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We are not here to be realistic. We are here to change reality. Don’t be foolish: we aren’t going to end hunger by the end of the year. But don’t be overly cautious: we can end hunger someday, and we can do it by feeding one person at a time. ‘Being realistic’ is too often code for being too cautious, for backing off the big idea, for playing it safe. ‘Being realistic’ too often means: don’t take the risk; don’t dream big. I wonder who the first person was to look at a plan to eradicate smallpox and say:…
One of my pet peeves is the marketing tactic I call ‘free-not-free.’ For example, a nonprofit consulting firm or software company might offer a ‘free’ white paper with research and advice on fundraising, social media, web design, or a dozen other subjects. All you have to do is enter your contact information in the little form. What you expect is cutting edge research and professional advice on a real problem. And maybe a welcome email and the occasional update from that company. At most, a weekly newsletter. What you actually get is a nice infographic or booklet of information you…
Once upon a time, a woman went to a park with coolers full of 100 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. She gave the sandwiches out to anyone who came to her. Some people took a sandwich and left. Some people took a sandwich and, a little while later, came back for a second one… or a third… or even a fourth. Some were children and some were adults. Some were dressed in rags and some were dressed in business suits. Some said ‘thank you’ and some did not. After a while, she had given out all of her sandwiches and…
For people who are low-income, it can be surprisingly difficult to obtain identification. The reason for that is surprisingly simple: you need proof of identity (and often residency) in order to get proof of identity! This creates a vicious circle where not having documentation of your identity means not being able to get proof of your identity; and not having proof of your identity makes it harder – if not all but impossible – to get documentation. This is something that most people – people who aren’t in this vicious cycle – don’t realize. Since I recently encountered some…
There was a time – when I was younger and had more free time – when I argued with people on the internet. A post or article or comment would touch a nerve and I would spend hours or days in an unproductive back-and-forth with friends, family members, and complete strangers. Then, eventually, I stopped doing that. Things still touch a nerve, but more often than not I pause and think about whether that particular thing is worth spending time on. Sometimes it is, and I respond. Most of the time, though, it isn’t. I know that I won’t…
One of my favorite psychological concepts is the fundamental attribution error. The basic idea is that we tend to attribute the actions of others to their character rather than their circumstances. When we see someone speeding and weaving in and out of traffic, for example, we tend to think that their reckless rather than thinking that they’re trying to get the emergency room. It doesn’t say anything about our own behaviors and how we interpret ourselves. It simply says that we tend to interpret the actions of others as reflections of their character. And that’s a problem. It’s a problem…
There are Christian congregations across the country who pride themselves on their charity work. They run food pantries and clothes closets and soup kitchens. They take up collections for Church World Service or Heifer International or Operation Smile. They hose English as a Second Language classes and blood drive. in the appropriate seasons they collect food for community Thanksgiving meals or Christmas presents for low-income children or coats for the homeless. They send volunteers to other organizations. They are the hands and feet and words of Jesus. They are doing the work of the body of Christ. They are…

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