Teaching Generosity: A Tribute to my Grandparents

When I started this series on how we spend our “cognitive surplus” I knew I wanted to include a family oriented story. I did not, however, expect to write that post myself. That changed a week ago Friday when, while on vacation, I learned my grandfather had died.

I didn’t realize it when I was young, but I hit the grandparent lottery. Every holiday, every birthday, every graduation, every life event, big and small, included Grandma and Grandpa. They visited us at school. They took us on vacation, they invited each of us to stay with them for a week each summer by ourselves (so we could be the sole beneficiary of their affection for a while). As we got older, they loaned* each of us the money we needed to buy our first (and sometimes second) cars. Their house was always open, and several of us grandchildren took full advantage of their hospitality by living with them (or at least coming over to do laundry) as we transitioned between living with our parents and living on our own.

What is even more amazing is their generosity was not reserved for “family” in the traditional sense. Grandma and Grandpa never met a child they didn’t welcome into their home and hearts with open arms. They were always happy to extend their hospitality to friends-of-friends be it for a meal, a trip to the airport, or even a stay at the “Harney Street Bed and Breakfast” as some people took to calling their house after an especially active month of house guests. After they retired, they filled up some of their free time volunteering in a local elementary school listening to second graders practice reading, and serving at a local homeless shelter providing a smile and a warm meal to some of the city’s most vulnerable residents.

Even with all of these amazing gifts, I realized as I was writing this post that the most precious gift they’ve given me is not on this list. Through a lifetime of decisions big and small my Grandparents taught me the joys of giving. They taught me, not through words, but through example, to give as much as I could joyfully give, without worrying about what I would get in return. They taught me there is plenty of love to go around, and the rest will work itself out later.

Thanks Grandpa and Grandma for setting such a great example. I hope to be half as inspirational to the people in my life as you’ve been to me.

Your Turn

Is there someone amazing in your life who deserves a tribute?  Tell us about them in the comments.

*and by loaned I mean they said they were loaning us the money but didn’t want us to pay them back until we could afford it. I’m fairly confident none of those loans were ever actually paid in full.

Prerequisite to Innovation, Creativity and Change

We spend most of our time here talking about you, your dreams for making the world a better place, and the tools you need to make those dreams come true.

After watching this TED Talk video this week I realized I skipped an important step.

http://ted.com/talks/view/id/1391

Before we can change the world, we must change our definitions of strength and weakness.  And we must start with ourselves.

This is the part of the post where I would normally give you 3-7 ideas for how to make the change we are talking about.

In this case, I think it’s too soon.

Instead, just watch the video.  If you have thoughts you’d like to share, questions or struggles, I’d love to hear them in the comments.  If, like one person I spoke with, you watch the video and can’t find words that capture your reaction, that’s cool too.

Once we’ve all had some time to process I’ll follow up with more posts about vulnerability, what it means for us and our work, and how we might achieve it.

P.S. If you’d like to see more you can watch Brené Brown’s TEDx Houston speech. (The one with the “Breakdown” slide.) here.

Repost: The Baby Groundhog Guide to Organizational Decision Making

I wrote this post last summer, and while the groundhogs in question are no longer staying with us, the lessons about when to take advice and when to ignore it still stand.  Happy Groundhog Day!

If you work with people, eventually some of them are going to make suggestions.  Most of the time, those suggestions will be made with the best of intentions.  And yet, sometimes following said advice will be the best thing that ever happened to you or your organization, and sometimes it will lead to unmitigated disaster.*  So how do you determine when to listen and adapt and when to smile and nod?

Bring on the Baby Groundhogs!

The groundhogs in this video live in my backyard.  As you can see, I’m pretty excited about it.  When they first showed up I called two moms to tell them about it. Continue reading

Beth’s Legacy

This week’s small voices story comes from Shannon M. Turner.  Shannon works for Alternate ROOTS as Manager of Programs and Services. When she’s not being an arts administrator, she also blogs, writes poetry, performs, and tells a pretty good story. Shannon enjoys her residence in the Little 5 Points community of Atlanta, GA, and along with her active membership in Alternate ROOTS since 2005, she serves on the Advisory Board for the Community Arts Network and recently joined the board of WonderRoot. She received an M.F.A. in Arts Administration and Public Dialogue from Virginia Tech in 2007.

Thanks Shannon, for sharing such a personal story with us!

Often times in life, we meet people along the way who leave a lasting impact on us. Sometimes it’s for things they do. Or don’t do. Or for the things they do to you. Sometimes it’s for the example they set.

When I was in high school, my father’s job led us to move back to a town we’d lived in before, Kingsport, TN. It was halfway through my junior year. As hard as it is to move that late in high school, you would think it would have been easier to move back to a place I’d already lived. In some ways it was. In others, it was every bit as hard.

One joyful part about it is that I got to know new people that I had not known before, somewhat in partial thanks to the large church we were serving in Kingsport 2.0.

The person I put at the top of this category was Beth Griffin. Beth was one of those ethereal creatures who was seemingly always happy. She could find the good side of anything. Continue reading

The Baby Groundhog Guide to Organizational Decision Making

If you work with people, eventually some of them are going to make suggestions.  Most of the time, those suggestions will be made with the best of intentions.  And yet, sometimes following said advice will be the best thing that ever happened to you or your organization, and sometimes it will lead to unmitigated disaster.*  So how do you determine when to listen and adapt and when to smile and nod?

Bring on the Baby Groundhogs!

The groundhogs in this video live in my backyard.  As you can see, I’m pretty excited about it.  When they first showed up I called two moms to tell them about it. Continue reading