Need You to Lead Us, that talks about how tribes have formed down through the ages. He shows you how to develop as a leader of one.
Any group of people can become a tribe. Who knows, maybe you can grow your own and take them along on your journey. This book could point you in the right direction.
IT’S MORE FUN WHEN THERE’S MORE THAN ONE
Another entrepreneur, Derek Sivers, is best known for being the founder and former president of CD Baby, the online CD store for independent music-makers. He’s also well-known for a TED talk he did that went viral in 2010, “How To Start a Movement.”
During his talk he used a video of a guy in the crowd doing a silly dance at the 2009 Sasquatch Music Festival as a metaphor for his talking points.
The advice contained in the talk is not earth-shattering. It is, in fact, a bit simplistic, but it did get people thinking about “lone-nut leaders” and how they get validation if they can attract the right guy to follow their lead.
It’s the “first-follower,” Sivers says, who actually shows the rest of the people how to follow and how to join in the fun.
Three years later, Phil Yanov, a technology columnist and public radio commentator, did a TEDx talk in Greenville, SC called, “Bang a Drum. Build a Tribe. Start a Movement.”
Yanov takes the idea a little further in his talk. He gives you three steps to get you off your duff:
Find YOUR one true song. (He tells you how to tell when the song you are singing is your one true song.)
SING your song so people can hear it. (Being shy won’t get your song heard, he points out, and reminds you that your mission is more important than little ole you.)
Grow your circle everywhere any way you can.
Yanov also offers a bonus bit of advice: Start today….
If what you’re doing matters, waiting until everything’s just so isn’t going to make it start to happen any faster.
WHEN YOUR KOOL-AID’S BIGGER THAN YOU
There are so many directions you can take this.
If you find an “idea worth spreading,” as our TED-talk friends are wont to say, try asking whether the idea has been spread as far as it can go. Has its reach been hobbled by some external factor, perhaps?
Maybe the guy telling the message is a dork-head with zero people skills and his very important idea is getting trashed as a result. Or maybe that great idea is buried in technical lingo and jargon that leaves everybody dizzy.
Can you help with that? Can you use your communication skills and make something out of them that the general public can use? Can you figure out everyday ways to use the seminal good idea to make other people’s lives better?
The framework you build on the one good big idea as you widen your circle of people who are believing in the big idea and helping to spread it and make it happen could become like a sunken ship off some shore that supports a whole colony of reef creatures. The snorkeling could get good over time.
ONE GUY’S TRIBE
As an artist painter Brendan O’Connellhas made a name for himself as “the Warhol of Wal-Mart.” His paintings of the interiors of assorted Wal-Mart stores hang in museums and his art has been lauded by the New Yorker and appeared in the Colbert Report.
O’Connell’s latest works are pictures of branded products on grocery and supermarket shelves. Collectors and aficionados snap these up. Grocery-cart candidates can be fine art, it seems.
However, O’Connell is more than just another artist with a gimmick. He has long espoused the idea that creativity is a human birthright and that everyone can be creative. With this in mind, O’Connell co-founded Everyartist, a non-profit social enterprise that’s bent on sparking creativity by promoting the act of art-making among children.
Every October the group puts together huge community art events (Everyartist Live!) that involve many, many children. Their goal is to turn the work of a million young artists nationwide into “the most massive community art event in history.”
Here’s a video of one of the events, titled “Wal-Art, Bentonville, AR,” which was published in 2012.
O’Connell built himself a tribe and they started a movement. They keep on doing good work.
Here’s a poem….
THAT’S THE ONE
The World and the Real:
Two paths to follow.
It would be easy if
They just went off in
One going here, one there.
It can’t be that easy can it?
Some cosmic joker went and threw
Another loop into the equation,
Making an intricate Chinese knot
With some pretty name.
The paths intertwine,
Over and under and through,
Up and down and around,
No beginnngs, no ends that the eye can see.
The cords run parallel; they divide,
Looping and swooping
Through intricate patterns,
They make a beautiful whole.
But, how do you tell when
You’re looking for one and not for the other?
How do you know which way to step?
(Too bad they’re not color coded.)
The wise guys say if you’re looking for Real,
Here’s what you do:
Find the path that shatters,
The one that won’t console,
The one that isn’t some easy glide
Through the same-old, same-old.
Find the one that takes all of everything you’ve got
It’s been a quiet sort of shift. More and more people are moving away from the “work-and-spend” mentality that characterized the latter half of the last century. They are looking for more meaning to add to their lives, they say.
Gregg Easterbrook, in his book, THE PROGRESS PARADOX: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse, has pointed out, “A transition from material want to meaning want is in progress on an historically unprecedented scale—involving hundreds of millions of people – and may be recognized as the principal cultural development of our time.”
WHY THE SHIFT?
Easterbrook suggests, after delineating assorted studies by the guys who study “happiness,” that the whole mindset centered around material want didn’t actually work so well. The people who got all the stuff they ever wanted or could imagine were not appreciably happier than they were before the stuff showed up.
The problem is, the researchers say, we humans tend to get accustomed to a certain circumstance – good or bad — very quickly. When all of our dreams come true, we start to take for granted all of our fulfilled wishes.
All the wise guys down through the ages tried to warn us: The hunger of our built-in Want Bugs is bottomless. Get the one absolutely gotta-have-it thing today and tomorrow a new gotta-have-it thing will take its place. It’s like all those wants are on some kind of conveyor belt that just keeps turning and churning.
The wise guys told us: The only thing you can do when you’re stuck on a treadmill is to step off. If a lot of people step off the collective treadmill, then it becomes the start of a movement, the start of another cultural iteration.
This curated YouTube video, “Thanks Internet,” published in 2014 by reKindle.org, shows one change that is happening.
The video is a composite of many videos shared on the Internet by the people trying to help make the world a better place for at least one other person. The result is an amazing feel-good bit of work. The non-profit organization posted a message at the end of the video asking that people go do good deeds, take a video and tag it with #reKindleKindness.
They want to do more of videos like this one.
WHAT’S A CULTURE OF MEANING?
All cultures are “meaningful.” How not? They are the products of the minds and the lifestyles of a group of people who all live together in it. The ones that hold the most promise for an individual’s well-being and happiness are the ones that amplify positive values and goals.
Cultures that promote kindness, compassion and love rather than fear, hatred and anger and those that seek to lift up other people rather than inflict harm on them tend to be the ones that grow happy people.
Cultures that cultivate cooperation and participation in something bigger than any one person while tolerating and even honoring individual quirks and idiosyncrasies in its members are more likely to be good for you than those that don’t. We didn’t really need guys in lab coats to tell us that. It’s sort of built into our gut-knowledge.
MEANING IN THE INTERNET AGE
The coolest thing about this postmodern world of ours is our exposure to so many different cultures, sub-cultures, sub-sub-cultures, primal cultures, hybrid cultures, made-up and made-to-order cultures….and so on. We are, in fact, drowning in all this information about all the doings of people around the world.
We can touch the lives of people from around the world. We can build our own community or tribe of folks from around the globe.
We can even go retro and just touch the life of somebody who lives down the street.
Here’s a YouTube video, “Grow Some Good: Maui School Gardens,” that was published in 2013 by Ken Surrey. The video was made by Emmy-winning photographer Jess Craven about how one group of neighbors have built a culture of meaning around the concept of connecting kids to the food they eat by building and supporting school gardens.
The garden featured in the video started with three raised beds and grew, becoming nearly quarter of an acre of food garden and learning lab.
The garden this video spotlights is part of an ongoing project of Grow Some Good, a nonprofit group that has helped to establish food gardens and living science labs in local schools all over the island.
The outdoor classroom lessons support school curriculum in science, math, health and agriculture. The kids study traditional Hawaiian plants and learn the growing practices of native Hawaiians. They also experiment with growing and preparing foods from other cultures as well.
The group builds ongoing community partnerships, recruiting volunteers and supporters that include gardeners and farmers, food educators and assorted businesses as well. Local chefs support the gardens through fundraisers, recipe workshops and harvest parties.
I am remembering the struggle I had as a kid memorizing the words of John Donne’s “No Man Is An Island.” My teacher liked torturing us with all kinds of high-sounding ideas. (I loved her dearly so I gamely tried to not mangle the thing too badly.)
I’ve since learned that Donne was a cleric in the Church of England during the 17th century, who was considered to be one of the leading “metaphysical poets” of the Renaissance era. The poem my teacher made me recite was actually first written by him in 1624 as a prose “meditation”in his DEVOTIONS UPON EMERGENT OCCASIONS.
The Renaissance was another period of incredible change and reawakening, it seems to me. People were searching for meaning and mana in their own ordinary lives back then too.
Confusion and information overload was also a common theme back then. Just as we are experiencing in our time of great change, the culture and mindset a person chose to embrace back then affected the way he or she walked through the world.
I am thinking it would be a good thing, as part of this exploration of meaning and mana, to feature other stories in this thing about the “cultures of meaning” that our neighbors and cousins and friends are getting into. What do you think?
Here’s a poem:
The true, the beautiful, the good…
Entrance and beckon me.
Their light, like a candle glows,
Softly embracing the warm dark
Full of beloved shadows.
The true keeps me grounded
While the beautiful helps me play,
And the good is a quiet beacon
That shows me the best way.
The good, the beautiful, the true:
Without them you get lost.
You nourish others with the good,
The beautiful nourishes you,
And you can keep your feet on the ground,
If you’ll just remember the true.
The three enfold your smallness in one gigantic yes
A while back I was involved in an infuriating (to me) conflict that seemed to be made up of a lot of little niggly nothings that got blown up into bigness. It stopped me in my tracks and got me riled up…badly.
IS IT A VIRUS?
In reaction to it (and also out of my, I admit, boundless impatience), I coined a new word for a phenomenon I was noticing at the time: PETTY-PHOBIA.
I say it means “the fear of all the little things in life”…all the myriad little concerns and dust-mote details of the World….things like whether some form was filled out properly or some rule was followed in exactly the prescribed manner or…well, you get the picture, I bet.
Petty-phobics — people who are afflicted with this seemingly chronic condition — often have major anxiety attacks caused by the massive overload of petty details and the perceived importance of each and every one of the durned dingleberries.
They spend a lot of time trying to get every single little thing just right. They insist that everybody else around them have to get the things right before anybody can move on to more productive concerns.
Another name for these guys is “Perfectionists.” (They probably call the rest of us more doofus sorts “Scruff-balls.”)
[I’m sorry, but I have to do this. This is a You-Tube video of the Starrkeisha Cheer Squad @TheKingofWierd by TIU Campaign. It is just too joyous not to share….]
NO GOOD RESULTS
Meetings led to stalemates and dead-ends. Conflicts erupted and kept erupting over and over again. A lot of good work kept getting stalled or had to be re-done again and again. Redundancies proliferated. A lot of trees died and mountains of paper grew.
It caused me incredible heartburn for a while until I got my head turned around.
DISCOVERING THE HIDDEN PAIN
I finally figured out that these people were really hurting. What seemed like a minor thing to me was, for them, something that was of apparently earth-shaking proportions.
It boggled my mind. I thought, what happens if they have to face something that is really earth-shattering? Yeesh! I mean, really. If every situation you face is life-and-death, you are going to be suffering through lots and lots of deaths.
And I thought, how often do you make it to Perfect in this life? For me, the answer to that question is just about never. Something is always going to go aglay. It’s the way of the world.
I wondered, then: How can you even MOVE in the face of that? OMG!
WORKING AROUND IT
I finally figured out that rather than trying to pound some sense into the nut-heads, I had two other choices: I could either (a) adjust and help them feel more comfortable, or (b) opt out of the game.
I could use either one of those two choices, depending on how important it was for me to be able to get on with my own dance.
It did occur to me that petty-phobics probably rule the world. It is my opinion that this is because people who are busy doing their own thing let the petty-phobes get away with so much nonsense rather than doing the sensible thing (which, in my fantasy world, is picking up my light-saber and whacking off their heads or something).
But, I also figured out that you really can’t go around being like the Red Queen in “Alice in Wonderland.” Doing a bad Bette Davis imitation all the time is just…tacky.
So, how do you deal with all the petty-phobics littering your landscape? Basically, it involves the same three steps you need to make every time you come up against fear or anxiety or insecurity.
ACCEPTANCE. You can accept that this is the reality with which you are faced: There is a petty-phobe in your face and you get to deal with that.
ADAPTATION. You can adapt to this circumstance in whatever way seems to work best in the situation and then go on from there. You need to help that petty-phobe feel comfortable and safe and secure. It will not be easy.
Remember that this person is a good person trying to do the very best he or she can. Your job, if you want to get around the roadblock in a civilized manner, is to make their job easier.
CHANGE. If the situation becomes untenable for you, then you have two choices.
You can change your response. (In my case I had to stop blowing my top and losing my temper and come up with compromises and suggestions and solutions.)
Or you can change your environment. (Walking away and finding more amenable situations is better than going postal, I say.)
AND WHAT ABOUT YOU?
Now comes another big question: Are you a sufferer of Petty-Phobia your own self? Do you like it being in that space? Do you like the results you are getting as a result of being in that space?
Would you like to move away from that? Are the results you are getting unsatisfactory? Would you like to change your behaviors and get different results? For you, too, the same three steps apply.
ACCEPTANCE. Know that you are a sufferer. Know that you will never be an easy-going sort. Petty-phobia and the quest for Perfection is never-ending.
Know that you’re going to worry and get anxious and afraid. Know that other people are not going to understand your issues. Accept that other people are going to get enraged at you for doing that thing you do.
Remember that the shlub of a wild-eyed maniac who is standing in front of you is a good person trying to do the best he or she can. Your job, if you want to get the fool out of your face, is to make their job easier.
This does include being sympathetic about their distress. Getting all self-righteous will exacerbate an already-bad situation.
ADAPTATION. Notice when other people start to act weird around you. Pay attention when things start getting hairy.
Check to see what you are doing as well as what other people are doing that triggers behaviors that seem to result in not-so-good results.
Think about how you could make things easier for other people without getting yourself too tied up in knots.
CHANGE. If the situation becomes untenable for you, then you have two choices.
You can change your response. Maybe you can make one or two small concessions without hyperventilating and curling into a fetal ball. Definitely try to see the other person’s point of view.
If there really is nothing you can do about a situation and you are governed by rules that demand utter compliance, then say that and stick to your guns while helping them work through your dilemma. Definitely acknowledge their distress.
Or you can change your environment. Walking away and finding more amenable situations where you are not having to battle unreasonable sorts is always an option.
Notice that the advice is the same for both sides. It’s always the same. Humans do human things. We work together (or not) and we’re all still trying to do the best we can.
Here’s a poem:
You are angry, you are tired,
Caught between the desire to live your own life
And the need in some other’s eyes.
A heavy burden imposed on you
By old connections, old ties, you say,
But admit it:
You chose to swallow it whole
And now the anger festers in your gut.
You say you are tired of waiting for change,
Of picking up after one who is unaware,
Uncaring of the cost.
You say you are angry at holding up one
Who makes his legs rubber over and over.
You are tired, you say,
You are angry,
Yet compassion dictates your next move.
Trudging on, carrying the burden,
You persevere and you endure.
You persevere because it’s what you do.
All the effort that went before means nothing at all
This slim book took the world by storm in its day for a good reason. The master marketers were the first to distill down their work and life experiences into marketing “laws” that still apply to this very day. It’s a good one for any wannabe marketer to have on their shelf.
The second book was a joyous romp of a read. The book, LIFE IS GOOD, THE BOOK: How to Live With Purpose and Enjoy the Ride, is written by Bert and John Jacobs and is the story of how “two ordinary brothers from Boston, who didn’t want a job but weren’t afraid to work,” built a company worth more than $100 million by selling t-shirts with the help of their friends.
It’s a very good read, authentic and honest, that incorporates told-from-the heart stories and a picture album of their wonderful shirt designs and the people who made it all happen having fun.
It was also a real-life illustration of the Ries-Trout Fifth Law, The Law of Focus, which says, “The most powerful concept in marketing is owning a word in the prospect’s mind.”
You burn your way into the minds of your customers by narrowing your focus to a single word or concept, these mavens say. And your customers will help you build your world around that concept.
The corollary to that law is this: “The leader who owns the word owns the category.”
ONE IDEA, ONE DESIGN, ONE BRAND
The rollicking tale of the Jacobs boys’ journey is part of their brand legend .
Starting in 1989, the Jacobs brothers wandered around, crisscrossing state lines in a nondescript mini-van hustling their shirts to no avail. By 1994, with $78 between them, the boys were ready to throw in the towel. They had, after all, given it their best shot.
As they drove home to Boston, they were talking about the daily flood of negative news. Between them they agreed that the only thing that could counter the mindset that arises from swallowing all that negativity was a different one with which they were very familiar.
It was a mindset that they had learned from their mom, Joan – untrammeled optimism in the face of constant obstacles and obstructions.
This You-Tube video, published by RogiDream, features two short poems by the brilliant Charles Bukowski who had a genius for hitting the heart. They are spoken by Tom O’Bedlam and speak to the real power behind the concept of optimism.
Optimism really is not about swimming in peaches and cream, you know. It is about fighting the good fight and staying with it no matter what.
The highway talk led the brothers to one idea that led to one shirt design that became the brand called “Life Is Good.”
LISTENING TO THE FEEDBACK
After every road trip, the brothers threw a coming-home party to celebrate making it back to home base. Even though they were depressed and tired, they went ahead with their ritual.
At each of these parties it was their practice to tape sketches of all of their newest t-shirt design ideas on the walls of their apartment and encourage their friends to comment on the ideas by writing on the wall.
The design that got the most kudos was the result of their highway talk: a line-drawing of a good ole guy with a baseball cap on his head and a wide grin. The caption said, “Life Is Good.”
When they printed up 48 shirts with that one design and took them to a street fair to hawk, they were amazed. All of the shirts (including the two they were wearing) sold in less than an hour to a wide array of people.
BUILDING OF A TRIBE
Naturally they made more of the shirts. They kept on selling and LIFE IS GOOD became their brand name.
The concept grew and evolved as more and more people joined in the fun and the brothers kept listening to the suggestions from their customers. More and more people jumped on for the ride.
The result became that $100 million company that uses art work and shares inspiring stories from their customers. Their designs, all focusing on the power of optimism, were magnetic. People flocked to join a tribe who sincerely believes in the power of optimism.
These days, ten percent of the company’s annual profits goes to help kids overcome poverty, violence and severe medical challenges. Their nonprofit LIFE IS GOOD Kids Foundation positively impacts the lives of more than 100,000 children a day.
Festivals and celebrations are a part of corporate life. So is helping people.
Here’s a YouTube TEDx talk at Beacon Street recorded in 2013 featuring one of the brothers, Bert Jacobs, “Do What You Like, Like What You Do.” The company’s grown a bunch since then.
It’s all good.
SUPERPOWERS YOU CAN GROW
LIFE IS GOOD, THE BOOK lists ten “superpowers” that can be developed to enhance your own optimistic mindset: Openness, Courage, Simplicity, Humor, Gratitude, Fun, Compassion, Creativity, Authenticity and Love.
The brothers devote a chapter to each of these attributes, ending each one with ideas and suggestions for growing your own. And they promise: “The Life Is Good superpowers will help you overcome obstacles, drive forward with greater purpose, and enjoy the ride of life.”
That is also a very good thing….
Here’s a poem:
THE CYCLE CONTINUES
The cycle continues:
arising, becoming, crumbling away,
then born again in some new-old form –
a never-ending relentless pattern
flowing, spiraling through this life,
in this world of dust.
And here’s me:
trying to dance on top of this turning wheel…
moved to try to direct it, even…
(not that there’s a steering wheel).
It rolls on, it rolls on,
and I keep trying to play with it,
reiterating halcyon days of youth
when us kids took turns
rolling that abandoned old truck tire
down the grassy hill behind the baseball field,
trying to keep from crashing it through
the mean old neighbor-lady’s hibiscus hedges
and running over her half-blind old English bulldog.