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

jack plane

Getting Back to the Basics


The legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers- Vince Lombardi- would gather his players around, hold up a football, and say, “This, gentleman, is a football.”

I have a woodworking shop full of mechanized equipment, but nothing feels quite as good as grabbing a jack plane with a razor edge and smoothing a piece of oak. Every once in a while, I have to get back to the basics.

I made a promise to a starving girl year and myself many years ago that I would spend the rest of my life feeding hungry people. I started out doing it in-person as a direct service; taking truckloads of supplies into some of the hungriest villages in Central America and Africa.

I don’t do any direct service anymore, but I work for an amazing organization, Outreach, Inc., that in the last ten years has facilitated the packaging of over 260 MILLION meals for the hungry. I also serve on the Executive Board of the Alliance to End Hunger in D.C. and co-chair their Advocacy Committee.

I’m incredibly involved- indirectly.

To make sure I keep my focus, I frequently open my photo library and look at the places I’ve been and the people whom I indirectly serve.

For me, I have to know the why before I can fully engage in the what.

Reminding myself of why I do what I do keeps me the bullseye in the center of my sights.  This photograph is of a child in the largest refugee camp in the world, Dedaab, Kenya. I took this in 2012.


This is why I do what I do.

What do you do to get back to the basics?

If you’d ever like to get involved in the fight against hunger, please let me know what I can to to help!  Email me: rick.mcnary@gmail.com




Young Orangutan, young Pileated Gibbon and young Bonobo hanging on ropes against white background

My Serenity Prayer: Not My Circus; Not My Monkeys


I grew up listening to enough Thee’s, Thou’s, Thy’s, and Thine’s to believe that God only spoke in 15th Century English.  Shakespeare with his where for art thou? and the Psalmist David with his thou makest me to lie down in green pastures made it hard for a Kansas country boy to read 500-year-old English and watch the characters jump off the page.

But I learned a trick; paraphrasing. In some circles, I would be labeled a heretic, but I learned to create my own version.  Where the heck are you? replaced wherefore art thou? and I took a nap in the hay field was a reality I embraced more than he maketh me lie down in green pastures.

Now, I have my own version of this popular serenity prayer originally penned by Reinhod Niehbur.

 God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.

The serenity prayer is based upon the determination of personal responsibility. It assumes we recognize a problem and then asks us these questions:

      • Can I fix this?
      • Do I need to fix this?
      • Am I being asked to fix this or am I butting in?
      • Do I have the skills needed to solve it?
      • Do I have the authority to implement solutions?

Here is my paraphrase:

Not my circus; not my monkeys.

I loathe wasting time, resources, worry, and sleep on things that I can’t fix. I have expended a lot of mental energy fighting battles that were simply not mine to fight nor were battles anyone could win. I’ve become quite cautious about getting sucked into the drama of others.

Sometimes it is my circus; sometimes they are my monkeys; sometimes I need to throw myself passionately into providing order to the chaos.

But sometimes it’s not my circus; they are not my monkeys.

Wisdom is determining which circus I buy tickets for.

 The photo used in this blog was purchased from istock.com


once upon a time

What is the Story you Tell Yourself?


I’m still not sure why we didn’t get killed or end up on life support, but I do know that it all started with the story the young girl in the red SUV was telling herself.

Recently, I was pulling our camper with my wife riding shotgun on a stretch of Kansas road called a Super Two; a road with narrow shoulders along each side instead the pavement immediately giving way to a deep ravine. Dotted along the shoulders are broken down vehicles, boat trailers missing a tire, and dead deer.

I was doing the speed limit and my truck was drinking gas like drunk at happy hour. I watched in the mirror as the young woman in the red SUV pulled out to pass. I looked at the oncoming traffic approaching rapidly and assumed the SUV would sidle in behind me until there was room.

Nope: she decided to go for it. I started moving over the rumble strips, looking for broken down cars, and wondering when I’d have to go cross country through the barbwire.

A hundred questions looked for answers: Was she playing chicken? What were the drivers in the oncoming traffic going to do? What if she didn’t move? What if she decided to take the shoulder? What if she came my way instead? Did the drivers behind the first oncoming car know what was happening? Did I remember to put clean underwear on?

It all began with a story the driver of the SUV was telling herself. From where I sat, I can only assume this was the story she was telling herself:

      • My life is so full of urgency I will take unreasonable risks
      • My car has enough rocket power to close the gap
      • If I don’t get out of the way, others will
      • I’d like to scare the living daylights out of a least a half-dozen people

She involved each of us on that stretch of highway in her story. She caused us to tell our own stories about what was happening and try to guess what stories the drivers in the other cars were telling themselves. Fortunately, we all ended up telling the right story because there was no crash. She finally pulled  to the other side and stopped. I’d lay odds she didn’t have clean underwear on anymore.

Life is a story. Sometimes we have to react to the stories others are telling themselves, but drag us into.

And always, always, always, we act on the stories we tell ourselves.

Our life’s story depends on us telling ourselves the right story.


Photo purchased from Istock.com 






Creating V.A.L.U.E. for Your Volunteers


It was January in Kansas in 2010, and volunteers stood in a line one-hundred yards long outside the Kansas Coliseum. As one security guard said to me, “You’d think this was a rock concert!”

It wasn’t. It was volunteers who stood in line for hours waiting to package relief meals being sent to Haiti after the earthquake. In two days, over 12,000 volunteers packaged 1.25 million meals for Haiti.

I was leading an organization that, in the first six months of 2010, engaged over 120,000 volunteers from California to Connecticut to package 20 million meals for people devastated by the earthquake. One elderly gentleman, with tears streaming down his face, thanked me as he left the arena and said to me, “I’ve never done anything that significant in my entire life.”

Since I’ve worked with volunteers for over 30 years, I came up with an acronym that helps me as I engage volunteers:

V.A.L.U.E. - Value. Affirmation. Length. Understanding. Exit.

V- Value

Did you know the IRS actually places a monetary value on your time volunteering? In Kansas, it is $17.85 an hour.

As volunteers scan the horizon looking for the right organization, they want the best bang for their buck (or their time). In the business world, it is referred to as ROI; Return on Investment. People want to know that their time spent has value.

Therefore, it’s critical that you communicate to them how valuable their involvement is to the success of your organization. What your organization does has to make the world a better place in which to live and it’s your job to let your volunteers know that.

A- Affirmation

Volunteers need a lot of attaboys or attagirls to keep them coming back for more. They need you to tell them that their work means something and is appreciated. Pass out compliments and gratitude as often as you can. Find simple ways to reward those who keep coming back. A $4 t-shirt will get your more PR than a $1,000 add in the newspaper.


Time is as valuable to people as their money. You will insure volunteer satisfaction and return engagement if you can set a length-of-time expectation. Whether it’s an hour, a day, a year, or five years, people like to know they have a certain window of commitment. If they want to come back for more, then that’s there choice rather than making them stay way past an agreed upon time.

U- Understanding

 Communication is the key to success with a volunteer. It’s important that they are given clear instruction about what to wear, when to show up, what door to enter, and what to look for when they arrive. Confused volunteers will turn around and leave. Come up with a list of FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions). It will help a lot!

Volunteers also need clear instruction on the task that is being asked of them. If people don’t know what they are doing, how to do it, or why they are doing it, they get discouraged quickly. Furthermore, it’s imperative that you communicate to them the bigger picture of your organization and why their role is so necessary in the grand scheme of life.

E- Exit

Providing a graceful and congratulatory exit for volunteers will determine whether they come back. They will remember the last feeling they had when they leave so it’s important that when their time is up, they receive a pat on the back, congratulations for a job well done, and an invitation to return. People want to feel appreciated when they leave

Volunteers want to make the world a better place to live.  Let them know they made your world a better place, and they’ll keep coming back for more!

If you need to encourage people to volunteer, you might read my blog; An Easy Way to Add Pleasure to Your Life: Volunteer!

If you want a great volunteer event that engages people of all ages AND helps feed the hungry, please consider having an Outreach Meal Packaging Event! The photo used in this blog is of an meal packaging event in Florida.

What secrets have you learned to create success with volunteers?













Treating People With Dignity: The Key to Any Success


One was our junior high football coach and his breath smelled like a fermented dishrag used to wipe ashtrays. If we went after water during 100-degree heat, this Marine drill-sergeant-turned-teacher called us sissies. To see how tough our stomachs were, he made us lay down on our backs, raise our heels six inches off the ground, then walk on us with his 6’2’, 240 lb. body. Walking on the bellies of junior high boys has the same sound effect as walking on whoopee cushions. He screamed that his purpose, as he grabbed our facemasks and spit in our face, was to make us football players. I played for him one year and hated every minute of it.

We lost every game.

The other was our freshman basketball coach; a laid-back music teacher who loved the band Chicago. He played almost every instrument, but his favorite was a coronet. I never heard him yell at any one. If someone messed up, he gently pointed out how they could have done it better, patted them on the back, and sent them back in the game as quick as he could. He understood the difference between playing with emotion and playing with passion; he taught us how to play with passion.

We won every game. I never practiced and played harder for anyone than I did for him.

When I reflect on the leaders who motivated me the most, my first thought goes back to my freshman basketball coach. If I had to point at anyone in my life and say, “I want to be that kind of leader!” it would be him; Jim Phillips. I’ve pondered through the years why he could motivate me to work harder, sacrifice more, come earlier and stay later than others. I’ve finally settled on a few things.

      • He genuinely liked us; because of that, we worked hard not to disappoint him.
      • He treated us with respect and assumed that all deserved dignity.
      • He pointed out our mistakes with gentleness.
      • He made us believe we were one team, yet each one of us unique and individual contributors.
      • He rewarded us for genuine hard work.
      •  He was tough; he would not tolerate disrespect for himself or others.
      •  His charm could disarm a nuclear bomb.
      • He seemed more interested in making us men than making us basketball players.

I never saw Jim get riled. I never saw him kick chairs like Bobby Knight or punch players like Woody Hayes. He sauntered when he walked; we called him Joe Cool.

He understood that treating people with dignity is the key to any success.


The photo was purchased at istock.com 









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