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On searching

“Search,” it’s an interesting word. I’m in the midst of it. Again.

I once worked for an organization whose first name was this. What does it actually mean? “Search – to look into or over carefully or thoroughly in an effort to find or discover something.” “Carefully” and “thoroughly” are big words. They indicate it’s not just looking casually, even into or over, but this done to a deeper extent. More deliberately. Taking longer. Learning more. Pondering.

Regarding the organization I worked with which was named “Search Institute,” it had originally been established to carefully and thoroughly look at issues related to Christian youth ministry. Over time this had broadened out to positive youth development (PYD). We were a staff of about 40 or so broken into about 5 or so different teams while I was there. Each working with PYD from a different perspective.

At present, my own search “institute” is just me. Moi. One team of one. Along with several search engines which help me find possible new opportunities. Which I send applications out to which mostly remain unanswered. Now some are still in process, but that’s an unknown as well. So in a way it’s like sound which doesn’t echo back. A conversation where only one is talking, making a case about their value, without knowing if the other party is even listening (have they looked at my materials yet? did they look at my materials and decide no? if no, how much of my materials did they actually look at?). As more and more requests go out, it’s too easy, if you’re not careful, for each lack of response to subtract a little from what you started with, indeed of who you are. Because offering your time and talents to an organization is a personal thing to do.

One needs to remember some organizations are looking for very specific people. I was told the last time I was doing this, someone as unique as a “purple cow.” As in there is probably only one person out of hundreds who fits the job. Which most certainly means one shouldn’t personalize it all. 

So what are the knowns?

  • currently unemployed. I know how long this has been. (I don’t know how long this will be.)
  • currently searching for what comes next. Have found about 20 or so possibilities, with resumes out to about 15. Three I sent out in October so most likely no longer in play, another 10 or so still in play–maybe. 

And the unknowns:

  • lots, as in too many questions (what comes next? for whom? how long will this take? etc.)
  • I have very little ability to answer any of the above unknowns. Only very loosely in terms of where I apply

So what to do? Live in the moment. Keep trying. Don’t personalize. Trust the next one will come. Because it will. In fact, you could say it’s already on its way.

And find other things to do as well. As life is so much more than just a job.

And to the question “Worry?”

The great response is, “Will it help?”

The answer, of course, is, “No.” 




* On the bus heading home

It’s just after noon and we’re headed home. Our kids are tired. They’ve had a very busy couple of days. From breakfast at 9 to lights out at approximately midnight. With 2 teaching then discussion sessions, am and eve, and all sorts of fun in between, including at meals. Amazing the energy high schoolers have! And their youth directors.

Me on the other hand, not so very much. Brave thoughts I had before this trip started? Totally flattened by the time I shut off the lights in the room I was chaperon of with eight 10th-12th grader’s that first night. Fortunately day 2 I was joined by a great university student I know who very ably took over from me. And I’d recovered pretty much by Saturday. It just takes me a bit of time to adjust to flat out energetic high schoolers that greatly outnumber me and are just coming back to the room from the outdoor hot tub at 1230am.

So what things did I see in the last 72 hours?

* Last night I watched high schoolers–all wearing special headphones–attend a black-lit dance where they had 3 different DJs to pick from at any time depending on which channel they chose. Seeing a room full of people wearing headphones with lights on the ears was very strange. If you weren’t also wearing your headphones it was even stranger as people don’t really sing along as much as saying bits and phrases.

* 300 kids singing their hearts out with/at the live band they stood face-to-face to, sometimes jumping up and down, sometimes swaying back and forth.

* 2 giant hot tubs full of a hundred or more kids on a windy night when it was in the 30s and most kids walked back wet to their cabins a block or two uphill through the wind.

* high school boys in the room next door pulling out and starting to use a megaphone at 1245am. I must have looked scary when I told them to stop as I never heard or saw it again!

* a karaoke night that went on for over an hour with most kids ‘singing’ 1 and many 2 or more songs, all in groups of 2 to 20

* a speaker, a Lutheran woman pastor from St Paul, who talked about “Keep church weird” with her presentations in the following order: doubting Thomas after Jesus’ resurrection, the Christmas story, Jesus kicking out a demon (‘demons’ of addiction, racism, etc.), rest in the midst of insanity–rest the disciples didn’t end up getting while with Jesus as crowds were following him everywhere–and finally Blessings, this one dressed in an orange costume of some kind.

* On the bus heading out of town

Sitting in the back of a big coach bus with 40 some youth and 3 young adults. On our way to a Young Life camp near Pelican Rapids (about 3 hrs NW of St Paul) for a long weekend youth retreat. Our high school youth director was able to get 40 some very busy high schoolers to do this.

And here sit I all almost 61 yrs of me. Why you may ask? Why indeed. There are several reasons: One – to be helpful to/supportive of our Youth Directors. On these trips they work at least 7am to midnight assuming their kids sleep from midnight to 7am (which they don’t always do.) B. – Because it’s an absolutely fascinating world to dip my toes into. High school for me was a long time ago in a far away land. Literally. As in the ‘deep south’ of Madagascar as those in Tana, the capitol city, described it. Where you could fit the entire HS of my school into this bus with room to spare–at 10 students my class was large. 3. – The program is always amazing and the folks who lead it all are wonderful.

Things at work have been tough lately. It will be good to get out of town for a few days.

And we’re off!

* On being “ethnographed”

anthropologistsThere are quite a few of us living here in the greater Minneapolis/St. Paul area who have worked in Madagascar as Lutheran missionaries. Several years ago an interesting person appeared. A grad student. Doctoral. From a very good Big Ten school. But not just a grad student. Someone with ties to our past. Our long ago past. In my case, related to the person who around the turn of the century assembled the house I grew up in. Which is in a small town on the southeast coast of Madagascar then still called Fort Dauphin. So the wooden frame house, which was shipped prefab from Norway in a Norwegian sailing ship around the turn of the century, had been built by her great-great-grandfather.

She had moved here to the Twin Cities for a year or so to do an ethnography for her dissertation. Of us. As in those of us former Lutheran missionaries to Madagascar who were now living in the Twin Cities who helped out at one of two local but international Lutheran nonprofit efforts that provided medical supplies and equipment to the Lutheran medical system in Madagascar.

She came and settled in, like good doctoral grad students doing ethnographies do. When I met with her I clearly remember talking over the Human Subjects form for her study, one of the longest and most complete I’d ever seen. And I also remember wondering at the time what we were in for? As I had done a mini-ethnography as part of my own dissertation. So had some idea of what it involved. Including the implications of where the person doing it was coming from?

And she joined in on the work of both of the nonprofits. Being present at most of the things that I showed up for.  What she focused on was work done by both nonprofits to identify medical supplies which were donated or were being disposed of by medical institutions here in the US, that were worth being shipped to Madagascar for use in Malagasy Lutheran hospitals and clinics. It involved collecting a wide variety of things from various sites (something I helped with), then bringing them to the warehouse space of either nonprofit where they were sorted,  with anything not meeting standards discarded. The rest was sorted into that which was packed and shipped to Madagascar in containers. Those items identified of good quality but not useful for Madagascar were provided to other organizations which shipped them to other countries. It was a very slow, hands-on process as each medical item had to be evaluated.

And in the midst of it all was our very own ethnographer. Researching us. Helping us in our efforts, apparently writing up her findings at other times as I never saw her writing up notes when I was with her.

Then she was gone. Off somewhere writing up her dissertation. Until it was done. At which point I was able to get my hands on a copy–if any of us she studied saw a draft before it was published I don’t know who they were. She went on to earn her dissertation and landed a job in higher ed. Her reworked dissertation ended up being published by the U of Chicago. So she did very well through it all. And continues to do so.

And us? Well, like a lot of folks around the world who’ve been “ethnographed,” we have gone down in history, described as she chose to write it up. But there are a few things about it all that concern me.

For one, the method she used of making us “anonymous” was laughable. We are a small community here in the Twin Cities. There were 2 organizations at that time sending medical supplies to Madagascar. About the only attempt, I see that she made to protect identities was to change names. Which means absolutely nothing to those of us who know who we are. And anyone else doing even just a very brief amount of research about us. So “anonymous” we are not.

And then there are some of her statements about us:

  • Like “Aid workers’ [this would be us] labor with medical discards [makes for more interesting reading but is way too simplistic a term] thus operates as a cultural practice in which to reconfirm one’s commitment to God through the sorting and selection of useful things.” What for her is a “cultural practice” is for us a way to live out our faith which has a much deeper meaning to us than just a cultural practice.
  • Then there’s “Downplaying the discards’ previous lives is a way of attempting to make them anew, pressing these institutional ‘end products’ into a new future…” This in reference to the reality that some of what she saw being shipped overseas had the name of the hospital they were from on them (staff clothing or sheets for example). What she describes as”institutional ‘end products'” in this country, with no future in Madagascar is to display a gross misunderstanding of the challenges of seeking to provide health care in that country. Again, she’s the one who’s put it into writing, complete with her own limited understanding of the realities of what health care is like in Madagascar.
  • But maybe most disappointing is how this author so easily labels what is being sent, with love, across the seas to Malagasy sisters and brothers, for health care they are providing with it as “socialities of waste.” To a naive grad student, perhaps, who hasn’t faced the realities of medical care–actually mostly the lack thereof–in most of Madagascar. But to Malagasy facing better health care due to these supplies, it’s hardly “waste.”Would this study and its results have been different had said grad student needed health care during her very brief time there? With Malagasy medical experts using “waste” to treat her? Hopefully maybe. But possibly maybe not.

    The above quotes are from, an article based on the research done by the above-mentioned grad student to do her dissertation.

* Kavanaugh, Sept 28, 2018

“This is a circus. The consequences will extend long past my nomination. The consequences will be with us for decades.” Kavanaugh, Sept 28, 2018

I’m watching the Republican Senate ram through Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court, a Judge who the media tells me is “theirs” (when did the Supreme Court–all of them–stop being ours?!), refusing to let us find out what really happened so they don’t have to deal with it. Does the Republican leadership know? Why else would they not let the FBI investigate to prove how good a candidate they have picked?

If the Republican Senate is successful, through the decades, every time l see Kavanaugh’s face I will remember this. Having watched more of yesterday than was good for me, I believe Kavanaugh did what Dr. Ford said. If it was something he doesn’t remember that changes nothing. He should NOT be appointed to the Supreme Court.

My friends who are Republicans. If Kavanaugh is appointed by the Republicans, to me this signifies there is such a great fear of T and his “base” that some of your best people are even bowing to them. I assume most of you do not agree with much of what T and most of what his base does/do. You have a very serious problem which seems to be getting worse.

* As the “burdens” of taxation are lifted we need to work harder on holding our society together

As someone who has a front seat on a range of our nation’s education and social service systems, public and otherwise, one thing which shouldn’t get lost in all that’s going on is, as the “burdens” of taxation are lifted, especially for those with more and even more so for those with a great deal more, we need to work on holding our society together. While

mpls tent cityso many have the capability to buy more and more (those who didn’t crash back in about 2010), our public schools are relying on donations and volunteers to do things which used to be funded. Things as basic as repainting classroom walls, providing tutors to students needing extra help, etc.

In terms of social services, private donations now send food home with kids on the weekends in school backpacks so they have something to eat before they come back on Monday (see Sheridan Story video clip below or…/…/volunteer-for-sheridan-story/), a growing proportion of our homeless are working one, two or even three jobs without earning enough to have a place of their own, a growing number of our seniors have become reliant on food shelves and other types of assistance and the list goes on.

How can we respond to the above? One approach is to just argue and live as you have what you’ve earned. If you make more money then it’s your right to buy more stuff. If you don’t have much or even enough then that’s your fault. That’s how much of the 3rd World Works. Poverty goes from bad to obscene while the wealthy drive very expensive sports cars and live in “guarded” communities with high walls, barbed wire, guards and dogs. It’s ugly.

Surely we can do better my friends!

And if you think not, then go spend some time living in a 3rd World Country (in a house not in a “guarded” community for at least 6 months, not a fancy hotel for a couple of nights). You’ll see what I mean.

* What do Tiggers do best? (part I)

Back again to a place I’ve spent way too much time in if you ask me. As in not much clarity about what is happening in at least some parts of my life and even less regarding what it means moving forward?

Some time back–several transitions ago–for reasons I don’t remember, I spent some time pondering the implications of the story, “What do Tiggers do best?” Poor Tigger, asking himself what Tiggers do best?, bounces (literally) to his various friends to see if he is good at doing what they do? Sadly for Tigger and for his friends–as Tigger leaves a series of big messes behind with each friend–Tigger is not good at what they’re doing. Finally, Tigger bounces his way up to the top of a tree, saying that this is what he does best….until he looks down. And is appalled and totally freaked out to see how high he is above the ground! So he needs to be rescued to get down again as he is not able to do this on his own given how tightly he is hanging onto the tree.

However, in going through this experience he realizes what Tiggers really do best–bounce!

So bouncing again it may be. I think I understand what I’m (not) hearing correctly but it’s not being said at all directly and what I am being told is quite confusing. But yesterday I bought a Tigger for my desk to help remind me of my many bouncing experiences and indeed abilities! Time to again see how well I bounce!

how well you bounce