Awakening?

After listening to George Lakey’s webinar, What to Do if There is a Coup?, I found myself checking out some of his other videos and his books. I wrote about this in my last blog “Suspension” and shared a couple of other brief videos. In looking over the books he has written or contributed to, one in particular caught my attention because it speaks to the nature of my work today.

Grassroots and Nonprofit Leadership: A Guide for Organizations in Changing Times was co-authored by Lakey with Berit Lakey, Rod Napier, and Janet Robinson in 1995. It was published a second time in 2016. Though the book is 25 years old at this point, the content is timeless and particularly meaningful in the moment in American history. In the book the authors made this point about social movements:

Before there is a social movement around a certain injustice, the body politic seems to be asleep.

Lakey, Lakey, Napier, & Robinson, 1995, p. 17

Social movements require an awakening. There has been a lot happening in the past week that should be shaking us from our slumber. So I’m wondering…are we awake yet?


The White Evangelical and Trump Puzzle

To be clear, I am still in the midst of exploring the oddest of couples – White Evangelicals and Donald Trump. However, I thought I would invite you into that exploration with me by sharing some of the sources I am using.

Recently I have been digesting Michael Gerson’s article, The Last Temptation, in The Atlantic from April 2018. Gerson writes very thoughtfully about the mismatch from the perspective of one who has deep roots and credentials in evangelicalism and politics. Michael Gerson grew up as an evangelical, even attending Wheaton College, which is sometimes know as “the Harvard of evangelical Protestantism.” He was recruited by Karl Rove to work on the George W. Bush campaign and before that he was a senior policy advisor at The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington, DC. If you have not read the piece by Gerson (now a columnist for the Washington Post), I highly recommend it.

This afternoon, while taking my five mile power walk around the neighborhood, I found myself listening to an intriguing podcast on the history of evangelicalism. The podcast is Throughline a weekly history podcast and the episode I listened to was The Evangelical Vote. It is an hour and four minutes in length – well, not quite, because the last few minutes is a promo for a new limited series NPR podcast.

At the risk of giving away too much, I will simply repeat something the hosts of the show use as a teaser: evangelicals entered American politics in the 1970’s because of a court ruling…but it was not the court decision you think it was. That was a enough to hook me into the show…and I was not disappointed!

In the podcast you will frequently hear the voice of Randall Balmer. He has spent most of his career studying evangelicalism, writing about it, and even having some of his work turned into PBS documentaries. Today he continues to research and teach but he is also a priest in the Episcopal Church (United States). For some, these facts may not qualify Balmer as an expert on evangelicalism but I have no doubt. I got to know and spend time with Randall Balmer in the early 1990s and I know we share a common religious heritage in evangelicalism.

Though he was born in Chicago, Illinois, Balmer was a preacher’s kid in Des Moines, Iowa. His father was the pastor of the Westchester Evangelical Free Church, just across the street from Hoover High School. Balmer, who is about 6 months younger than me, went directly to college from high school, attending Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (an Evangelical Free seminary), Princeton University, and Union Theological Seminary – completing all of his degrees and his first documentary before I was able to finish my undergraduate degree.

When I met Balmer in the early 1990s, his first documentary series, Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory, had already aired on PBS. I was part of a bi-partisan group of Democrats and Republicans who had come together as “Iowans for Democracy” in Des Moines. One of those taking an interest in our efforts was a prominent Republican, Mary Louise Smith, who was also a social worker, feminist, and staunch advocate of the Equal Rights Amendment. What made her so prominent as a Republican with those credentials, you may wonder? In 1976 Gerald Ford named her the be the first female chair of the Republican National Committee. As Iowans for Democracy, we were drawn together by our mutual concern that the Republican party in Iowa was in danger of being taken over by evangelical fundamentalists and dominionists with strong leanings toward theocracy. That sounded a bit crazy in the early 1990s; it does not seem as far fetched today.

Iowans for Democracy wanted to deepen its understanding of the evangelical movement in the United States and its growing affinity for the Republican party. We learned that a local boy (Randall Balmer) was rising as an authority on evangelicalism and we wondered if we could convince him to come home and meet with us. He did. At the time, Balmer was teaching at Barnard College.

Ballmer met with Iowans for Democracy and it was my responsibility to host him. His presentation to the group was compelling, personal, and powerful. In the time we spent together in personal conversation I came to appreciate the depth of his knowledge. We also talked about being in the evangelical movement as youth. I came to understand how deeply we shared a similar evangelical experience.

We stayed in touch very briefly after that but then life happened and we went our separate ways. Our connection was enough, though, that I can say with confidence you need to hear what Randall Ballmer has to say on this podcast.


The View from Jeff

Jeff Explains: Just another Covid Doodle about parenting in a pandemic…

From “Buy-In” to Ownership

But First…

Keep your eyes on Kenosha, Wisconsin today. Trump’s photo op in front of the church near the White House in DC was only a warm up for today. Today he arrives in that city with military might at his side after sending in the National Guard. Few people, mostly those surrounding Trump, think this is a good idea – either to quell the violence or for his own safety. So why is he doing it? Heather Cox Richardson explains it this way in her Letter from An American this morning:

A bird’s eye view of the country today sees a president seeming to slide off the rails. Trump is exaggerating the violence in cities to the point of caricature, while his supporters outright lie to try to advance his candidacy. On Thursday, Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway tipped the president’s hand on “Fox and Friends” when she said that “the more chaos and anarchy and vandalism and violence reigns, the better it is for” a candidate running on “law and order.”

Heather Cox Richardson, Letter from An American, September 1, 2020

Yes, folks, we are seeing American carnage before us. The man who said only he could fix it is the man lighting the fires, pointing out the targets, and sanctioning in real life something that seems too much like The Purge.


Now back to the planned blog on meaningful participation, co-creation, and ownership – all elements of a genuinely democratic society.

Let me state it as plainly as I can: I hate the phrase “buy-in.” It should never, ever be used in the context of doing community work, or even organizational work. It is, or should be, an abomination to every person who is trying to genuinely engage people in communities and to every person in a community who in being engaged.

Yeah, I feel strongly about that. My reaction is, frankly, visceral. So, what is my problem with it? Let me count the ways.

First, if “buy-in” is necessary, it means that someone else is “selling.” Usually the one who has the most to profit from the “deal” is the seller. And if they must “sell it” to get you to “buy-in” you may not get what you want or expect.

Second, “buy-in” usually means someone already has decided the solution or what is best for me, or you. I have no tolerance for “buy-in.” If anyone tries to get me to “buy-in” to something, I see that as a red-flag and immediately walk away. It tells me they already have something in mind and do not really want me to participate in any meaningful way. They just want me to say “Yes” and accept what they are selling. That is just how I roll with this.

Third, to “buy-in” is purely transactional, not transformational. We “buy-in” to something because we are expecting something in return, however, when the terms of the transaction changes (e.g., funding ends, no further perceived benefit to us, etc.) then the deal is done. The “seller” looks for the next product and a new “buyer” for it.

Finally, “buy-in” is change on the cheap. “Cheap” does not mean only inexpensive, it means poor quality. In this case, it means the change only lasts for as long as the exchange of something for something (“quid pro quo”) continues. Yes, this sounds a lot like my second objection but there is an important additional difference. “Cheap” change can also do lasting damage. Sometimes the damage is not immediate and acute, but accumulative and nagging. Let me give you an example of how “buy-in” can do damage.

In 2016, during the Obama Administration, I was honored to be invited to a meeting at the White House. It was a meeting of Promise Zone leaders throughout the United States with their research partners from major universities. The Promise Zone initiative emerged during President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union Address in which he laid out a plan to help high poverty urban, rural, and tribal communities. Promise Zones are geographic areas where the federal government partners with local leaders to do work to lift the community out of poverty. Efforts may include increased economic activity, better educational opportunities, encouraging private investment, reducing crime (particularly violent crime), increase the overall health of the community, and address other community priorities.

One of the meetings I attended that day was of researchers who were discussing the challenges of conducting research in communities within Promise Zones. Several lamented the challenge of getting community people to “buy-in” to their research and cooperate with them. Others, though, were passionately arguing that people, particularly those in communities of high poverty, were tired of helping with research and had been let down too many times. They had helped in the past, hoping their effort would result in a change in their community and lives, but they no longer trusted their “buy-in” would make a difference.

The damage? Everyone loses. People in high poverty communities may miss out on that one opportunity that does make a difference. Researcher and other stakeholders may miss out on learning how to really make a difference in those communities.

When people “buy-in” to change efforts today, they already know it is transactional – even if they do not use that word to describe it. By experience they have come to understand it will probably benefit the “seller” more than them, it will be temporary, and it probably will not be high quality.

I could rail on the concept of “buy-in” all day because I am so disgusted hearing it used in community and organizational change work. However, that would only make me feel better and do nothing to move the conversation forward. So, let me offer three ideas which are a better way: meaningful participation, co-creation, and ownership.

Meaningful Participation

Participation can mean many things. It can mean:

  • no more than just having your name on a list of stakeholders and partners,
  • showing up at occasional meetings but hanging back because you have not kept up on what is going on during your absences,
  • attending only those meetings where “big” or controversial decisions are being considered,
  • being present but remaining silent because you do not feel confident speaking up,
  • attending with the intention of contributing but not understanding the business procedure well enough to know how to contribute,
  • attending every meeting with the hope of being asked for your ideas and suggestions, but, in the end, never being asked, and
  • attending, trying to contribute to the meeting, and being ignored or blocked

These are forms of participation, but none qualify as meaningful participation.

Meaningful participation means each person has an equal and equitable opportunity to:

  • Hear and understand the same information as everyone else
  • Give voice to their opinions, ideas, and suggestions with the expectation they will be heard and considered
  • Participate in the decisions that need to be made, including those that most directly impact them

Those of who work with organizations and communities have a responsibility to do everything we can to provide meaningful participation to every member who wishes to be a part of the change effort. Yes, it can get messy when a lot of people show up to work and it can take longer to do the work. However, providing the opportunity of meaningful participation to people is the right thing to do if we want to create genuine change.

Many of us have a “default” setting we must override when we do community work. The “default” says we go first and foremost to “experts” for their help in the community. Unfortunately, we have a limited view of who the “experts” are. Our default setting causes us to look only to experts such as the formal leaders, providers, professionals, researchers, high ranking public officials, funders, and the like.

What we miss are the other community “experts” – those whose expertise is based in their lived experience with the conditions, issue, situation, or problem we are trying to change.

Years ago, while attending a Tamarack Institute conference in Canada, I heard these two types of experts described as “content experts” for the first group and “context experts” for the second. One of my clients has used a different term to describe them. The first are “experts by learned experience” and the second are “experts by lived experience.”

The key word in either framing is “experts.” We make a significant mistake when we fail to see the full range of expertise in the communities and organizations we are trying to change. Even worse is when we bias meaningful participation to “experts with learned experience,” the “content experts.” If we want to double our expertise in the work we are doing at the community or organization level, we need to at least double meaningful participation from “experts with lived experience.”

Co-Creation

The purpose of meaningful participation is co-creation. Simply put, co-creation is collaborative innovation. Ideas are generated together, shared among one another, tested, and improved upon. You may be familiar with the Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) cycle. It is one approach to co-creation and there are many more.

Before communities and organizations can co-create, they need to engage with all the expertise in the community – lived and learned, context and content. However, the act of co-creation suggests the engagement is not merely for the purpose of consulting the experts. Co-creation requires all these experts to be brought together, whether via video conference or in person, to work together.

  • Together they need to define the problems they are trying to address.
  • Together they need to identify the range of possible solutions.
  • Together they need to consider all they have learned together and all their resources to affirm a common purpose and direction they need, want, and are willing to embrace.

There are a myriad of co-creation techniques and approaches available to organizations and communities. What is critical to each and all is the willingness for communities and organizations to bring all their experts together to collaborate.

Collaboration is more than just getting people together. It has numerous challenges – building trust and respect, are just two. Another is that context experts (by lived experience) do not always know how to engage with content experts (by learned experience), and vice versa. When we try to bring them together, we must be prepared to train them how to engage positively and productively with the other.

When we do bring them together, we need to make sure all experts have an experience of meaningful participation.

Ownership

For those who like formulas, here is one:

Meaningful Participation + Co-Creation = Ownership

Rather than create “buy-in” to community and organizational change, our goal is to create ownership of that change. Ownership means that members feel they have “skin in the game,” which is to say they have intentionally been involved in bringing about the change that is or has emerged.

When people feel ownership of the change, they take pride in it, they take credit for it, and they do everything they can to protect from “snapping back” to the way things were before. “Buy-in” does not produce that same intensity of feeling and commitment.

Here is the deal. I have absolutely no tolerance for anyone who tries to get me to “buy-in” to something. I also have extremely little tolerance for people who view gaining community or organizational “buy-in” as a high goal. I have only limited tolerance for people who use the “buy-in” phrase and toss it around without understanding its implications.

Community and organizational change are slow processes because we do not want people to simply “buy-in.” We want all members of the community or organization to experience meaningful participation, work together to co-create solutions, and develop a deep sense of ownership in the change. Anything less, when we are doing community and organizational work with integrity, should be unacceptable.

Yeah, I am a little legalistic about this. And a bit inflexible. It is, after all, a core value that informs my work with organizations and communities. A few years back I heard my colleagues in Canada use the phrase “nothing about us without us” when describing a mindset that values meaningful participation, co-creation, and ownership. I like it. It speaks my mind too.


A Little More Normalcy

Not that anything in the world is very normal. Honestly, on the whole, I am not sure that is a bad thing. Change is hard anytime it happens. When the change is sudden and large, it is even more difficult. Change is another word for opportunity, if we will look forward rather than back.

Recently I was talking with colleagues (by Zoom, of course) and we were discussing the changes the pandemic has brought to how work happens. For example, even when people can return to the workplace, many businesses may decide to sanction remote work because they have found their employees are more productive, less stressed, and happier working remotely. Of course, that is not true for everyone and not every employee or company will find the changes to be positive. I do believe we are more likely to seize the opportunity and benefits of change if we can look forward to how we can do things better than if we keep wishing and hoping we can just go back to “normal.”

Today I’m running piece on teamwork I hope you find useful. It addresses the challenge of integrating new members into a team, including some adaptation for our current state of pandemic living and working virtually.


Welcoming and Integrating New Team Members

My first job was at a local newspaper and print shop. It was in the same very small town I grew up in and I already knew the three other people who worked there. However, that did not make it any easier. I did not know them in the context of their professional work…only as acquaintances in the community. When I arrived on my first day of work, I was nervous, unsure of myself, and just a little scared. 

  • What if I could not learn how to use a light board or operate a printing press? 
  • What if I made a mistake, how would the boss react? 
  • What if I did not understand something, who would I ask and would it even be okay that I asked? 
  • What if I did not fit in?
  • What if…what if…what it…

Later in my career I would often experience the “new hire” experience from the perspective of an existing team member, except the “what if” questions were a little different. 

  • What if the new person cannot learn their job? 
  • What if they make a serious mistake? 
  • What if the new hire does not understand the work we do? 
  • What if the new person does not fit in? 

When a new person joins a team, there are always “what ifs” and everyone has them. For this reason it is important we do everything we can to make the process of change in our teams smooth and easy for everyone. 

Teams change. Promotions, different opportunities, retirements and other individual changes means our team will need to change as well. Team growth also means team changes. That’s just how it is in organizational life. 

In the 1960’s a researcher named Bruce Tuckman came up with a simple way to describe team development. It has been around a while but it is still widely regarded as very useful for helping us understand team behavior. It is known as Tuckman’s Stages of Group Development and you may have heard of it already. The four original stages are forming, storming, norming, and performing. 

Performing is the stage every team aspires to reach. Performing is when teams are working together like a well rehearsed dance troupe. However, when team membership changes at this stage, the team will revert back to the earliest stage of development – forming – when the new team member arrives. The forming stage is when the “what ifs” appear again for everyone – the new team member and the existing team members, too. 

To successfully move through the forming stage toward performing it is important for team leaders and their teams to have a plan for integrating new members.

The plan can be built around three phases in the hiring and on-boarding process. 

  • The first is the period of recruiting and interviewing. 
  • The second is after hiring and before the new team member begins. 
  • The third is from the first day the new team member joins the team and beyond. 

I want to take a closer look at making a plan with you but, first, I need to offer this caveat. Organizations have specific policies and protocols they must follow when hiring new people, or promoting and moving people within, to comply with the law. Therefore, the suggestions I am going to offer here should be considered within the scope of the required law. Whenever and wherever possible, I hope these suggestions will be considered and then implemented. 

Recruiting and Interviewing Phase

First, let’s take a look at a couple of ways to successfully integrate new team members during the recruiting and interview phase. 

Whenever possible, invite team members to recommend people to interview for the open position. Recommendations could include people who are outside of the organization or within the organization. Current team members are already invested in the success of their team. They know better than anyone what it will take to be a successful team member. They are more likely to recommend people who they believe will be a contributing, successful member of the team. 

Especially when the field of candidates have been narrowed to the finalists, have an informal team interview. This can be done by bringing the whole team together with the candidate or having the candidate meet one-on-one with each current team member. Several positive things are accomplished by having a team interview. One is that it will deepen a sense of responsibility toward and ownership of the team by current members. Another is that it will help the team form a consensus agreement on which candidate will be a better fit. Finally, should the candidate be hired, it will have already started the process of relationship building which is so important during the forming stage of a new team. 

The team interview is also important for the candidate. By meeting with the team the candidate gets a glimpse of its culture in action. Just as the team can assess whether the candidate is a good fit, the candidate can assess fit for themselves. 

I remember a time when I was a candidate for a position in which I would be an associate director working with the executive director and as a member of the leadership team. Everything went very well in the process and I really liked the organization and was eager to say yes if the offer was made. Then I met with the team I would be working with. Midway through the team interview I realized I would not be a good fit with them. I was deeply disappointed but knew it would be a mistake if I were to join them. Despite the attraction I felt toward the organization, I knew it would not be long before I would regret joining them and I knew they would soon come to regret it, too. 

Preparing for the First Day

The second phase in the hiring process, between the hiring and the new hires first day, offers another opportunity to integrate the new team member. Here are four things you can do to prepare your team to welcome the new member.

  1. Make Some Noise! Let everyone on the team and in your organization know about the new addition. Share a photo of the team member and a short bio (no, not a resume, a bio) with the team. I also recommend you share it with the whole organization. Give people a face to connect with the name, let them know the person’s start date, the location they will be working, and encourage them to “surprise” them by greeting and welcoming them by name. Of course the surprise greeting may have to be by email and that is okay.
  2. Prepare to connect them virtually to their team from day one. This is particularly important during times, like the COVID-19 pandemic, when people may not be working in office environments face-to-face. Typically, it is the first day when new hires receive their email and log-in information. Still plan to do that but make sure the new team member really DOES have their email ready on the first day. However, distribute their email in advance to other team members and encourage them to prepare an introductory email (e.g., their own photo and bio and a word of welcome) that they can send to the new team member on Day 1. 
  3. Put together a welcome package. A terrific team activity is to put together a welcome package for the new team member. Make it practical (e.g., pens, notebook, Kleenex, hand sanitizer, etc.), make it fun (e.g., candy, gum, a toy), and make it light (e.g., a clown nose, a silly hat, or something “funny” you think they will “need” in their new position). More than anything else, the welcome package needs to be the team’s personal expression of excitement about and appreciation of the new team member. Make sure the welcome package is on the new team members desk the first day. Of course, if the person is working remotely, make sure it is dropped off or received on their first day. 
  4. Be ready for the new team member before their first day. Nothing feels more inclusive than feeling like you were expected. I remember my first day in a new position that I was very excited to be filling. I could not wait to get started! My first day was a let down though. I was assigned an office and a computer that had not been cleaned. The prior occupant liked to eat at the desk and the computer keyboard and desktop were covered in crumbs. Even the office chair had food stains and crumbs on it. I did not feel comfortable starting my day without giving everything a thorough cleaning. Though someone had hung a welcome sign on my door, I really wondered if anyone really cared that I was there. Whether the person is working on site or remotely, it is important to make sure everything is ready for the new team member on Day 1. 

From the First Day 

The third phase begins on the new team member’s first day. The ideas here not only help integrate the new team member but also help build and maintain a sense of teamwork and team identity. 

  • Have a team social to welcome new members (while social distancing): COVID-19 makes it challenging to socialize physically in the same space. However social interaction among team members is still important to integrating new team members. Until you can physically meet up in a social setting again, set up a virtual team meet up for the purpose of introducing and getting to know new team members and each other better. Occasional but regular virtual social gatherings will help maintain a sense of team identity and strengthen teamwork. Just make sure you keep the social meet ups social, and the work meetings work. 
  • Decode the team and organizational language. When you join a team or organization that uses jargon or lots of acronyms it can feel like you need to learn another language just to communicate. Give new team members a head start by familiarizing them with terms, language, jargon, inside jokes, and acronyms the team or organization frequently uses. It could even be a fun team-building activity to work together to create a “dictionary” of such “coded” communication for new team members. 
  • Pair them up with a colleague for support, insight, and learning. This could be a mentor or another team member they need to “shadow” to learn the job. However, it could also be a friendly presence on the team who will help and support the new team member through the process of joining with the team. At a time such as this, in the midst of a pandemic, pairing up will need to happen intentionally but virtually. In a virtual environment it will wise for the veteran team member to make the first move to engage the new team member to start the supporting relationship.
  • Acquaint them with your system and its leaders. More than giving the new team member an organizational chart, help them understand how things are supposed to work (the formal system) and how things actually work (the culture). Personally introduce them to the system leaders. Avoid telling them to “Just go talk to Carlos” or “See the IT coordinator.” Remember, they may not know who Carlos or the IT coordinator is and what they should talk to them about…even if Carlos is the IT coordinator. Acquainting them with your system means teaching them how to get copies made and where to find supplies. It also means introducing them to the Executive Director or CEO and other leaders. While working remotely an email introduction can be used to connect new team members with system leaders.
  • Have serious fun. Integrating a new team member can and should be fun for everyone. Having fun while doing serious work is important for bonding, camaraderie, and moving back to high performance as a team. Whenever and however possible, make welcoming and integrating a new team member an enjoyable experience. 

One last thing. Through all three phases it is important for team leaders to communicate openness to feedback and a willingness to improve the process. One way to do this is to simply ask team members, including the new team member, to suggest ways to improve the process. My own preference is to ask people to tell me how to make something better rather than to tell me about its problems. This appreciative approach ensures the ideas and suggestions I receive are actionable.

Remember, teams change. A change in team membership requires us to step back to an earlier forming stage. It may be tempting to feel discouraged by this slight step back. However, it also presents an opportunity to welcome and integrate a new team member who can help the team attain an even higher level of performance in the future. 


Chickenman – Episode 96 – Only 1 Episode Remaining!

Illogically, Chickenman wreaks havoc on a movie set.


And They’re Off!

The big news this week is the selection of Senator Kamala Harris as Joe Biden’s running mate on the Democratic ticket in this Fall’s presidential election. The selection of Harris has been met, it seems, with broad and enthusiastic approval within the Democratic party. Of course, some Democratic leaning folks will not be pleased with the selection as neither Biden nor Harris is as left leaning as they would like.

On the other side, of course, is Donald Trump and Mike Pence for the Republicans. Trump and Pence have a very solid base of support within the “New” (Trumpian) Republican party. It is less solid among moderates and even among some conservative Republicans who are mounting strong anti-Trump campaigns and have pledged to vote for Biden and Harris. These include Republican Voters Against Trump and The Lincoln Project. Both of these are putting out some strong ads against Trump.

This is going to be one of the most consequential presidential elections in my lifetime and in the history of our country. To be clear, these are not the same lengths of time. I’ll have more to say about the upcoming election later but, for now, I want to make only two points because time is short and timing is important.

First, be sure you do everything necessary to ensure you will be able to vote. Register if you need to register. Request an absentee ballot or mail-in ballot if you have that option. Whatever it takes, please vote. Voting is a right. The right to vote is also a privilege that has set the United States apart from many other countries for more than 200 years. When we fail to exercise our right to vote, we inch closer to losing it altogether.

Second, do everything you can to make sure everyone who is eligible to vote is able to vote. We are seeing some serious efforts to suppress the vote, including tinkering with the United States Postal Service. We cannot allow our ability to vote to be undermined by anyone. As individuals we may have little influence on state and national rules for voting (e.g., mail-in, absentee, etc.) but what we CAN do is offer to help our friends and neighbors vote.

We can do that by offering to help them request mail-in or absentee ballots. If you are reading this blog, it is probably because you have internet and a possess some savvy about how to use it. Some people do not have access to the internet. Some, even if they do, do not have sufficient comfort or skills with it to request ballots or register. We can help, right?

We can help them vote by posting the ballots in the mail for them or even dropping them off at the election office or election drop boxes, as we learned last night we will have here in Maryland. Of course, we can do these things while also maintaining physical distance and remaining safe during the pandemic.

Most importantly, we need to be planning and doing these things NOW. Let’s get to work!

That’s it for today. See you again soon. But, of course, I’ll leave you with a bit Chickenman.


chickenman – episode 90 – Only 7 more after this one!

Chickenman, still dangling over a bowl of lumpy oatmeal placed there by the Very Diabolical, gets an assist from his mother.


Let’s All Get into Good Trouble

Last Sunday I had intended to join Meeting for Worship via Zoom at our Quaker Meeting. Prior to connecting though I was watching Face the Nation on CBS. Just as I was about to “tune in” to our Quaker meeting, Face the Nation moderator, Margaret Brennan, announced the show would be moving to a special report on John Lewis’ final crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge. I kept the television tuned to CBS.

For the next 75 minutes I watched as John Lewis made his final crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge. It began this past Sunday at Brown Chapel AME Church in Selma, just as it did on “Bloody Sunday,” March 7, 1965. This time, though, John Lewis’ body rode in a casket on a caisson pulled by two horses. After brief remarks from a legislator and a minister and a song, his casket was loaded onto the caisson by a U.S. military honor guard – which seemed odd for Lewis, a man who stood for nonviolence. Then the caisson made its way the 10 blocks to the Edmond Pettus Bridge. As it crossed the bridge the driver stopped the caisson at several points, stood, and kept silence in honor of John Lewis and the meaning of his walk across the bridge in 1965.

On the other side of the bridge, the casket carrying John Lewis was met by members of the Alabama State Police, just as it was on March 7, 1965. This time, though, they stood at attention and saluted Mr. Lewis. In 1965 it was members of the Alabama State Police that beat him so badly that he suffered a concussion. His casket was transferred from the caisson and placed in a hearse. From there the Alabama State Police provided safe passage and an honor guard to Montgomery where Mr. Lewis is to lie in state before having the same honor at the U.S. Capitol yesterday and today.

On March 7, 1965 I was 10 years, soon to turn 11. I still remember seeing the news reports featuring film of the marchers being attacked. I did not fully understand what it was all about at that age. Still, as I watched the film, I got the kind of knot in my stomach and sick feeling that comes from seeing something you know instinctively is so horrible and so wrong. It’s the same knot and feeling I got as I watched the video of George Floyd being murdered.

I didn’t realize how much the film of Bloody Sunday impacted me until many years later when I was working in Montgomery, Alabama. I remember driving out of the Montgomery Regional Airport on to Selma Highway (U.S. Route 80). To visit the scene of Bloody Sunday, all I had to do was turn left toward Selma. I had the time, opportunity, and inclination to visit the site. In the end, though, I remembered that film, the horror it triggered in me, and the traumatic memories of my 10-year-old’s fear won out. It is something I still regret.

Let’s get in good trouble

Earlier this month, on July 3rd, John Lewis: Good Trouble, was released. It is a documentary of his life and his work. It focuses on a core philosophy of Mr. Lewis, the idea of getting into “good trouble,” the kind of trouble that brings about change for the greater good.

On July 23 The Brookings Institution published a piece by Rashawn Ray that reminds us of the last time John Lewis led a commemorative walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 1, 2020. At that time, Lewis said in a speech: “Get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and redeem the soul of America.”

Ray’s article articulates five ways we can get in “good trouble.” This seems to be the time to cause a bit of “good trouble.” In fact, since 1965, I’m not sure there has been a better time. Here are Ray’s five lessons from John Lewis, with just a bit of commentary from me.

  1. Vote, always. In a pandemic or not, in primary or a general election, in local races or national races, whether you “love” the choices or not.
  2. You are never too young to make a difference. I‘m guessing John Lewis would also say that you are never too old to make a difference, too.
  3. Speak truth to power. Power doesn’t usually want to hear the truth, so don’t expect the powerful to come to you to hear your truth. Take it to them…again, and again, and again until they hear it.
  4. Become a racial equity broker. It isn’t enough to not be racist or even be anti-racists. Both of those things can be accomplished within oneself. To be a racial equity broker is to go beyond advocacy to take on the work of changing policies, practices, and protocols that inhibit racial equity.
  5. Never give up. Change at any level – personal, family, community, and societal – requires tenacity. Only the most tenacious will bring about change. They may not always live to see it, but it would not happen without them.

So, what do you say? Wanna get into some trouble…some “good trouble”? We’ve got time between now and November 3rd to find some and do it.


chickenman – Episode 84

Chickenman is finally contacted in his flight across the Atlantic but a debate ensues with Ms. Helfinger about who will pay for the collect charges.


June 28, 2020 – The American Crowbar Case: Huh?

Today is June 28, 2020, which is also International Body Piercing Day and the birthday of Jim Ward. The two are not unrelated. Jim Ward was reportedly the first person to open a body piercing studio in California in 1978. The day was established to celebrate his many contributions to the field of body piercing but it is not clear who established it. My guess would be: Jim Ward.

the american crowbar case: Extreme body piercing

Phineas P. Gage has to have the most remarkable body piercing story on record. Gage was a railroad construction foreman. On September 13, 1848 Gage was supervising workers preparing the roadbed for train tracks near Cavendish, Vermont. The work required the men to set up for the blast by boring a hole in rock, filling it with blasting powder, and then using a tamping iron to pack or “tamp” sand or other inert material above the powder to contain the blast’s energy.

Gage was tamping a blast hole at about 4:30 PM when he was briefly distracted by his workers. As he turned to look over his right shoulder, he opened his mouth to speak. At that very moment the tamping iron hit against the rock, creating a spark that ignited the blast powder. The tamping iron (1.5 inches in diameter; three feet, seven inches in length; and 13.25 lbs) was rocketed out of the blast hole.

The tamping rod went through Gage’s head, entering the left side of his face, out the top of his head, and landed about 80 feet away. Gage was thrown onto his back and after a few convulsions, stood up, walked around, spoke to his crew, and rode in an oxcart about three quarters of a mile back to where he was lodging. About 30 minutes after the accident, a doctor arrived at Gage’s hotel to find him sitting outside.

From that moment forward, Phineas P. Gage was a medical wonder. Not only had he survived having a tamping iron blasted through his head, but the tamping iron also performed a frontal lobotomy.

The Phineas Gage story is one of the most fascinating in medical history. I’ve only shared the beginning of it as a teaser. If you are not familiar with it, I hope you’ll check it out. To get you started, here are two short articles and a brief story from NPR:


Help with Math

Thanks to COVID-19, many schools have been shuttered across around the world. As a result, parents have had to also serve as teachers to their students. Several exasperated parents have expressed total confusion over trying to help their children with math.

Tom Lehrer is here to help! Lehrer, at age 92, is a retired musican, singer-songwriter, satirist, and mathematician. He traveled the world for many years performing musical satire and made several albums. In the 1970’s he decided to leave show business to focus on teaching math and musical theater history at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He retired in 2001 but his satirical legacy continues. Parents who have been trying to help their children with their current math studies may appreciate Lehrer’s “New Math” from 1965:


chickenman – episode 71 is here!

Chickenman pays a visit to the Police Commissioner’s office where he immediately begins to try Ms. Helfinger’s patience. But she has a suggestion for how he can spend some of his pent up energy.


June 23, 2020 – False Alarm or An Alert?

Today is June 23, 2020 and International Fairy (or Faery) Day. This is a day set aside by some to honor fairies, the best known of which in the US, is the Tooth Fairy. The website Historic-UK.com has an interesting article on the origin of fairies you might enjoy as part of your International Fairy Day celebration! By the way, did you know that Tooth Fairy is related to Chickenman?


false alarm? no. an alert to implicit bias

The FBI concluded that there was no noose left in the garage of NASCAR’s only Black driver, Bubba Wallace, at the Talledega Superspeedway last weekend. Except that there was (see photo below). However, according to the FBI, it has been there since at least last October. NASCAR says that it could not have been known that Wallace’s car would have been assigned that garage prior to the race.

Source: CNN.com

Let’s think through this a minute…

  • There is no evidence that a noose was intentionally left in Wallace’s garage prior to this past weekend’s GEICO 500. Got it! No intention, therefore, no explicit hate crime.
  • Still, someone tied the garage door pull in the photo above in such a way to make it appear very much as a noose and the FBI’s report actually characterized the knot as a noose. Got it! So there was a noose.
  • The garage assignment system at NASCAR appears to be random therefore it couldn’t have been known in advance that Wallace would be assigned that garage. Got it! No ill intent on NASCAR’s part.

So what can we conclude from the facts? NASCAR still has a long, long way to go to become anti-racist. I assume before and after speedway events the Talledega Speedway work crews prepare, clean, and inspect garages. Why wasn’t the noose noticed and reported during one of these routine actions? Even better, why wasn’t it untied or simply cut off by a worker? The answers seem pretty clear: NASCAR, like so many other White American institutions is blinded by it own implicit bias. The racism has been so much a part of its culture that it doesn’t see when it is being racist. I applaud NASCAR for the strides it has made, including the show of support for Wallace prior to Monday’s race. However, those are only first steps in a sports culture that still has serious problems with racism.

It is reasonable to expect that any individual or organization, like NASCAR, that is growing in its understanding of racism in America learns of the powerful negative symbolism of the noose. I hope NASCAR is experiencing those growing pains now. Even more, I hope it is making their facilities both noose and Confederate flag free zones. If they don’t, I expect we’ll see a few nooses show up in the stands at the next NASCAR race.

Unfortunately, Bubba Wallace is catching grief over all of this. In a CNN interview he reported that some people were questioning his character and integrity over the incident. What seems to be missing by some people are the facts. Wallace did not discover the noose nor did he report the noose. He learned about it from the president of NASCAR Steve Phelps in a personal meeting that Phelps called.

Some reporting has downplayed the incident by describing the noose as just a garage door pull. However, the FBI’s report described the knot as a noose and the photo above clearly shows the pull cord tied as a noose.

Still, Wallace is catching the grief over the incident. Among other things, there is a constant flow on Twitter from about the whole thing being a hoax. The only problem with that are the facts but, of course, Stupid people don’t let facts get in the way. Wallace himself did a pretty good job of stating just the facts last night on CNN:

“It was a noose,” Wallace said. “Whether tied in 2019 or whatever, it was a noose. So, it wasn’t directed at me but somebody tied a noose. That’s what I’m saying.”

Bubba Wallace with Don Lemon, June 23, 2020, on CNN.

The arc of change is a slow. Let’s see if NASCAR has the courage to stay on it.


leading through traumatic and disruptive events: A Conversation with Lamar Roth

Join Lamar Roth MA, SHRM-SCP and me for a conversation on leading an organization through a period of trauma and disruption. In this video production from Tenacious Change LLC, Lamar and I explore what it means to be a resilient organization in the face of sudden, deadly disruption. We talk about the lessons learned by Lamar and Excel Industries and how they might apply to nonprofit and public agency leaders and their organizations. We begin our conversation with a very specific disruption.

As Lamar Roth was leaving his office for the day on February 25, 2016, Police Chief Doug Schroeder abruptly pulled up and stopped behind Lamar’s pickup truck, blocking him from leaving. As Lamar was about to ask him why he was parked behind him, Schroeder reached into the backseat of his patrol car, pulled out a rifle, and strode without speaking to the door at Excel Industries. The same door Lamar had only moments before exited.

Then Lamar heard the gunfire from inside the building.

Over the next several minutes a gunman would fire randomly at the more than 400 people in the lawnmower plant using a semi-automatic assault rifle and an automatic pistol. By the time Chief Schroeder was able to confront the gunman and stop the shooting, two community members and twelve Excel employees were wounded. Four employees, including the gunman who was also an employee, were dead.

Lamar Roth was then, and still is, the Director of Human Resources at Excel Industries in Hesston, Kansas. Lamar and the company’s attorney carried much of the load in helping the company recover in the shooting’s aftermath.

Lamar has discovered work in the time of COVID-19 is a lot like work in the days, weeks, and months following the shootings. In fact, the lessons learned from that traumatic event in 2016 are helping him navigate the traumatic period of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The six-minute excerpt below is from the full 56 minute conversation. The entire conversation is available here at the Tenacious Change LLC YouTube channel.

Watch the full 56 minute interview on Tenacious Change LLC’s YouTube channel at Leading Through Traumatic and Disruptive Events: A Conversation with Lamar Roth.

Chickenman – Episode 67

The Fabulous Feathered Weekend Warrior has made an arrest. He has brought in the Hummer for prosecution. All is good in Midland City again…or is it?


June 21, 2020 – This Normal Dad Doesn’t Want All the Old Normal Anymore

Today is June 21, 2020. Happy Father’s Day!

this normal dad doesn’t want all the old normal anymore

The context in which I often think about “old normal” vs the “new normal” is how life was before COVID-19. Father’s Day was normal in the sense that my son and I got together. We played golf early this morning, had brunch afterward, and I got one of the sweetest Father’s Day cards from him that I’ve ever received.

At the same time, nothing about our Father’s Day get together was normal. We arrived at the golf course in separate cars. We both wore masks. We couldn’t ride in the same golf cart because we needed to maintain at least six feet of distance during the game. At the end of the game we drove separately to a diner that has only recently reopened and is following the distancing and face mask rules.

What really wasn’t normal was that we said good-bye six feet apart. I still hug him and tell him I love him each time we part after a visit, but, of course, today I could only tell him I love him. When it comes to Father’s Day and some of the traditions that build and sustain relationships with those we love and care about, I want the old normal again.

Source: BeWellPBC, Juneteenth Newsletter

However, there is another old normal that I don’t want anymore. It is what became normal for so many of us White people in the U.S. That is the normal created by racial bias which, in turn, has created the conditions of prejudice, threat of violence, and actual violence under which so many nonwhite non-Anglo people in the United States live. This image, which appeared in a client’s newsletter, reminded me about that old normal. Like the sign says, that is the normal I don’t want to go back to either.

Earlier this week my friend Bruce re-posted a video on Facebook which powerfully illustrated that old normal. I also re-posted it and you can also see it here. In an earlier blog post, I had written that I could only know vicariously what my spouse, a non-white, non-Anglo woman, experiences. I have seen her experience much of what you see in that video. I have sometimes been with her when it has happened to her and, yet, my own sense of what is “normal” as a White person prevents me from seeing it clearly. The vicarious experience is not the same as experiencing it personally. If you are a White person, please keep that in mind as you watch that brief video.

Todd Winn, Retired Marine, The Washington Post, June 18, 2020

There is a story about a retired Marine that appeared in The Washington Post that gives us a glimpse of the “new normal” as it relates to race. The Marine squeezed into his old dress uniform, put a piece of black duct tape across his mouth with the words “I can’t breathe” on it, and then stood at attention in front of the statehouse in Utah for three hours as a personal protest. The day he did this it was over 100 degrees in Salt Lake City. His shoes melted as he stood in the sun. He held a sign listing the name of the Black men and women who had recently died as a result of police brutality. His motivation for staging his protest in this way is a powerful reminder of why people choose to serve this country – whether in the military, in emergency services, or in civil service. It is worth reading to learn how Mr. Winn arrived at this form of protest.

Another glimpse of the new normal is seen in protests that continue throughout the country. The protests are comprised of very diverse groups of people. They are made diverse by race, age, sexual orientation, language, religion, and ability. Contrary to the propoganda put out by their detractors (e.g., Trump), the protests are mostly peaceful.

These are just two of the things I see that make me feel as if the “new normal” will be much better than the old for everyone. Of course, before we get there, some things have got to change from the direction they’ve been going for the past few years.

The good thing about being human beings is that we have the power of choice. We can choose what we want to be and we can even choose to be different than we have been, even if we’ve been pretty awful. We usher in the “new normal” when we choose inclusion over exclusion; equity over partiality; and justice over bias. For starters, that’s the new normal this dad wants.


the tulsa fizzle

Happily, Tulsa did not erupt into violence before, during, or after Trump’s rally there last night. It was, in fact, a pretty weak rally. My favorite photo of the rally comes from The Washington Post with this headline: “Trump rallies in red-state America — and faces a sea of empty blue seats.” The office tally in the 19,000 seat arena was 6,200. The outside overflow stage and megatrons were never used.

The Washington Post, June 21, 2020

One of the funniest stories to come out of the Tulsa event was that about the TikTok users who grabbed up thousands of tickets to the event they never planned to use. The idea for doing this came from Mary Jo Laupp, a woman from Fort Dodge in my native state of Iowa. Kudos Mary Jo!


chickenman – episode 65

Chickenman closes in on the Hummer. Or is he really?

June 20, 2020 – On Being Resilient

Today is June 20, 2020 and National Hollerin’ Contest Day. This, it seems, is a day in the spotlight for Spivey’s Corner, North Carolina where the contest takes place. The town of approximately 500 people swells to several thousand for the contest. Apparently hollerin’ is a lost art. You couldn’t prove that by my family. We grew up hollerin’ at hogs, cows, chickens, and each other. We are still a loud-talking family when we get together.

On Being resilient

Earlier today I finished editing a video interview I did on the subject of leading others through traumatic disruptive events…you know, like the pandemic? I used a new video editing software that is better than anything I’ve used before. As a result the video is far fancier than anything I’ve produced to date. It isn’t quite finished yet – it is in final review by the person I interviewed – but it will be ready for distribution in a few days. When it is ready, I’ll post it here and on social media.

Editing is an intensive iterative process. As a result you hear or see the same thing many times over. Though the word “resilience” was used only a couple of times, the video really was about resilience. More specifically, it was about how organizations recover and move forward in times of trauma and disruption. Of course, organizations are comprised of individuals so there is also an element of individual resilience too.

The interviewee shared a quote from Nelson Mandela that has stuck with me throughout the day.

Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.

Nelson Mandela

This describes what it means to be resilient as organizations or as individuals better than anything else which comes to mind today. Mandela’s statement is close to the dictionary definition of resilience – the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties.

Personally, I’ve had to be resilient because I’ve fallen down many times in my life. Each time I’ve gotten back up again but, honestly, I didn’t always want to. There were a few times when it was very tempting, even appealing, to stay on the ground. It really would have been easy to just stay down, too. Sometimes I did stay there for a while. For reasons I cannot fully explain or understand myself, I eventually did get back up.

These are tough times for everyone. A lot of people and organizations haven’t just fallen down, they’ve been knocked down. Sadly, not all of them will get back up – and it won’t be for lack of trying. To get back up, a person or organization has to have at least a foothold and maybe even hand to grab onto to pull themselves up. Already we see people and organizations who have neither and are down for the count.

The upheaval we are experiencing as a country was on full display last night again on our local news. When we turned on the 11:00 pm news we found the local station was covering a group of protesters in DC’s Judiciary Square who were working at pulling down a statue. The statue was of Albert Pike, the only Confederate general memorialized with an outdoor statue in Washington, DC. The protesters made short work of Pike’s statue. From the time we tuned in until the statue was pulled down was only about 30 minutes. Then the statue was set on fire.

The DC Metro Police watched the protesters at a distance, which seemed not only wise but also nonviolent and gracious. Once the protesters started the statue on fire, they dispersed, and the police moved in with fire extinguishers. No actual living persons were hurt in the evening’s activity.

Frankly, I am supportive of the protesters and the change they are trying to bring to the country. It is long overdue. I believe in nonviolent protest that does not harm people or property. I understand why the protesters are tearing down statues of Confederate generals and colonizers. I’m not sure whether this is the best way, though, to deal with them and what they stand for. I fear that their destruction results in the loss of an opportunity to repurpose them to correct the historical record. They could be put on display in a historical museum (the Smithsonian perhaps?) and a curriculum could be developed that tells the full truth about them. Still, I do understand why the protesters feel they need to come down.

I fear for even more upheaval tonight in Tulsa, Oklahoma when Trump rides into town – all hat and no cattle. This time, though, I fear it could turn violent. Tonight Trumpsters and protesters come together a day after Juneteenth, days after the murders of Rayshard Brooks and George Floyd, and at the start of the 100th year since the Tulsa Greenwood Massacre. Tulsa and Oklahoma is a hotspot for the COVID-19 pandemic and tonight it is also a hotspot for potential conflict. Of course, Trump has already struck the match by making threats against the protesters. It is my fervent prayer and hope that everybody gets out of Tulsa tonight safely.

It is also my hope that our country is resilient. I think it is. I’ve always believed that it is. Plus, there is abundant evidence of resilience in the lives of many individual Americans – of all races, ethnicities, nationalities, genders, sexual orientations, and abilities.

But, as a country, do we have hope that we can get back up again? Do we have the will? Perhaps more importantly, do we have the capacity and grace to give each other a foothold or a hand up? I’m less worried about the first two than the last. I fear that 2 out of 3 will not be sufficient.


The View from Jeff

Jeff explains: I may need to dust off my ironing skills with face to face restrictions being loosened in Alberta… up til now I have been rotating between three shirts a month (as long as I take them off for lunch and supper between meetings).

chickenman – episode 64

Before Chickenman can hammer the Hummer he has to contend with his mother and a stuck zipper in the Chicken Cave.


June 18, 2020 – Where is the Joy?

Today is June 18, 2020 and today is also Go Fishing Day! I’m wondering…what comes to mind d for you when you hear “Go Fishing Day”?

juneteenth

Tomorrow is Juneteenth. It took nearly two and a half years for word of President Lincoln’s signing the Emancipation Proclamation to reach Galveston, Texas. On June 19, 1865 the order freeing all the slaves in Texas was finally read. This was the last group of slaves to receive notice of the order. Juneteenth marks that occasion. At last count, 48 states have Juneteenth as a state holiday or as a day of special recognition and celebration. There are also efforts afoot to make it a Federal holiday.

Most White folks like me have little knowledge or history of Juneteenth. However, it is an important day in American history and all Americans should know about it and what it means. To learn more, see this blog from the National Museum of African American History and Culture, or this article from the Smithsonian Magazine, or this blog from Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

One of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever sung or heard sung is Lift Every Voice and Sing, which has also been called the Black National Anthem. It is typically associated with Juneteenth but can be sung anytime, of course. I was introduced to Juneteenth and the song about 30 years ago at Urbandale United Church of Christ, where I worked part-time as the religious education coordinator. I especially loved it when we sang the anthem as a congregation. The words are powerful and the tune conveys beauty, dignity, and courage. Last weekend CBS Sunday Morning offered this feature on the song. Take two minutes to watch the segment and then another two minutes to read the lyrics for yourself.

Lift ev’ry voice and sing
‘Til earth and heaven ring
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the list’ning skies
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun
Let us march on ’til victory is won

Stony the road we trod
Bitter the chastening rod
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died
Yet with a steady beat
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered
Out from the gloomy past
‘Til now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast

God of our weary years
God of our silent tears
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way
Thou who has by Thy might
Led us into the light
Keep us forever in the path, we pray
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee
Shadowed beneath Thy hand
May we forever stand
True to our God
True to our native land

Lyrics by J. Rosamond Johnson and James Weldon Johnson

One more video because it is just so good…here is a particularly beautiful a capella version of the song. Enjoy!

where is the joy?

Joy does seem to be eluding us. For months we’ve lived under the fear of contracting a deadly illness in this pandemic. For weeks we’ve been watching our country finally(?) face up to its history of discrimination, oppression, and persecution of all others who not White and English speaking. For days we’ve been watching Trump continue to roll toward a mass campaign event in Tulsa like a slow, deadly train wreck for those attending the event given the spike of COVID-19 in Tulsa and Oklahoma.

The whole wide world seems to be on fire. We stand still, open our eyes wide, turn around 360 degrees, and we see it happening – but the brightness of the inferno blinds us to joy. And, yes, there is joy in the midst of the flames.

It is to be found in the little things, like:

  • the walk we take with the people we live with, including our dogs.
  • the meals we prepare and enjoy together now because we didn’t have enough time before.
  • the quiet that has come with the reduced traffic around our home.
  • the slower pace, including the opportunity to sleep in an extra 30 minutes or so.
  • the excitement of seeing familiar faces on Zoom, even though we know it will still be a while before we will see them in person.
  • the opportunity to read a book that we’ve had on our “to read” list for sometime.
  • the starry nights we can now enjoy because of the reduction in pollution.
  • the pride we feel in the diverse crowds of people who are peacefully yet passionately protesting the injustices toward Black people and all minorities in our country.
  • the laughter we share with friends and family, even if only on Zoom.
  • serendipitously finding a beautiful song, poem, or sentiment on the internet that speaks to our condition.

Think about it for a bit. What are the little things that give you joy today? It’s important for us to find them and savor them. Why? Because they are the seeds of the hope that will see us through to the end.


chickenman – episode 62

The Hummer continues to terrorize the streets of Midland City and Chickenman…who is mysteriously back in his Chicken Cave and not at his grandmothers in Fargo, North Dakota…answers the call.