It has been said of me that I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

I’ve made a living in a variety of ways in my life from working cattle on a ranch to making lumber in a sawmill. I’ve been an oilfield worker, professional photographer, carpenter, minister (20 years), realtor, developer, writer, speaker, founded an organization that empowered 120,000 volunteers to provide 20 million meals for disaster relief in Haiti and spend a great deal of my effort empowering people to feed the hungry.

I’m exactly what I want to be: curious and flexible. I leave very few stones unturned.

Learn More About Rick


Writer and Speaker

The Solution

What if we Built Reciprocity into Charity?


I was feeling pretty good about myself when, in fact, I was being an arrogant jerk. I was in a rural Nicaraguan village being interviewed by the government about all we had done to help the hungry people. The village’s crops had been wiped out in torrential rains and we arrived with truckloads of beans, rice, and other staples to help them through. Oh, yeah, and I brought along my arrogance.

Standing in the shade of a Jicaro tree in the tropical sun, I boasted of our team and how we’d come to save-the-day for these poor people.  It was early-on in my passion to fight hunger and I had a few things to learn. Boy, did I have a few things to learn!

As I talked, it occurred to me how arrogant I sounded. In fact, one part of my brain whispered to the other, “Get off your big white horse!”  So I did; I shifted my conversation around to what they had done for us.  Their hospitality had been more welcoming than any I had ever known, their gifts back to us were proportionately far more than anything we had ever given them, and they treated us like family.

Near the end of the conversation, I was approached by Santiago- The Man Who Taught Me to Hate Charity. He came up to me holding a wiggling burlap bag. I had no idea what live creature was in there such as a boa, an iguana, or chicken, but I opened the bag carefully and, down in the bottom, was a little white rabbit. Since that moment, I try to create ways that reciprocity can be built into charity.  Reciprocity is a two-way street; charity is typically one way.

One of the most brilliant stories about reciprocity built into charity is about Floyd Hammer and Kathy Hamilton, founders of Outreach, Inc., who witnessed children die of starvation in Africa. Floyd bought a couple of truckloads of maize (white corn), but told the villagers that he would barter with them the things he needed to help build an AIDs hospice such as sand, aggregate, and charcoal. The next day, the mammas in the village came with beautiful grass baskets and the bartering began. Since then, Outreach has purchased over 65,000 baskets!

The only people who like charity are those who have the capacity to give. So what if we started building reciprocity into our charity? Not because we want something in return, but because we value human dignity and believe that no one really wants a hand-out.

Here are a few questions:

      • How can we help  the person receiving the charity find a way to give back?
      • Is there something in our current charity model that could be tweaked bit to provide opportunities for trade of work or items for goods?
      • How can we help that person(s) who is at the receiving end of charity create self-worth and dignity in return for the help they’ve been given.
      • I’m not suggesting we attach strings to charity, but how can we provide opportunities for people who  seemingly have nothing to give back?

We won’t always be able to build reciprocity into charity. I’ve watched straggling lines of starving people crawl into the largest refugee camp in the world and they have to be given aid or else they die.

But what if we found ways in our systems of charity to create opportunities for human dignity to thrive?

If we were successful, one day we’d no longer need charity and we would find our streets being two-way instead of one-way.

The photo in the blog is one I took in the Dedaab, Kenya refugee camp- the world’s largest. After refugees are on their feet, ways are created that they can give back.

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Crumple Pile

Taking a Five-Year-Old’s Advice: Starting my Own Crumple Pile


My five-year-old granddaughter recently interned as my personal secretary. Cailyn Joy drives a hard bargain; she charged me a dollar a letter. The US Government could save a lot of money by sending Cailyn to negotiate with foreign countries rather than John Kerry.

She invited me into her office, offered a chair across from her little desk with her own phone, paper and envelopes ready for me to dictate letters. I told her what to write and she jotted down which letters of the alphabet she knew, and, for the rest, she made scribbly lines like my doctor; I’m positive I could get a prescription filled with them.

When she got frustrated, she would growl a little bit then crumple the paper and toss it into pile. She called it her crumple pile.

She was not just cute; she was teaching Papa Rick a few lessons.

      1. Never negotiate with a five-year-old who is smarter than you.
      2. If you make a mistake, just throw it in the crumple pile.

I’ve decided to make my own crumple pile; I named a notebook in Evernote, The Crumple Pile.

I listed major mistakes I’ve made and the lessons I’ve learned. Historically, I crumpled my failures and tossed them in the wastebasket instead of recycling them. Yet, as I write down my mistakes and failures in The Crumple Pile, I also create a balance sheet that shows the positive outcomes from each of them.

As it turns out, my mistakes and failures have led to even greater accomplishments and skill development.

Apparently, the benefits produced by recycling my crumple pile are better than the original product.

What do you have in your crumple pile?


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Finding Answers to Life’s Difficult Questions


My grandchildren are full of questions for Papa Rick.  They riddle and rat-a-tat-tat me with one-question-after-another; why is the sky blue? how come you don’t have any hair on top of your head? can you sneak another fruit snack for us?

I’m full of questions, too.  However, to determine which questions I can find answers for and which ones I need to leave alone so they don’t keep me up at night, I’ve developed three mental file cabinets where I file life’s difficult questions.

  • The Logic Cabinet- My Dad used to say a wise man doesn’t know all the answers, but knows where to go to find them.  When I put my questions in there, I know that I can find logical, scientific answers to why the sky is blue and I have no hair on my head.
  • The Faith Cabinet- Philosophers say that we all look for the answers to four basic questions.
    • Where did I come from?
    • What am I doing here?
    • How am I supposed to act while I’m here?
    • Where am I going?

There is a place where the ladder of logic reaches the top rung and no longer provides answers. A funeral, for example, gives me no answers to the final question beyond logic.  At the end of the ladder of logic, I suspend myself  on faith. I answer many questions through my faith cabinet- that’s why it is important to me.

  • The I’ll Know Someday Cabinet- This is where I put all the questions that simply have no answers that make sense in this world. Why do good people suffer? Why do evil people get by with hurting people? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do good things happen to bad people?

Part of my faith is believing that we are eternal beings.  That’s why relationships matter so much to me; they are the only thing of eternal value. Furthermore, I believe God will, someday, make sense of it all to me. Until then, I sort out the questions and find the appropriate cabinet in which to file them.

Perhaps I have no hair because I spend too much time trying to answer the questions that have no answers.

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Image used was purchased from Istock.com


My Heroes: Pete and Annie Hampton


I’m pretty picky about my heroes. I certainly don’t let Hollywood or pro sports tell me who I should idolize. I choose my heroes from people I personally know. Mostly, they are people who’ve gone through hell but found glimpses of heaven along the way.  

I wrote this post a year ago about a father/daughter set of heroes I have- Pete and Annie Hampton.  It’s been a year since Annie passed, but there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t draw inspiration from her and her Dad, Pete.  I like to share my heroes; you can make Pete and Annie your heroes, too.

My Heroes: Pete and Annie Hampton

My heroes are people I can hug.  I doubt any of my heroes or heroines will have statues built for them, buildings named after them, or national holidays in their honor.  But when I need a dose of courage to wrestle fear to the ground or a little flame in my fireplace to warm my chilling soul, I draw from the stories of people whose eyes I know the color of.  I’d like to invite you to my little town in Kansas to meet two of my heroes- Pete Hampton and his daughter, Annie.

Behind my house is an old railroad bed covered with thicket so tight you can barely walk down the path.  It used to be more open because Pete rode past on his four-wheeler to the open fields that surround our town.

If you crawl up on the railroad bed and walked into town, the first paved street you came to would be Sturges. If you looked to the left, you would see Pete and Annie’s big old two-story house on the corner. Pete might be working on a car parked under the big elm tree outside.  He doesn’t have a garage but can fix anything that’s broken and does it all outside on a graveled driveway.

Pete’s the kind of guy you want on your side if you’re in a dark alley. His calloused handshake is firm and, when he grows his mustache out into a Fu Manchu, he’s a bit intimidating. No, let me rephrase that- he’s very intimidating. But spend ten minutes with him and you’ll find he’s got a very gentle heart that beats behind his brawny chest. The muscles under his tattooed arm might lift an engine out of a car or rescue a kitten out of a tree. And when he smiles, his eyes dance with mischief.

I watched his daughter, Annie, as she grew up in our little town and attended the same school as my children. Even as a small child, she was country-girl beautiful with a scrappy attitude of a tomboy.  She was cuddle-me-cute one minute and pinning a knuckle-headed boy to the ground the next. She was as sweet as her Grandma’s cherry pie, but took no sass off of anyone. She looked most like her Daddy when she smiled.

What Annie wanted, Annie worked for. Even as a little girl, she worked for her grandma at Grandma’s Kitchen waiting tables on crusty old coffee-drinking geezers who belly-ached about the weather.  If she wasn’t there, she was at the grocery store stocking shelves and lifting the spirits of customers with her winsome smile.

Pete and Annie were more than father and daughter; they were buddies. There was an inseparable bond between them that was forged on the battleground for her health. Annie had everything going for her and everything against her.  She had cystic fibrosis. Pete had one mission in life: keep her safe and alive.

I travel so much that I had lost track of them until a neighbor asked if I had heard about Annie’s failing condition; it was bad and growing worse each day.  It is such a helpless feeling to watch good people struggle with such horrible tragedy.

Pete had always done an amazing job of raising Annie by himself with, of course, the help of his mom, Grandma Jane and their family. Pete could have driven all the way around the world three times with the number of miles he racked up with doctor visits and hospital stays.  His primary job was to take care of Annie so he did whatever odd jobs he could to make a living that gave him the flexibility to be there for her when she needed him. She needed him a lot.

I kept up-to-date on their story by reading their Facebook posts  as I traveled.  Often, when she was in the hospital, they would talk to each other on Facebook.  She once posted a John Wayne saying for her Dad, “Life is hard: it’s harder if you’re stupid.”  Then she wrote personally, “I said what I said, take it however you wish.”

Or he would say, “Annie’s surgery went good today. It was funny; she was in recovery room and she told me the surgeon took her phone and changed her ringtone. I said yep, you’ll have that sometime.  A little nutty but fine.”

My favorite line was of him saying, “Good morning, baby girl.”

The day Annie died, she wrote these words. Since then, Pete has had those words tattooed on his back:

If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. If you don’t write, draw, sketch, create, the rough feel of a pencil will begin to feel foreign caught in a grasp between your fingers. If you don’t paint with punctuation, your sense flow will start to chop, sputter, and dry. Your straight line will have a subtle curve. If you don’t use it, you lose it.

Annie inspires me create.  She also inspires me to fight life’s battles with courage and a sense of humor. I take her advice daily. I use it so I don’t lose it.

Pete inspires me to put my family above all else.

They are my heroes.


Ice In A Bucket

The Ice Bucket Challenge: Proof That People Want to Do Something Practical To Make the World a Better Place


I lost the audience’s attention in about two minutes. Usually, as a speaker, I can keep it for a bit longer than that, but his audience folded their arms and checked their watches.  On the long drive home, I pondered what I had done wrong. I was trying to get them to help me feed starving people and showed them photos of emaciated faces and distended bellies of children and adults, but they didn’t seem to care. I finally figured it out; I was giving them a problem, but the only solution I gave them was to donate money.  They were in a poor area and had no money.  They needed a different option; they wanted to do something practical. They cared very deeply; they just wanted another option.  The recent Ice Bucket Challenge is evidence that people care, they just want other options.

My Facebook feed is a reminder that people want to do something practical to end suffering.  More than just write a check to a charity, people want to do something about the problems of this world. We want new options.

Short videos are posted of people either self-dumping or having friends dump a bucketful, a trash-can-full, even a front-end-loader-bucket full of water over them.  It’s the rage and I’ve been challenged, too.  It’s a hundred and four degrees in Kansas these days so that water felt good.

We are so bombarded with horrible images of suffering, war, disease, pain, hunger, tragedy, and Justin Bieber being stupid, that we can be overwhelmed with life’s miseries.  The Ice Bucket Challenge steps is an activity that gives me, the average guy, something fun, socially engaging, and practical that I can do to feel like I’m actually doing something to eliminate the disease.


Packaging Meals for the Hungry with Outreach, Inc.

Years ago, after I decided to engage in the fight against hunger, I faced the challenge of trying to get people passionate about the cause. On one of my trips to Nicaragua, I discovered a bag of food that had been packaged in the U.S. by volunteers. Finally! There was something practical people could do to fight hunger!  I was fascinated so I called the founder of the organization –Lyle Mullins – and flew to West Virginia to watch my very first meal-packaging event. I was hooked. I asked him what I needed to do get set up and he told me to call Floyd Hammer with Outreach, Inc., in Iowa.  Since then, I’ve watched literally hundreds of thousands of people do something practical and fun at meal-packagings to end hunger and they love it.

Every charitable organization in America wishes they had come up with the idea of dumping a bucket of cold water over someone’s head.  People who work in charities sometimes feel like beggars asking for money from donors, but the Ice Bucket Challenge is proof that donors want more; they want to do something practical to make the world a better place.

Excuse me; I have to go clean up the mess I made.

What other ways of practical engagement have you seen or participated in that helped people make the world a better place?


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The photo used in the heading was purchased at istock.


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