ABOUT RICK

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.

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

Even Monkeys Want Life to Be Fair

12/18/2014

Team A racked up eighteen fouls in the first half of the basketball game and Team B had none. I rooted for Team A, but sat by a friend rooting for Team B. After about the twelfth foul against Team A, my friend from Team B commented, “This just isn’t right. I don’t like watching a game like this even though we are winning. It’s only fun if it’s fair.”

It turns out we all have a strong desire for life to be fair.

Have you hear of the ultimatum game? It works like this:

Two strangers are put in a room and Person A is given $10 with the instruction that he or she has to share with Person B. There are no instructions about how much Person A has to share with Person B, but they have to share. If Person A refuses to share, neither one gets any cash. If person B refuses to accept what Person A gives, neither one gets any cash.

Researchers discovered that almost every time, if Person A did not share 50/50, Person B would refuse the offer leaving them both with out any cash.

“So strong is our sense of fairness that, to prevent others getting more than their fair share, we are often willing to take less for ourselves.” – Peter Singer in The Life You Can Save.

 It turns out that monkeys are the same way. Researchers Brosnan and de Waal discovered that “even monkeys will reject a reward for a task if they see another monkey getting better reward for performing the same task.”[i]

A desire for life to be fair produces:

  • Harmony in the family as all children are treated fairly
  • Productivity in the work place as employees who believe they are treated fairly will be much more engaged and successful
  • A community that can work together because they share the goal of the common good, and the common good always involves fairness

Although most parents have explained ad infinitum, ad nauseam, that life is not fair, most of us still work hard to make life fair.

Peppered throughout the crowd at that basketball game, you could hear people from both Teams A and B shout, “Hey ref, call it the same on both ends!”

Even monkeys want life to be fair.

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Photo purchased through iStock.

[i] S.F. Brosnan and F.B.M. de Waal, “Monkeys Reject Unequal Pay,” Nature 425 (September 18, 2003), pp. 297-299.

 

PUSH signing

Starting a Movement Rather Than Building an Organization

12/11/2014

“I’m far more interested in starting a movement rather than building an organization. If I never have to write a set of by-laws, that will be all right with me.” Dr. June Henton

Almost all of my heroes are people I can hug. I like my heroes to be people I know personally, rather than a  statue in a museum.  Two of them in particular are Dr. June Henton and Dr. Harriet Giles from Auburn University.  They have unassuming offices in Sidle Hall in the College of Human Sciences, but from those offices, they are changing the world.  These genteel ladies with soft southern charm, razor-sharp intellect, and sophisticated elegance are quiet giants in the fight against hunger.

They were approached a few years ago by the World Food Programme to start an initiative to engage universities and colleges in the fight against hunger so they began Universities Fighting World Hunger. I went to a UFWH summit in Auburn in 2008 and, since then, have gone to their summits in Canada, Honduras, and I served on the committee to host the 2013 UFWH Summit in Kansas City (the first ever  hosted by a state-wide collaboration of colleges and universities).  Along they way they started the Hunger Solutions Institute and inspired me to rally the universities/colleges in Kansas to start the Kansas Hunger Dialogue (now in its 5th year!).

Recently, they started an initiative called PUSH – Presidents United to Solve Hunger.  At an historic gathering at the United Nations on December 9 of this year, over 200 people gathered for the signing of the Presidents Commitment to Food and Nutrition Security. Over 50 universities around the world have signed on; more will join.

Here are the ways these two ladies inspire me:

  • Patiently answered my questions; when I was a newbie in the hunger space, I asked them more questions than that annoying little kid in 5th grade who alway has his hand up.
  • Walk with humility in a land full of giant egos; June and Harriet are genuinely kind, affirming, positive, and encouraging.
  • Give place for all ideas; I’ve sat through a few brainstorming sessions with them and am intrigued by how well they give all voices equal honor and consideration.
  • Treat each person with dignity; June and Harriet have incredible reputations in the hunger space- they are legends. But you’d never know it by being around them; they’ll offer you a cup of coffee or a glass of sweet tea and will be intrigued to hear your opinions.
  • Realize that sometimes the snowball just needs pushed; the things they create morph into something much larger than they could ever manage themselves.
  • Are content to let others create; when we set up the UFWH summit in KC in ’13, they gave a little input, but said it was our baby and we could raise it how we wanted. That kind of freedom allows leaders to flourish.
  • Genuinely care; of all things that inspire me most about them, is that they are caring, compassionate people.  True compassion eliminates egos and joins people together to create positive impact.

“Hope is not a plan,” June remarked at the UFWH Summit in Honduras in 2012. “We need a plan.”

Together, they started a movement that now includes tens of thousands. I’d say their plan is working.

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The above photo is courtesy of Kathy Hamilton.

 

 

 

Bob Regier

The Man Who Restored My Sight; Bob Regier

12/05/2014

My alma mater – Bethel College – didn’t know what to do with me when I arrived; I was a non-traditional commuter student and didn’t have a Mennonite heritage. A name like McNary didn’t fit their roster of Claassen, Busenitz, Thiessen, Unruh, Friesen, and Juhnke. However, they graciously made room for me and I hammered out my degree while raising 3 young sons.

Like most freshmen, I signed up for the easy classes first like Art Appreciation.  I walked into my first college art class with nerves jangling like ten-year-old who just downed three shots of espresso and half-a-dozen Krispy Kreme donuts. Little did I suspect that my first college class would reshape the way I saw the world.  Forever.

Bob Regier was the Art Professor. Bob is a gentle man with a kind voice and accommodating speech.  He turned the lights off and we heard the hum of the slide projector and the click-shush-click as each image advanced.  Bob captured the images with his camera, images of things I had seen before. However, he gave me a new way of looking at them. One image I still recall was the typical sunset on a  Kansas wheat field, but taken from an angle I had never seen.  Bob showed us a new way to see the world.

Later, I realized that that class was almost a religious experience for me.  Since then, I see the world with different eyes. I saw art for a while when I was a child, but lost my eye-sight after one-too-many rebukes for coloring outside the lines.  I ended up taking many art classes  in college; I settled on photography as my favorite expression.

Bob taught me the difference between enjoying beauty and power of contemplating beauty in a 45 minute class.  Since then, when the stuff of life gets overwhelming, I park myself in front of a sunset, find a bench in the local art museum, discover a new vista in the Flint Hills of Kansas, and let the hidden language of beauty whisper in my soul.  Beauty heals; beauty inspires; beauty calms; beauty informs. One of my favorite books is The Evidential Power of Beauty: Science and Theology Meet.

Bob will have a showing of his art beginning with a reception this coming Saturday, Dec. 6 at the Carriage Factory Gallery in Newton, Kansas.

I look forward to seeing his new exhibit and shaking hands with the man who restored my sight.

Who has helped you see the world with a new set of eyes?

If you would like these short writings delivered to your inbox, please go to the “sign up for blog” page.” I promise never to spam you or give your information away.

The image of Bob belongs to Carriage Factory Gallery.

GT_text_arts

It’s Giving Tuesday: How to Choose a Reputable Charity for Your Giving

12/02/2014

Today is Giving Tuesday. It was started as a way to balance the commercialism of Black Friday with a way to engage the nation in a national day of giving to the charities of your choice.

So how do you pick a charity? Here are a few questions to determine if your money is going to a reputable organization.

  1. Are they rated by these two nonprofit watchdogs?

 Charity Navigator

Charity Navigator

Guide star

Print

 

2.  Do they have an IRS 990 on file?

A 990 is a form that nonprofits file for public record. Transparent nonprofits have these on their websites. If not, Charity Navigator and Guidestar will have them. If you can’t find them, let this be your first red flag.

 

  1. How much of each dollar goes to program versus overhead? There are some major nonprofits who spend very little of your dollar on actual program needs. The lower the % of overhead, the more you’re assured your dollar goes to helping people.

Caveat: For years, Charity Navigator and Guidestar have rated nonprofits based on a low overhead. Nonprofits had to bend to that measurement and argued there needs to be better measurements. As a result, the CEO’s from Charity Navigator, Guidestar and BBB Giving came out with a letter about The Overhead Myth.

My favorite charity is Outreach, Inc. I bought 25 million meals worth of ingredients and equipment to package meals for the hungry from them, then I joined their ranks two years ago. I travel frequently with the founders who refuse to pay more than $75 bucks for a hotel even in DC and drive a 2001 car. I can personally vouch for the frugal mentality of this amazing organization that has facilitated the packaging of over 260 million meals in the last ten years, help over 1,000 street children in Africa with meals and a school uniform so they can get an education, and have a 8,000 acre farm in Tanzania they are developing to help local smallholder farmers make a living. Yes, I’m unashamedly suggesting you choose them as your favorite charity. You can donate here:

For further reading about charity and the good reasons why your life would be more enjoyable if you got into charitable giving, I’d suggest these books to read:

The Life You Can Save; How to do Your Part to End World Poverty- by Australian philosopher Peter Singer

Begging for Change: The Dollars and Sense of Making Nonprofits Responsive, Efficient, and Rewarding for All – by the amazing Robert Egger who is a personal hero

Forces for Good; The Six Practices of High-Impact Non Profits – Leslie Crutchfield and Heather Grant examine 12 nonprofits to determine best practices.

 If you would like these short writings delivered into your inbox once or twice a week, please go to the left of the page and hit the “sign up for blog” button. I promise never to spam you or give/sell your information to anyone.

Gather Friends Like Flowers

Tips for Those Who Loathe the Holidays

11/27/2014

Does your Happy Holidays suit not fit anymore?  You don’t want be labeled an Ebenezer Scrooge so you put your Happy Holiday suit on but it just doesn’t fit; the buttons are missing, the legs are too short, and the hat has a hole in it.

You know you loathe the holidays if…

  • You scream at the radio station for playing Christmas music right after Halloween
  • You boycott any store that has a Christmas promotion before fall actually begins
  • You’d rather have a root canal than go Black Friday shopping
  • You want to punch people dressed up like elves
  • You shudder at the the thought of eating a meal with family members who don’t like each other yet pretend like they do a day or too out of the year
  • Pigging out all day long troubles you deep in your soul because you know that millions are starving
  • You feel that traveling to various holiday festivities is like lemmings running into the sea

Here are a few tips that might make this season brighter for you;

  • Do something good for someone that can’t pay you back
  • Start a new tradition that is meaningful to you and/or your family & friends
  • Take a trip to a new part of your state or country
  • Set boundaries; it’s okay for you not to join in all the reindeer games
  • Spend more effort on honest relationships instead of fake ones
  • Be selective on who you spend time around
  • Learn a new hobby
  • Take a class; knowledge is a great mood-lifter
  • Get lots of sunshine and exercise; scientists call it SAD- seasonal affective disorder- Vitamin D and exercise helps
  • Don’t let someone else’s standard of joy get you down. Grab the season by the horns and make it something you enjoy rather than endure

It’s okay if you don’t find joy in what others say you should; create your own.

What tips do you have to make this season brighter?

If you would like these short essays in your inbox a couple of times a week, sign up for my blog. I promise, I will never spam you or give your information to anyone.

The photo is mine. I photographed it north of Augusta, Kansas a couple of years ago.

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