Monday, August 25, 2014

The Least of These

Homeless on the streets of Atlanta (credit:http://committeeforabetteratlanta.org/)
You have seen them when you walk the streets of the larger cities: Washington, DC, Atlanta, GA, Austin, TX, St. Petersburg, Fl, the list goes on and on. You see their stack of overstuffed bags, or an old worn suitcase, or a tattered backpack. You notice their tattered and stained clothing. You decide to avoid eye contact. Just stare at the ground to you get by and they will not bother you. One may call to you, "Can you help me with money for lunch?" You ignore them and walk on, quickening your pace. You catch a whiff that tells you they have not had a shower in a few weeks. They make you uncomfortable, and you wish they would just go away. How do you know if you gave them money that they would not buy liquor or crack with it? It is a growing problem, and several cities have decided to solve it. Their solution: make the homeless go away. Make it illegal to put up a tent under a bridge or in a public park.

Homeless Encampment - Atlanta, 2014 (credit: Weslee Knapp)
A few years ago, the city of St. Petersburg, FL took an active stance to solve the problem in their city. Watch for yourself.

January 19, 2007

Georgia DOT sent bulldozers in to clear out the tents of 40 homeless camping under I-75/I-85 and I-20 on January 14, 2014. GDOT Sends Bulldozers for 40 Homeless Camping Under I-75/85 and I-20 The bulldozers and GDOT employees hauled off tents, blankets, jackets, and what little possessions these people owned. Two weeks later, Atlanta was hit with a winter storm that closed the city. FOX NEWS WEATHER CENTER Rare winter storm leaves students, drivers stranded in Deep South

Well, those people would be better off in a shelter, you think. Maybe so, if there was enough shelter space in Atlanta to house all of the homeless individuals in the city. But there is not. 

"According to homeless census data estimates, more than 10,000 people in metro Atlanta experience homelessness on any given night, with more than 40 percent being women and children. A comprehensive, three-county survey of Atlanta's homeless shelters found a shortage of 1,700 beds for all single homeless people, including children and youth."homeaidatlanta.org

A shortage of 1,700 beds means 1,700 people in Atlanta had to face the elements during the Winter storm that stranded drivers and clogged interstates. And at least 40 were without blankets or temporary shelter thanks to the government's attempt to solve homelessness.

We must put down all of our preconceived ideas why people are  homeless, and recognize that every homeless person is in fact a person. They have a story. They have a story worth telling. They have value. Not everyone that is homeless is a crack addict, or too lazy to work. In fact, in today's society there are people who are working at minimum wage jobs and cannot afford housing. In fact, to afford a two bedroom apartment in Atlanta, a person would have to work 85 hours a week for 52 weeks a year. So where do the minimum wage laborers live?

This year, an experiment was conducted in Austin, TX. They took a homeless man and bought him a suit and then filmed people's reactions to him when he asked for spare change. They then had him do the same thing in the same area of town in his regular clothing. The results speak for themselves.

The Real Homeless Man Experiment - July 2014

Solving our nation's homeless crisis will not be accomplished by criminalizing homelessness. It will be done by providing them assistance. Helping them with food, shelter, clothing, resume preparation, and job skills training. That will not happen until we begin to look at them as human beings - people - not bums. We will have to bring ourselves to say, "there but by the grace of God go I." Many of us are just a few weeks away from being in their shoes. For the last 5 years, millions of homes have been foreclosed and families have been sent scrambling. Some of slept in cars (illegal in many cities). Some have slept in the floor of a generous individuals apartment. Our local, state, and federal governments will not solve hunger or homelessness in this country. It will only be solved by the compassion of you and I.





I greatly admire those who are pursuing opportunities to actually help solve the homeless problem instead of trying to run people out of their towns. One such group is Mobile Loaves and Fishes and what they are doing with the Community First! project. They have obtained 27 acres outside of Austin, TX and are placing tiny homes, refurbished RVs, along with a central shower and laundry facility. Additionally, they are arranging for dentist, doctors, and therapists to come to the property to provide free services to the residents. 


Community First! Village

Other organizations in other cities are attempting similar solutions. This past week, USA Today ran this article: 

These are the type of solutions that will help turn the tide of homelessness, because they value the individuals and work to restore their dignity and self-esteem.



-Peace



Monday, August 18, 2014

Stepping Into The Vapor: The Move (Part II)

We woke Sunday eager to see the rental house we had rented via pictures and phone calls, to unpack the truck, to find my suitcase, and begin to settle in to our new home. Kramer and Sadie were ready to quit being in pet crates and to have a backyard. At the same time, I was anxious about what we would find when we returned to the office parking lot where our rental truck was parked. Against their will, Kramer and Sadie were tucked into their pet crates and secured in the back seat of the car, and we drove across town to the office parking lot. I held my breath as we turned the corner into the parking lot. There set the rental truck and my SUV on the trailer behind it totally pristine and unmolested. I felt silly for being concerned. Where was my faith? Perhaps it was all the tension from the moving and upended-ness, but I felt ashamed of myself for allowing worry to overcome me.We said several "Thank You Jesus" prayers, and Kramer and I assumed our positions in the rental truck that we had assumed over the last couple of days and began the short drive to the house following Allison's lead through town.

I hardly had dropped the trailer and backed the truck up the driveway than the guys from the moving company that were unloading us arrived. And right behind them came the realtor with keys. Moving from 1,700 Sq Ft to 1,100 Sq Ft does not sound like a big deal, but we quickly realized a bit more pairing down would be required. The house originally had a one car garage that had been converted into a master bedroom, so my garage contents were going to need a new home. Much to my surprise there was a storage barn in the backyard that was not in the pictures we had seen or the rental listing. That was a huge blessing as I had been expecting to have to purchase and assemble one on top of all the other moving chores. When the truck was almost completely emptied, we found my long lost suitcase that had been packed for the trip!

After 900 miles and two days without clean clothes and my own deodorant - my suitcase! (credit: The Author)

The moving guys were amazing and had the truck completely unpacked in a little over three hours. God Bless those hard working and good natured guys! We filled the rental truck with diesel for the last time, and navigated our way to the closest Penske Rental Center. Fortunately for us, it was within 10 miles of the house. We had barely gotten home when our friends, the Bartons arrived and all six of them dove in helping arrange and unbox. They were amazing! It was like having a small army. Kramer convinced their kids to play ball with him, and he was quickly a happy dog.
Kramer James (credit: The Author)


As is always the case with something during a move, the screws that attach the mirror to the dresser turned up MIA. So, Bill and I found an Ace Hardware and headed over to pickup replacements. As we were just days away from the Fourth of July and our son-in-law is active duty in the U.S. Army, I picked up an American flag for the front of the house. The Bartons surprised us with a house warming gift - a pair of plastic pink flamingos for the front yard. We loved it! Allison and I had committed to embracing all that is Florida - pink flamingos and Hawaiian shirts!
Lil Pink Flamingos For You And Me #EmbraceThePinkFlamingos (credit: The Author)
During the unboxing process, I was summonsed to the guest room, and much to my surprise I discovered to former residents had apparently had a fondness for pink flamingos as well. They had adorned the guest room with a pink flamingo light switch wall plate.

#EmbraceThePinkFlamingos (credit: The Author)


Before the Bartons left, we celebrated the reunion with their family and our move with dinner at the Cracker Barrel just blocks from the house. And you cannot go wrong with a Cracker Barrel that has palm trees out front right? I can almost hear a heavenly chorus sing just looking at it!

Cracker Barrel and Palm Trees (credit: The Author)

We slept soundly the first night in our new home and Sadie and Kramer slept peacefully for the first time since leaving Atlanta.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Stepping Into The Vapor: The Move (part I)

When we learned that my office would be closing, my wife and I began praying for wisdom on next steps. We had talked about where we would consider moving if potential jobs required. We both began applying for jobs and the interview process began. For several months, we were both on conference calls and Skype calls. We traveled to Wyoming and Texas for interviews. More than once, God closed a door that we were all but certain was the path to our next steps.

Then in June, my wife, Allison received an attractive offer in St. Petersburg, Florida. I had several potentials in the Tampa/St. Petesburg area but no offers in hand. Her offer had a pretty aggressive timeline, and we knew we had to make a decision and be ready to move quickly if she was to accept the offer. My Dad lives in Lakeland, Florida, so the idea of being closer to him was attractive not to mention we would be within 30 minutes of the beach. And to say the possibility of walking on the beach on a regular basis was not enticing would be a lie. We decided that she would accept the position, we would put the house on the market, and we would make the move to central Florida.

One of my major concerns was ensuring Feed Forsyth could carry on its work to supply food to the food pantries in Forsyth county after my departure. Our operations manager, Ginger Boyll had assumed the day to day operations. And, I had been handling grant writing and public speaking. We met with the board and resigned our positions of leadership while remaining on the board. We remain committed to supporting Feed Forsyth and the pantries in Forsyth county.

Knowing my day job was ending and cycles of layoffs were in process, it did not seem like a big stretch for me to resign and make the move without a new job secured. So, within two weeks, we packed up the house, loaded a Penkse rental truck and headed to Florida. It just so happened that we moving day worked out to be Allison's birthday.

Moving Day June 27, 2014


The trip was an adventure as all moving experiences seem to always be. We stopped at a rest stop south of Macon to walk the dogs, and Allison dropped the bomb on me that she had received a call while we were on the road and our rental house would not be ready for us to move into when we arrived. Peachy! So we would spend two nights in a hotel instead of one as originally planned.

When we arrived at the hotel the first night, I discovered the suitcase I had packed for the trip had inadvertently gotten packed deep in the truck and a suitcase full of winter clothes was in our car. So, clean clothes and my prescriptions were all buried in the truck somewhere. A desperate late night search of the truck in the hotel parking lot proved unfruitful, so I elected to take a shower and put back on my sweaty clothes.

Fortunately, my wife had found us a pet friendly hotel and parking that could accommodate a 26ft truck and trailer. Unfortunately, our two dogs, Sadie and Kramer had a hard time getting settled with the constant sounds of a hotel - doors closing, voices in the hallway, kids running down the hall, etc. So, we slept a couple hours, took the dogs outside for a walk, rinse and repeated for the majority of the night. Knowing our rental house was not going to be ready, we tried with all our might to sleep in late. A girl's softball tournament was in town and a couple teams were staying in the same hotel. When the softball teams got up to head to their tournament, our dogs were wide awake, and they wanted us up as well. I dressed, brushed my teeth and used my wife's deodorant. Ah yes, a nice melon/cucumber scent.

We loaded up and hit the interstate after a complimentary breakfast. Around noon, I found a truckstop and parked near a shaded grassy spot, so we could let the dogs out while one of us grabbed lunch. We ate under the shade of the canopy of live oak trees to the tune of cicadas. I had not heard cicadas since moving to Atlanta, and it gave me an unexpected sense of peace reminding me of earlier chapters in my life. I smiled and thanked God for a bit of peace and a sense of belonging amidst all the turmoil of the move.
Periodical Cicada (photo by Alex Wild)
Learn more about the Cicada at:
nationalgeographic.com


We fueled up the truck and got back on the interstate, driving through Tampa and across the bay to St. Petersburg. I have been across Tampa Bay on I-275 several times in my life, and it has never gotten old. Even while driving a 26ft box truck pulling a trailer, I found myself enjoying the view of the bay and the palm trees. I could here a still small voice say "Welcome home."

My wife passed me to guide us to the hotel in St. Petersburg she had found for us that was again pet friendly. Upon arriving, I quickly noticed that the hotel had a tight driveway and small parking lot and there was no room to park the truck. I had to perform my personal version of truck driver ballet to get back out of the parking lot. The front desk clerk suggested parking the truck at a local grocery store. A quick call to our realtor sent us on another adventure to locate the real estate office where we could park the truck for the night. As we pulled into the parking lot, I saw three police cars conducting a vehicle stop one block away. I found it unsettling knowing I would be 3 miles away from everything we owned for the next 8 hours. So, we prayed for protection, peace, provision, and rest.

When we returned to the hotel and checked into our room, I discovered Allison had booked us a room with a jacuzzi tub. I still was without my suitcase and clean clothes, but at least I could soak sore muscles. We found a Chinese restaurant that did delivery and made camp. The dogs were still not completely comfortable with the noises of a hotel, but we managed to get some sleep. It was a huge improvement over Friday night.

We woke Sunday morning eager to see our rental house and get the truck unloaded.
(to be continued...)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Maximizing Exposure on Social Media

Many businesses and nonprofits have recognized the value of social media. Many launch into social media blindly believing that all that is needed is to build a Facebook Page or a Twitter account and start posting what is important to them. A few months go by and the individual tasked with managing their social media presence starts asking "Why aren't we getting more likes on our Facebook Page?" and "Why aren't we getting more Twitter followers?" The answer I have come to learn is they did not stop and learn the medium before they attempted to begin utilizing it.

In his book, Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World, Gary Vaynerchuk says, "On Facebook, the definition of great content is not the content that makes the most sales, but the content that people most want to share with others." Facebook does not display everything everyone posts. Nor does Facebook display everything to you from a page you have liked. Facebook has a super secret and ever changing algorithm for determining what content it will display in your news feed from the pages you like and the people you have friend'ed. And the algorithm determined what to display on your news feed by analyzing what posts you have liked and shared. So if you like and share several posts from one company's Facebook page, the algorithm will provide you more of that company's content in your news feed. With that information in hand, someone managing a business or nonprofit's Facebook page should consider not only the message they want to disseminate to the masses, but first what message would the most people like and share? Because posting content that people will like and share gains their Facebook page a higher ranking in the super secret algorithm and gains them maximum exposure. Maybe every post should not be the message the organization is trying to communicate to the target market. Maybe some posts should be something inspirational that the masses will like and share.

At the same time, keep in mind that Facebook is a visual medium. A simple all text post will get significantly less likes and shares compared to a post utilizing a photo. No wonder Twitter has gone to showing a preview of graphic images used in Twitter posts! Utilizing a graphic or photograph that visually supports the organization's message is the most effective means of communicating a message in Facebook. Additionally, anything that a viewer would be inclined to share will help achieve maximum exposure. Watch your own Facebook usage. How many coupons or giveaways have you shared when you saw them in your Facebook news feed? How many beach sunset pictures have you shared that had a company logo or website in the bottom corner? Somewhere there was an organization's Facebook page manager saying, "Thank you for sending my message to your 500 friends."

Additionally, drop the "its all about us" mentality. Begin to adopt a mentality that helping partner organizations, clients, and followers is good for everyone. Stop talking your following and start talking with them. Make your social media presence a conversation. Look at what is important to your followers- what they are saying. Your organization might not have any interest in the Academy Awards, but if the people following your Twitter account and the people that have liked your Facebook page are chatting furiously about what is going on at the Academy Awards, it might be wise to watch the awards show and get involved in the conversation. Arby's did this very thing this year during the Grammys and it paid off for them a million fold.
See on Twitter

Arby's Social Media Manager, Josh Martin, noted Pharrell's hat looks like the one Arby's has used as their logo for years and commented on Twitter. “When I saw so many people mentioning us in relation to the hat, I thought it was a great opportunity to jump into the conversation,” Martin later explained. It was not a message to sell roast beef sandwiches or to motivate followers to the drive-thru window. It was a post relevant to what Arby's customers were watching and talking about at that moment. By the next morning, that post has been retweeted 75,000 times and liked 40,000 times. But it did not stop there. Pepsi's Twitter account quoted it and said "#Win", shoving the Arby's post to all of Pepsi's followers and Hyundai quoted it and said, "Well Played" which shoved the Arby's post to all of Hyundai's followers. It gained enough exposure that Pharrell saw it and responded, "Y'all tryna start a roast beef?" Arby's came away looking fun and relevant to its followers and a host of people who were not following Arby's. Recognizing the success of the media hoopla that followed this single Twitter post, Arby's then bought Pharrell's hat in the subsequent eBay auction for $44,100 with proceeds going to a charity, From One Hand to Another. When the dust settled, Arby's gained 6,000 new followers due to that single posting. 

Trying to increase the exposure of an organization in social media? I highly recommend checking out Gary Vaynerchuk's blog, reading his book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World, and check out Relational Equity and owner Van Baird


Tuesday, April 08, 2014

The Devil Walks in Mattingly - Billy Coffey



I will not make any bones about it. I have become of fan of Billy Coffey's writing. Maybe partly because his novels are set in the rural countryside of Virginia, and I can relate to the setting having grown up in rural South Georgia. But I believe the quality of his writing is a much bigger part. I have reviewed his latest novel, The Devil Walks in Mattingly for Bookwi.se

You can my review here: My Review at Bookwi.se.

You can get your copy here: The Devil Walks in Mattingly at Amazon.com

Read more about Bill Coffey here: BillyCoffey.com

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Stepping Out In The Great Unknown



Last Monday we had a called full staff meeting. Once everyone was assembled,  our office's project manager called our company's headquarters and one of the corporate VPs came on the line to announce our office would be closing permanently at the end of August. Many in the room were shocked. I was not one of them. I have learned over the years to pay close attention to the small details and to read the signs.

In the last 14 years, I have survived two small businesses where I was employed collapsing. Unfortunately, they were consecutive jobs. Talk about out of the frying pan and into the fire. But both of those experiences taught me a great deal including the tell-tale signs to notice. Both of these situations also taught me lessons in faith much like the lessons learned through surviving divorce. 

After the second small business collapse and subsequent layoffs, it took awhile to find another job. The concerns regarding paying the mortgage, child support, and all of the other bills felt like a huge mill stone hanging around my neck. But a gracious God provided for us while I sought a new job. I took side jobs from three consulting firms during my unemployment, and it was always enough at the last moment. And after the financial losses from walking through divorce, the prospect of starting over from scratch did not seem as intimidating as it had in the past.

While this is not a small business collapse, my past experience allowed me to recognize this office closing several months ago. And though I do not have a new job lined up, I have used the time leading up to Monday's announcement to prepare and had begun the job search process. Now is the tough but familiar part - the waiting and the sense of the unknown. 

The waiting is the hardest part
Every day you see one more card
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest part
- Tom Petty

As I think about the weeks and months that lie ahead of us,  I can picture that scene from Indiana Jones. He is standing at the very edge looking down into an abyss. He draws a deep breath,  looks straight ahead, and takes a huge step out into nothing. And to his surprise, he finds himself fully supported. It is a familiar feeling. I have been here before, and although I would rather not be here again, I know the one the cares for me holds me in the palm of his hand.

So I wait...

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?" 
Matthew 6:25-27

-Peace

Allen

Saturday, March 01, 2014

A Host of Golden Daffodils

It's been a bitterly cold winter in the Metro Atlanta area including the much publicized snow and ice Apocalypse. It was a warm 44F today, and we had to get outside and enjoy some natural serenity. And there is no better place than Gibbs Gardens for that kind of decompression. Here are a few pictures to help bridge you to spring's eventual arrival and a poem by Wordsworth.

Photo credits: The Author

Daffodils

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Photo credits: The Author


Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

Photo credits: The Author

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed--and gazed--but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

Photo credits: The Author

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils. 
- William Wordsworth

Photo Credits: The Author

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Questioning Our Priorities



I have set and watched the ongoing saga/debate of gay marriage and now state legislation to allow businesses to refuse service to individuals based on their sexual preferences for months. And honestly,  I am amazed at the amount of time, energy, and money that is being poured into it all. I have to wonder if it is necessary and if it is as much of a priority to God as it is to some of the folks heavily involved who call themselves doing His work. For years preachers have refused to marry people if they did not agree with the situation. I know of preachers refusing to marry couples they did not think were prepared for marriage and because one or the other was divorced. I do not recall anyone getting sued over it.

And further, it seems like much of the argument has come down to comparing sins. My studies of the Bible have concluded that sin is sin. There is no big and little sin. One is not worse than another, and God hates ALL sin. Lust, gluttony, adultery, lying, cheating, and yes homosexuality are all equal. Unfortunately as humans, we can accept our sins and ignore them as slight indiscretions,  but we are repulsed by the sins of others.

Andy Stanley said in an interview (read it here) this month on the subject of the legislation to allow businesses to discriminate on the basis of religion or sexual persuasion that if we wanted to be like Jesus then we would serve everyone because that is what Jesus did when He was here. He served everyone - thieves, prostitutes,  lepers. I cannot argue with that point. And "Christians" have questioned his theology and want to stone him for making that statement. Sorry, but I cannot join in on that campaign, because Jesus proclaimed love not public stoning.

Read the story of the woman caught in adultery: 

John 8:2-12
2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
11 “No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

He did not stop the stoning because it was an acceptable sin. He stopped it because of His love and forgiveness for her. And He called out the crowd and encouraged the sinless to throw the first stone which demonstrated that He saw all sin the same.

My question is this: Are our priorities and agendas in line with God's priorities?

What is REALLY more important? How do we ignore modern day slavery and families starving all around us while fighting same sex marriage? Right now there are 27 million people in slavery worldwide including the United States.  Read about it here: CNN and here: EndItMovement

Right now in the United States 1 in 6 Americans struggle with hunger. That is more than 49 million Americans starving all around us.  Read about it here: FeedingAmerica. In Forsyth County where I live, approximately 11,000 children get one meal a day - school lunch.

How can we ignore these types of situations and spend our time, energy, and money on same-sex marriage?

Aren't we commanded to?

Matthew 25:37-40
 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Isaiah 1:17

Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.

 What could be accomplished if those resources were focused on hunger and modern day slavery in the United States? If Jesus was walking the earth today, which would He be addressing? Are our priorities properly aligned with His?

-Peace
Allen

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Begging for Garbage



Monday was a federal holiday and observed by my day job which gave me a day to address things for the nonprofit. I had received a request from an individual that worked for a local chain restaurant. They were dismayed by all the food being thrown away each evening and wanted us to talk to them about donating the food. So I drove down and asked to speak with the manager. I introduced myself, explained what our organization does, and explained the need in our community.   He called his supervisor,  had a brief conversation and then told me I would have to contact corporate marketing department. I returned home and filled out a generic contact form on their website. I sat and marveled at the difficulty of getting a business to quit throwing away food and instead receiving a tax deduction and helping struggling families in their community.

I cannot count the number of these conversations I have had over the last three years. The responses are incredible.  Liability concerns despite federal and state laws that protect food donors from any liability claims. Concerns that employees will intentionally waste more food to increase donations. Concerns that it will take too much extra effort to donate. The popular response is that their management team carefully monitors inventory and usage and they have absolutely zero waste.

Last month we received a phone call from an anonymous individual that works for a local grocery store chain. They had seen a newspaper article about our organization's work to eliminate hunger in our community and daily watched hundreds of pounds of food going in the dumpster. So I drove to the grocery store and asked to speak with the manager. I spoke to one of the managers who told be the Food Bank picked up all of the meat and an area church picked up all of the bread weekly and "everything gets donated and picked up". I smiled and thanked her for her time all the while knowing they daily throw away cut fruit and vegetables.

I am dumbfounded on the insistence of business owners, operators, and managers that continue to throw away perfectly edible food everyday like clockwork. Don't believe me, pick a restaurant and sit in the parking lot at closing time and watch the cheeseburgers,  chicken fingers, hot wings, heads of lettuce, cut fruit, and pizzas being thrown in dumpsters 55 gallon bags at a time.

I have to admit I find it frustrating, and it causes me to question why I continue to struggle with it all. But then I remember the 16,740 adults and 11,000 children in our community that are struggling with hunger and deserve someone to work to help them. I remember the volunteers at over 29 churches who spend countless hours trying to help these struggling families that deserve some help and support. This weekend, our campus pastor Clay Scroggins delivered a message "Choose to Lose". In it, he said that when we are doing what we are called to do, it often feels like losing, but that choosing to lose is exactly what Jesus did for us. He chose to lose for our sake. That was a pretty timely message that hit home with us.

-Peace

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

The Pressure Is On


(Image Source: foodmatters.tv)
It was just another one of those routine medical checkups. The kind I would just as soon avoid. I have enough going on I really do not need another appointment on my agenda, but I agree to make these albeit begrudgingly. So here I sat on the end of the exam table that is too short to lie down on unless a medically trained professional pulls out that silly extension for my feet. I peruse a two year old copy of Car and Driver while I wait in the bleak solitude. Soon a 20 something nurse pops in the room that seems just a little too happy for a doctor's office and begins the inane battery of questions. How are you feeling today? Are you getting plenty of rest?  Exercise? I can hear Charlie Brown's teacher, "waa waa waa". She takes my blood pressure which has always been a textbook example of 120/80, but apparently not today. She deflates the cuff, furrows her brows, and seems to suddenly lose her effervescence. "I'm going to try this again", she says. As a former volunteer firefighter/EMT, I see this as pointless. She is just going to get the same result a second time. And as I expected, her effervescence does not return. Apparently my blood pressure is high today. Swell. One more thing for me to worry with everyday. Peachy.

The nurse disappears out the door. I imagine her scurrying the intricate maze of hallways in search of her lost fountain of happy. A few more minutes of flipping through the tattered pages of the obsolete new car reviews and my doctor enters the room. He reviews the notes that Nurse Rainbows and Unicorns entered into the computer and comes over and picks up the blood pressure cuff. Here we go again. "Hmmm", I hear him mutter. He elects to take it in my other arm. Still no difference. He gives me a talk about dangling my arm and takes another reading with identical results. Finally,  he tosses in the proverbial towel and tells me that he is going to prescribe me blood pressure medication. Great.

A few weeks go by and I develop an irritating dry cough. At my next appointment,  I mention the cough to the doctor who immediately recognizes it as a side effect of the medication and changes me to another prescription. In the meantime, I decide that I need to see if I can work myself off the medication altogether. My charming wife recommends alterations to my diet and drinking more water. I begin to consider factors contributing to the levels of stress that I operate under daily. I identify several stressors not all under my control. I begin what I now refer to as my stress reduction diet. Getting up early, staying up late, and surviving on 4 or 5 hours of sleep was my norm developed when I was racing. I read somewhere that you really need 6-8 hours of sleep for ideal health and wellness. I decide we could start shooting for 6 and work from there. We begin walking three times a week. I begin to evaluate my job and other activities as well as my calendar noting what activities are essential and what can be eliminated.


I begin to consider decompression weekends and three day holidays where I can unplug from ringing cellphones, twitter, facebook, 5 email accounts, and text messages. One trip is a 5-mile hiking venture in the Appalachian mountains to an inn that is beyond cellphone and data service reach. Add a one week vacation at the beach with no preplanned agenda. Just five days of sleeping late, walking on the beach, and sitting in swings enjoying the view. I begin evaluating relationships. If there is nothing but drama and nothing positive coming from the relationship,  I need to remove myself from it for my better health and welfare.

The hypertension or high blood pressure diagnoses came almost three years ago. Six months ago my doctor took me off blood pressure medication completely. Last week I was in for an annual physical. My blood pressure was 114/80 with no meds. I share this story not to brag but to encourage. If you have been diagnosed with hypertension,  do not give up or lose hope. Begin to evaluate the stressors in your life and determine the ones you can change or eliminate. Start making the changes that can lower your stress levels. Start taking an annual vacation. Start taking occasional weekends away and unplug. You can manage your stress and lower your blood pressure.

-Peace