One Big Issue - Bullying

This is a copy of the text of my column that appeared in the Nebraska City News-Press last week regarding the issue of bullying in our schools. As you may know I, and eleven of my fellow community members, are running for a seat on the Nebraska City Public School Board. A few weeks ago, one of those candidates, Matt Watkins, asked a question, “What is the one issue you would like to see the school board address?

The overwhelming response was the issue of bullying. Matt has said that one of the main reasons his kids are now attending Lourdes Central Catholic was because of bullying and the response to that bullying. I know bullying happens everywhere, and it doesn’t stop with kids. I’ve seen church members be bullies, I’ve seen board members be bullies, there are presidential candidates who are bullies, there are state senators who are bullies. I’ve seen bullying at every level of human from 5-80 year olds, I’ve seen in corporations, small businesses, non-profits, you name it. Bullying is a problem.

It’s a problem because the bully, for the most part, feels inadequate. All they know how to do is harass, belittle, and intimidate. There are as many reasons that people become bullies, as there are bullies. I would also venture a guess that if we took a long look and were honest with ourselves that each and every one of us has been a bully in someway at sometime in our lives.

According to StopBullying.gov:

“Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Both kids who are bullied and who bully others may have serious, lasting problems.

In order to be considered bullying, the behavior must be aggressive and include:

An Imbalance of Power: Kids who bully use their power—such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity—to control or harm others. Power imbalances can change over time and in different situations, even if they involve the same people. Repetition: Bullying behaviors happen more than once or have the potential to happen more than once.

Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.”

I would disagree with this definition but only because I would not limit bullying to “behavior among school aged children”. Other than that I think it’s spot on.

I will admit that I have been a bully in the past, I will also admit to having been bullied in the past. I’m not proud of any of it, but it is part of my story (and I’m not just talking about when I was a kid). I’m also sure that they are related. After being bullied, when I got the upper hand I became a bully, because I felt like I had to take control or assert my dominance or show how important I was. Luckily, I had people in my life that would tell me to cut it out.

Now, as a parent, I want to know if you see my kid bullying other kids or your kid. If my child is exhibiting any of these bullying behaviors I want to know about it. I want their teachers, staff, and administrators to tell me, I want their Sunday School teachers to tell me, I want other parents to tell me.

Don’t demonize my kid, do let me know that there is something I need to address at the home. It’s hard enough as a parent to raise kids, it takes a community to raise positive and well adjusted kids. Some kids (and some adults) in our town have a good support system that will help them learn and grow. (Sometimes that support system makes the problem worse, but that’s another column). A lot of kids (and some adults) don’t have the support they need to grow. It’s up to us do better, as a community.

We can do better by speaking up, we can do better by teaching rather than punishing, we can do better by engaging rather than gossiping. We can do better to stop bullying in our schools and in our community.

 

 

This I believe...

A man came into my office this week to ask me about my column, my work as a pastor, and my identity as a Christian. He asked me about a particular belief that is held by many in the Christian tradition but certainly not all. It is not a particular belief that I have and I do not believe it to be foundational for following of Jesus as the Christ. It got me to thinking. A heard about a pastor that would write down a statement of faith every January and if his faith had not shifted, opened, grown, or changed he knew that the coming year would involve some serious spiritual work. You see we are not designed to remain stagnant. Our faith is to be a living faith, not one set in stone; it is to be rooted in Christ (if you are a Christian) not sealed in monuments. We can never fully know God, yet we can always seek God, and seek to know God more. In John Calvin’s systematic theological treatise called The Institutes of the Christian Religion Book One Chapter 1 says, “Without knowledge of self there is not knowledge of God… Without knowledge of God there is no knowledge of self.”

From what I know about myself and from what I know about God, from the authoritative witness of Scripture and prayer, is that actions are more important than words. Throughout the Hebrew Bible the prophets are decrying the worthless festivals, the books of Amos Chapter 5 and Isaiah Chapter 1 come to mind. In our study at First Presbyterian Church this season as we move through the Gospel of Mark, we find that Jesus has an immediacy about him. He wastes no time with long-winded rants, fancy robes, or state of the art worship centers. Christ comes to preach the Good News, and the Good News is not in words but in his actions, his healing, his forgiveness of sins, his breaking of bread with all comers, his seeking out those who are outcast and bringing them in.

All of this is about action. I’ve been to glorious worship services that felt and sounded like rock concerts in which I knew I was in the presence of God, I’ve been to mighty cathedrals all across the world, and stood in awe of the craftsmanship and sheer majesty of place. I’ve worshipped in tin roof steel buildings in the woods of Nicaragua. All of these mean nothing if they do not inspire me to action, if they do not call me to “repent (turn), and believe in the good news.” (as Jesus says in Mark 1: 15) then they are like a clanging cymbal.

If they don’t push me, drag me, coerce me into loving my neighbor more deeply, to blessing those that curse me, (both behind my back and to my face), to breaking bread with the outcast (you know, “those people”), to feeding the hungry (the physically and spiritually hungry in Nebraska City), clothing the naked (those without cover from family and friends and those without proper clothing for the weather), forgiving more (even though I really like holding grudges), listening more to those whom I have hurt (even when I think they are wrong), speaking up and speaking out in the name of justice (even when it isn’t politically or socially popular), and being open to conversation (with those I disagree and with those I agree because the Spirit works through all of us). If my faith in Jesus Christ, as my Lord and Savior, only calls me to go to church on Sunday morning or Bible study on Wednesday night, to feel good about myself, or to ensure my ticket to Heaven, then I believe I have missed the point, I have not heard the Good News.

This is but a piece of what I believe but it is foundational to my understanding of the God and myself. My parents taught it to me, I will teach it to my kids, and I will proclaim it to all who will listen or see. As Saint Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the gospel always, use words if necessary.”

I hope that my actions reveal my faith; I hope that I live up to the standards that God sets for me and I set for myself. I know I will stumble, I know I will fall down. I share this with you to ask for your help. I’m asking for you to hold me accountable. I’m asking for a relationship with you so we can work together to bring about the kingdom of God. If you think I’m not living into the faith articulated here, if you’d like to hear more about my faith, or what’s in the Bible come talk to me, I’d love to share a cup of coffee or a meal with you. Better yet, come to our Wednesday Night Bible Study at 6:00 PM, Sunday School at 9:15, or worship at 10:30.

At dinner every night, my family goes around the table and shares their high points and low points of the day. We call it “Favorite” and “Not Favorite”. Here are my “Favorites” and “Not Favorites” of the week.

Favorite: By the time you read this, I should be landing in Maui with my family for a weeklong family vacation with my in-laws. I’m really excited.

Not Favorite: I think my son is getting cabin fever or something. He is bouncing off the walls at home and at school. I’m hoping the sun and being outside will calm him down a little.

Diary of a Dad- Expectations

IMG_0182_2I have been asked to contribute a weekly column to our local newspaper, The Nebraska City NewsPress, my goal is that people are reminded that they are loved, they are not alone, and that we can do positive things together as a community. Here is this week’s column, it’s called “Expectations”. A couple of weeks ago I was traveling so I loaded my phone up with podcasts I could listen to on the plane and while I drove. One of the podcasts I downloaded was from NPR called Invisiblia. It’s fascinating, here’s the description: “ Invisibilia (Latin for "all the invisible things") explores the intangible forces that shape human behavior – things like ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions.”

The episode that caught my attention was on expectations. The episode was entitled, “How to become Batman”, here’s the description,“Alix and Lulu examine the surprising effect our expectations can have on the people around us. Plus, the story of a blind man who says expectations have helped him see. Yes, see.”

The idea of a blind man, without eyes, seeing is simply beyond all measure of rational thought. It told the story of  a man, blind from birth, who can , through the use of echolocation (think what bats do to see), live a perfectly normal life. Live on his own, without a caregiver and without any special accommodations. It was a fascinating story and I encourage you to check it out.

The show reminded me of something I have thought for a long time, “People will live up, or down, to your expectations.” If we expect that a child will need to be coddled and protected from any bump and bruise that might come, they will. If we expect that a child will, with appropriate support and supervision, be able to handle the things that come their way, they probably will. I know that’s a little oversimplified but I’ve found it to be true, throughout with my work with both kids and adults.

Every time I’ve expected a child, or an adult, to be difficult, they have been. Often when I’ve been told they were difficult but I expect them to be different and I tell them of my expectations they end up being no worse than the “good” people.

Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can't--you're right.”

Our expectations for our kids, for ourselves, for our neighbors, for our town play a role in how we interact with life and the world around us. If we expect our job to suck, it’s going to suck, if we expect it to be pleasant, it might suck less. If we expect our kids to do the right thing, provided we model it for them, they will probably do the right thing most of the time. If we expect our town will always be the way it is, because it’s always been that way, then it will always be the same with no growth (spiritual, economic, population, or otherwise), no progress, and no vision.

If we expect our town, with proper support and engagement from the community, to do better it will. I know it’s not an overnight shift. It’s going to take a lot of hard work and a lot of shifting expectations, not only from the leaders in Nebraska City and Otoe County but also from its citizens to live into those higher expectations. The thing is, I expect that we can accomplish it. In the book of Ephesians it says that we can do more than we could ever ask or imagine through the power of God that is within us. I believe it is within us to use the gifts that God has given us in our community to expect better, to expect more, and to do more than others think is possible.

At dinner every night, my family goes around the table and shares their high points and low points of the day. We call it “Favorite” and “Not Favorite”. Here are my “Favorites” and “Not Favorites” of the week.

Favorite: Getting to lead Ash Wednesday worship with my wife, she is an excellent pastor and I am a better partner, father, and pastor because of her.

Not Favorite: Westboro Baptist Church

Diary of a Dad- Mutual Forbearance

IMG_0198I have been asked to contribute a weekly column to our local newspaper, The Nebraska City NewsPress, my goal is that people are reminded that they are loved, they are not alone, and that we can do positive things together as a community. Here is this week’s column, it’s called “Mutual Forbearance”. This week I wanted to take off my “dad” hat and put on my “pastor” hat. I know that I’m always wearing both but this week I wanted to focus on a foundational principle of the Presbyterian Church. It is a principle called “mutual forbearance”.

The Rev. Dr. Carlos Wilton describes it like this, “It’s a biblical concept — although it’s a little hard to locate in most English translations, because the word “forbearance” is something of an antique.  Scrupulous readers of the Authorized (“King James”) Version will recognize it in Ephesians 4:2. In the face of persistent church conflict, Paul’s prescription for good health in the body of Christ is “forbearing one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” The New Revised Standard Version renders it “bearing with one another in love.” (http://monmouthstatedclerk.blogspot.com/2015/03/the-marriage-amendment-and-mutual.html)

The Presbyterian Church (USA) Book of Order helps us to put it in to practice this way, “we think it necessary to make effectual provision that all who are admitted as teachers be sound in the faith, we also believe that there are truths and forms with respect to which [people] of good characters and principles may differ. And in all these we think it the duty both of private Christians and societies to exercise mutual forbearance toward each other.”

A lot of that language can be confusing. The Rev. Dr. Wilton does an excellent job of speaking plainly about what mutual forbearance looks like in his recent blog (monmouthstatedclerk.blogspot.com) about issues in the PC (USA) and in an upcoming book about Presbyterian Polity.

“The essential feature of the biblical concept of mutual forbearance is the presence of a third party in the relationship: God. Whether the opposing parties are facing off across a kitchen table or a Session conference table, two individuals in conflict have little chance of permanently resolving their differences unless they first acknowledge their mutual reliance on a higher authority. Such is the message of the Ephesians passage as it recommends, “making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Note that unity in the relationship does not come from the parties themselves. It is unity of the Spirit. Further, the peace that reigns over the two opponents is not something that appears automatically, requiring little effort. The scripture speaks of the “bond” of peace: literally, a chain or fetter. A lifelong commitment to living and working with one another, despite our differences, means sacrificing something of the freedom we would otherwise have, were we not accountable to another.

It’s not unlike living through change as a family. Change does not typically happen, in families, in slow and incremental ways. It happens by leaps and bounds, often driven by the passions of the younger generations, to which the older members eventually learn to accommodate. The younger generations, for their part, come to accept the likelihood that they will never fully convince their elders.

What happens, then? Does the family splinter, its unity destroyed?

Sadly, in some cases this is what happens. Most observers, though, would describe that as a failed family. Its members have failed to do the one thing they were expected to do: to stick together through thick and thin.

What keeps any family healthy and strong is mutual forbearance. It must be intentional, and it must happen on both sides. We bear with each other because we love one another in Christ. That’s the bottom line.”

It seems as if in our town, our state, and our country we have forgotten the concept of mutual forbearance. We have forgotten how to be in relationship with one another. That doesn’t mean that we all have to be best friends or even like each other, but it does mean that we owe it to our neighbors to bear with one another in love. It’s not easy, but nothing worth doing is.

At dinner every night, my family goes around the table and shares their high points and low points of the day. We call it “Favorite” and “Not Favorite”. Here are my “Favorites” and “Not Favorites” of the week.

Favorite: The sunshine and the ability to go play a round of golf with my two kids.

Not Favorite: My house has been sick for the last week and a half. Hopefully, we will finally get better as the nice weather approaches.

Diary of a Dad- Tough Conversations

IMG_0182_2I have been asked to contribute a weekly column to our local newspaper, The Nebraska City NewsPress, my goal is that people are reminded that they are loved, they are not alone, and that we can do positive things together as a community. Here is this week’s column, it’s called “Tough Conversations”. Communication is the key to relationships. Talking about the things we’d rather not talk about is one of the most important things we do. When we disagree and talk about it, it allows for a space to allow God to do the work of reconciliation. When we stay silent we often harbor resentment and hold grudges, it ultimately destroys the relationship that we were trying to protect by not talking about the elephant in the room.

There are good and bad ways to have those difficult conversations, but not having the conversation is worse than having a bad conversation. Sometimes having the conversations reveals something that we would rather keep secret, a failure, a regret, a struggle we are having. Our culture says that we are to be self-reliant, to be independent, to “take care of our business”, that asking for help is a sign of weakness. We’ve also been told that there are subjects that are off limits, religion, politics, money, etc. All of this creates a environment of mistrust and anger, we’re angry that we feel alone in our struggle and yet, we don’t trust even those closest to us to share our struggles. Most importantly, we don’t communicate our feelings to the person who caused them. We’d rather complain to our friends about our neighbor’s dog than walk next door and have a conversation about the dog with its owner.

Franciscan author and priest, Father Richard Rohr says, “Anger that is not transformed is transferred.” It’s transferred on to our families, our jobs, our spouses, our friends, our dog, our kids. We must be willing and able to talk about the hard things, about the things that make us angry, fearful, or resentful and we must be able to talk to those people closest to you or who with whom you are angry, scared, or resenting.

There seems to be a lot of mistrust going on in City Hall right now. There’s a lot of mistrust of City Hall by the citizens of Nebraska City and if you listen you’ll hear a lot of stories about corruption and back dealing and whose fault it is. What we don’t hear is any reason why (other than vague personal jabs) suddenly there is all of this controversy. The Council went on a retreat to, presumably have these conversations and air out their grievances; it doesn’t seem to have worked. There are legal issues at play and there are, obviously, things that do not need to be public knowledge. However, as a citizen who reads the paper ands listens the radio, there is a lot of anger in the air and it’s playing out through sound bites and press conferences.  This isn’t helpful if the Council itself wants to have a healthy relationship, even if the members of council don’t agree, this isn’t helpful for the council if it wants to have a relationship with the people who elected them. This isn’t helpful for us as a city moving forward.

There are good and bad ways to have those conversations. Right now it seems as if there are only bad choices being made. Those bad choices are going to lead to bad consequences not for the council members but for the town, there will be a ripple effect that could last decades. It is unacceptable for this town to be held hostage by people not willing to talk honestly and openly about their anger, mistrust, and fear. Those are conversations that need to happen.

My wife and I are very open with our kids, we tell them their actions have consequences. We explain those consequences. We also let them talk about their feelings, they have a right to be mad, sad, angry, scared, they have a right to have emotions. We also after the storm has passed talk to them about why they had that reaction. Sometimes it’s because one of us made a mistake. We own up to those mistakes and try to move forward together.

We do that for our kids, and I think we owe that to our city.

At dinner every night, my family goes around the table and shares their high points and low points of the day. We call it “Favorite” and “Not Favorite”. Here are my “Favorites” and “Not Favorites” of the week.

Favorite: Watching my kids learn and grow, the ways they develop language, and get excited about learning.

Not Favorite: I had a stomach bug this week that laid me low.

Diary of a Dad- Learn to Think

IMG_0182_2I have been asked to contribute a weekly column to our local newspaper, The Nebraska City NewsPress, my goal is that people are reminded that they are loved, they are not alone, and that we can do positive things together as a community. Here is this week’s column, it’s called “Called Together”.dad tells a story about when I as a little kid and he knew he was in trouble. I was about 5 and I pointed to a piece of wood that was hanging between two rooms, it had three hinges and a knob. The conversation went like this:

Me: “What’s that?”

My dad: “It’s a door.”

Me: “Why?”

My dad: “Because that’s what it’s called.”

Me: “Why?”

My dad: “What do you mean why? Because it is.”

Me: Why?”

My dad: [deep exasperated sigh]

Unfortunately, for some, I never grew out of that desire to know more. I know there were those times in high school and college where I thought I knew everything, but I think we all go through those periods. I like to know stuff about stuff. It’s part of the reason I attended formal schooling for 21 years. I have a high school diploma, a college degree, and two masters degree. All that means is that I know for sure that I don’t know a lot.

It also means that I rarely listen to an answer of “because that’s the way it is” or “because I said so” or “because he/she said so”. I have strong opinions but I try to come to those opinions through gathering of information and, if I come up to or am shown some new information that causes me to change my opinion, I change my opinion. I like to think that I use the intellect that God gave me to critically think about my ideas, assumptions, and perceptions. The trouble is…I don’t think we value that critical thinking piece much anymore. We are told what to think not how to think. Our students are taught the answers to test questions not necessarily how to find the answers. I think most of that has to do with politicians and bureaucrats telling educators what’s best, but that’s for another column.

I know, as a parent, it’s much easier on my psyche for my children to just do as I say, when I say it, but I’m handcuffing them when they get out in the world and they run up against information that I don’t have. I want for my children to learn how to think and process information, so if they learn something that I don’t know, which is a lot, they will be able to judge whether or not it’s useful for them or whether it causes them to change their ideas, assumptions, and perceptions. As I have gotten older, as I have traveled the world, as I have lived all over the country, as I have met lots of different people from lots of different backgrounds I’ve always learned something and it helps to shape who I am and the way I interact with the world. Author C.S. Lewis once said, “There seems to be hardly any one among my acquaintance from whom I have not learned.” I agree wholeheartedly with that statement, even if I don’t always agree with those who I meet.

That openness and ability to think for yourself, to adjust to new information, and to move forward is vital to our health as a city, a nation, and a world. If we only rely on information because our pastor, our parent, our favorite newscaster, athlete, or musician said it we run the risk of being stuck in old ways of thinking while an ever-changing world passes us by.

One of my main goals, as a parent, is to help my children become independent thinkers with the ability to judge for themselves (through experience, study, prayer, and conversation) what is good and right for them. I want them to be open to being wrong and willing to admit it when they are. I hope that we all can learn to think, not learn what to think.

At dinner every night, my family goes around the table and shares their high points and low points of the day. We call it “Favorite” and “Not Favorite”. Here are my “Favorites” and “Not Favorites” of the week.

Favorite: Watching my beloved West Virginia Mountaineers beat the Kansas Jayhawks in basketball.

Not Favorite: I’m a home brewer, I spent six weeks brewing a beer, it did not turn out well. I will now have to dump about 30 12 ounce bottles, $30 of materials, and 6 weeks of work down the drain.

Diary of a Dad- Teach the Faith (January 30, 2015)

c1e69-123I have been asked to contribute a weekly column to our local newspaper, The Nebraska City NewsPress, my goal is that people are reminded that they are loved, they are not alone, and that we can do positive things together as a community. Here is this week’s column, it’s called “Teach the Faith”. I think a lot about my kids’ education. I want to do my best to prepare them to be receptive to teaching and to provide any support I can to their teachers. As my children begin to get more fully engrossed in school I’m sure that I will continue to get involved with teachers, volunteering, and being there to support the classroom teachings at home. If I don’t agree with or I have questions about the lessons or the philosophy of the teachers I won’t complain to my children, I’ll set up a meeting with the teacher and do my best to be open minded and understand their side of the story. My child’s academic education is one of the most important things for me. I trust the teachers called to create a space for my child to excel in their academic growth and their growth as a well-rounded person.

One thing I absolutely do not want my children’s teachers to be teaching them is lessons on faith. As a parent, I am called to be the primary teacher of faith and belief, of values and ethics in my children. It’s not the teacher’s job to teach my child faith, spiritual practices, and religious rituals, it’s not even the job of my child’s Sunday school teacher, coach, or, even, their pastor. That might be shocking to hear from a person whose day job is as pastor, but ultimately the Sunday school teacher, the coach, the pastor are support for the parents.

I don’t want my kids’ teachers to be teaching them about faith; I want them to be teaching them about math, English, history, and science.

As a pastor, I am entrusted to talk about and teach faith to people of all ages, especially children. The dirty little secret of pastors is that there is no way we can have as much influence as an active parent. I have an opportunity to be with people two to three hours a week maximum, even if all that time is spent in critical, deep, faithful spiritual development that’s still not enough to overcome the modeling, the conversations, the actions of parents.

Luckily as a parent, I have support. I have teachers, coaches, other parents, and pastors. Luckily you have an opportunity for support. There are 24 churches in this town to which you can go for support, there are great teachers, coaches, and other parents here to help you to honor your responsibility to pass on ethics, rituals, and faith to our children.

There’s even a group at First Presbyterian Church called MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers).  It’s for moms who have children under 5 years old. They get together about once a month to eat, make crafts, talk about being moms, and help to impart faith. There are other small groups, bible studies, worship services, meals, and many opportunities to find support for each other as we raise our kids to be positive members of society.

If we abdicate our responsibility to teach the next generation, we abdicate our ability to complain about who they become.

At dinner every night, my family goes around the table and shares their high points and low points of the day. We call it “Favorite” and “Not Favorite”. Here are my “Favorites” and “Not Favorites” of the week.

Favorite: The nice weather, I hope I get to play golf this week.

Not Favorite: My wife is on a business trip. I’m all by myself this week.

Diary of a Dad- Pregnant with Possibilities (December 23, 2014)

c1e69-123I have been asked to contribute a weekly column to our local newspaper, The Nebraska City NewsPress, my goal is that people are reminded that they are loved, they are not alone, and that we can do positive things together as a community. Here is this week’s column, it’s called “Pregnant with Possibilities”. The week of Christmas is a big week, there’s a lot going on, school gets out, and the anticipation of Christmas morning is palpable not only in the kids but even in the adults. There is stress, there is excitement, there are short tempers, there is fear. This moment, this week is pregnant with possibilities.

As a dad, as a pastor, I celebrate this time of year the birth of Jesus to a young, scared girl. A young woman, literally, pregnant with the possibilities that lay in store for her son, possibilities she couldn’t have known before his birth. Much like any mother or father who waits with anticipation the birth of their child, there is excitement, there is joy, there is fear, there is possibility. I know when my daughter was born a little over 5 years ago, I was terrified, I was overjoyed, I was uncertain, I was filled with joy, I was and to this day can be consumed with the “what ifs” of my life and hers. What if she becomes President, what if she’s in an accident, what if I’m in an accident, what if she fails, what if she succeeds, what if other kids don’t like her, what if she’s the most popular kid at school, and on and on. Her life, my life, our life is still pregnant with possibilities.

As a father, as a mentor, a role model my job is not to let the fear of what might be, get in the way of the what is, and not to let my fear discount or limit the possibilities that are open to her. Even at a young age, I can, because of my fear, shut down the possibility of who she is and where she might go. I don’t want to let my fear get in the way of her possibility.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, I think about it a lot during Advent most years, because I think if Mary had been guided by fear, the story that we celebrate every year at this time would be all together different, I’m not sure what it would be, but it wouldn’t be the story of a young girl having a child in a manger in Bethlehem.

An angel says to Mary, like over a hundred other times in the Bible, “Do not fear.” I try to remember that every time a possibility comes up for my daughter or for me.

Do not fear the possibilities.

I think Nebraska City is pregnant with possibility.

On Tuesday night I went to the Steinhart Lodge to see what possibilities students from University of Nebraska-Lincoln came up with as they presented their Development Plan for our city. I was amazed at what I saw, they had ideas for beautiful entrances to our city, an amazing and inviting Heritage Center downtown, a concert venue on the outskirts of town, an expansive and exciting Otoe Market in the old Morton Kitchens location, a versatile new marina, and the two things I was most excited about, a comprehensive trail system connecting all around the city and a multi-sport complex with opportunities for baseball, softball, and soccer tournaments near our new pool. The whole project is pregnant with possibilities.

We have now seen the possibilities and there is reason to be filled with excitement, there could also be a little fear because what if, it doesn’t work?

I don’t believe we can live by fear; we must live in the hope of what new things will be birthed in our lives. The possibilities are endless, our streets, hotels, and stores filled with families in between games of their weekend tournaments, their siblings playing at our outstanding, new pool. Families, like mine, running and riding bikes on the new trails, children walking to school safely through the new trail system. Spending a night out at a concert, being proud to invite friends and family to town throughout the year. It’s exciting, it’s joyful, it’s a little terrifying, and I can’t wait to see where it goes.

I invite you to learn about the new plan, find out how you can help, and get involved as we, together, move Nebraska City through the birthing of these possibilities.

At dinner every night, my family goes around the table and shares their high points and low points of the day. We call it “Favorite” and “Not Favorite”. Here are my “Favorites” and “Not Favorites” of the week.

Favorite: The excitement and energy that is building around the possibilities for our town.

Not Favorite: The fear that keeps us from realizing the opportunities we have.

Diary of a Dad- The Season of Thanks (December 2, 2014)

c1e69-123I have been asked to contribute a weekly column to our local newspaper, The Nebraska City NewsPress, my goal is that people are reminded that they are loved, they are not alone, and that we can do positive things together as a community. Here is this week’s column, it’s called “The Season of Thanks”. This is the week of the year that we have decided to be thankful. We celebrate Thanksgiving with turkeys, mashed potatoes, dressings, and that one dish that no one can make as good as Grandma. We celebrate a fairy tale of Pilgrims in wide brimmed hats and big buckled shoes breaking bread with Native Americans in headdresses and moccasins. We wake up early on Friday morning, or go out after dinner on Thursday evening, to push and shove to get the “best deal” for another load of things that we keep buying in hopes that they will make us happy or our kids happy or will finally bring us fulfillment.

We do this every year and on December 26 we’ll say, “I’m not going to do that again.” It reminds me of the times you might wake up after working out too hard, or partying too hard, or staying up too late. You wake up sore, bleary eyed, and tired saying, “Wow, that was rough. I’m never going to do that again.” Yet we do it, over and over and over. We never get off the hamster wheel of consumption and pushing down our feelings with food, drink, and presents. We never actually stop what we are doing or how we are living, we just keep consuming, because that’s what our society tells us is the most important. GO SHOP! It will boost the economy, which will provide jobs, which will provide opportunity for everyone. If we only shopped more we could save our country.

Today, my heart breaks for our country, because I’m not sure it can be saved.

This week the issues in our country and how we deal with one another are being blasted all over every news station. People are protesting in cities all over the country, from Ferguson, to Los Angeles, to New York City and I don’t blame them. Regardless of whether you believe that what happened to Mike Brown is just or not, it’s impossible not to see that something is wrong with our country and as much as we’d like it to be different, people aren’t treated equally, white privilege exists, and racism still controls much of our attitudes toward people that look different.

I could show statistics and tell you anecdotes from all over the country about the way that people of color are treated differently in the United States, but I’ve had those conversations and if you don’t think it exists then no amount of arguing is going to change your position.

This week in the Christian calendar is the beginning of Advent; it is the start of the season that will conclude in the celebration of God coming to the world in the form of a baby we call Jesus. The season is a time of expectation and hope, a season of darkness and waiting, a season of fear and the unknown.

This is the season in which we live, this is the world that we occupy, the place where the violent death of an unarmed teenager can stoke the fires of passion that lead us to change. Even in the fires and the looting and the seeming unraveling of our country I have hope.

Hope that leads us through Advent.

Patricia E. De Jong says, “Hope is what is left when your worst fears have been realized and you are no longer optimistic about the future. Hope is what comes with a broken heart willing to be mended.”

May your heart be broken this season and may you be willing to be mended. Mended so that we can move forward together, acknowledging the real barriers we have to overcome in order to be the “shining light on the hill” that the Pilgrims envisioned. A friend of mine on Facebook posted a quote from one of her professors, “When people want to work together, they’ll overcome any obstacle. But if they don’t want to work together, they’ll use anything for a barricade.” Let us be people that want to work together not people that seek to control the conversation.

At dinner every night, my family goes around the table and shares their high points and low points of the day. We call it “Favorite” and “Not Favorite”. Here are my “Favorites” and “Not Favorites” of the week.

Favorite: Spending this Thanksgiving week with my family in West Virginia.

Not Favorite: Having to drive 14+ hours to have Thanksgiving with my family.

Diary of a Dad- You Are Enough (November 21, 2014)

123I have been asked to contribute a weekly column to our local newspaper, The Nebraska City NewsPress, my goal is that people are reminded that they are loved, they are not alone, and that we can do positive things together as a community. Here is this week’s column, it’s called “You Are Enough”. Are you ready?

Next week starts the onslaught! Shopping, cooking, going to parties, mandatory overtime, end of the year reports, company Holiday parties, kids’ recitals, dinners at church, decorating, you name it we will try to do it in the next month and a half, by New Year’s Day we will be exhausted, if we make it that far.

As we enter into the holiday season, I know for me things can get a lot more hectic and it never feels like I have enough. Enough time, enough money, enough gifts, enough rest, etc., etc. It’s already starting and it isn’t even Thanksgiving yet. We bemoan the idea that stores put out decorations for Christmas before Halloween but that is just a symptom, not the problem. The problem, as I see it, is that we have been conditioned to think that we need to do everything, be everywhere, buy everything or else we are not good enough. Good enough parents, employees, spouses, friends, or family members. I want to say to you today, “You are enough.”

Even if your child doesn’t get the latest and greatest new toy or gadget, you are enough. Even if you don’t make it out to that sale to get the “best” deal on those new towels, you are enough. Even if you don’t get your special pie baked for that family event, you are enough. Even if you miss some of those parties, you are enough.

In our world, we are constantly bombarded by messages that we come up short. To be honest, there are many days that I lay in bed before I go to sleep and I think about all the places I could have done more. I could have spent more time with my family, I could have spent more time at work, I could have spent more time at play, and on and on. Somedays it keeps me up long past my bedtime. Right now I am writing this column in my basement before dawn as far away from my family as possible because they are still sleeping. I woke up and thought about all the things I needed to get done and I couldn’t go back to sleep. It has already started.

I once heard it said, “The things that are most important are often at the mercy of the things that are least important.”

For me, in these last few months of the year, the things that are most important are the same as they have been for the first few, God, family, work (hopefully in that order). So I invite you to remember, as your calendars start to fill up over these next few weeks, to try and keep focused on what is most important for you. Do your best to resist the external pressures of life that pull and push you to do things that are of no importance to you but you have been told should be important. Do your best to say, “No” to some things, find the things that bring you joy (not that temporary feeling of happiness, but the deep, down to your bones feeling of fulfillment that comes with joy). Finally, and most importantly, remember that YOU ARE ENOUGH.

At dinner every night, my family goes around the table and shares their high points and low points of the day. We call it “Favorite” and “Not Favorite”. Here are my “Favorites” and “Not Favorites” of the week.

Favorite: My church hosted an event called Table Talk at the Keeping Room on Tuesday, November 18. It was a great conversation and fellowship around the question, “What is faith all about?” We hope to do more in the future, hopefully monthly.

Not Favorite: Never feeling like I have enough time to do the things I want to do and am supposed to do.

Dairy of a Dad- Tell Your Story (November 14, 2014)

c1e69-123I have been asked to contribute a weekly column to our local newspaper, The Nebraska City NewsPress, my goal is that people are reminded that they are loved, they are not alone, and that we can do positive things together as a community. Here is this week’s column, it’s called “Tell Your Story”. As parents, one of the most important things we can do is to tell our children our stories. Stories about our own childhood, stories about our parents, stories that remind us who we are and where we came from. Sometimes those stories bring us joy, sometimes they are hard to tell, but passing on our stories is critical for our kids to know who we are, and who they are. Lord Acton once said, “Those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it.”

In fact, throughout the course of most of known history, these stories were passed down orally, that is an elder in the community would gather the community around and tell the stories of the community. If you read the Bible, I hope you do, especially in the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament you’ll find that they are written as if someone were telling them from memory. The tribes that are native to this country passed on their traditions this way.

In my family, every time there is a wedding or a funeral or any type of family gathering invariably there’s a point, normally after a meal, when we are sitting back when the stories start to come out. Some of them are new, some of them are old, but always they paint a more detailed picture of the person we are celebrating or give me insight into why I am the way I am. It’s some of my favorite time with my family.

It’s also a tradition with my friends when we get together, which is getting less and less, especially with two of my friends from West Virginia. We’ve known each other for a long time and have had some times and every time we meet the first 2-5 hours are spent reliving stories from the past. This annoys our wives greatly because they have heard the same stories over and over again.

It’s safe to say that I love to hear stories and I love to tell stories. A lot of what I do at the church is about telling stories, telling the story of the church I serve that has been here since 1855, listening to the stories of its members, telling the story of the Gospel, not only through my word but my actions as well, listening to stories about how people’s faith and the faith of their parents and mentors has shaped them. When I’m out in the community, I get to hear stories of individuals, groups, victories, and losses. That’s why you might see me all over the place.

I am convinced that our stories are connected. We are bound together by and with our stories. My story is part of your story, your story is part of my story, our story is part of other’s stories, and all of our stories are part of God’s story. By sharing our stories, our ideas, and our selves with each other we offer an opportunity for us to learn from and grow with each other. It also allows us to know where we came from and give us a vision of where we might be going.

There seemed to be a lot of changes on the horizon for Nebraska City and for the most part I think that is a good thing. We need to continue to share our stories with our kids, with our friends, with those around us because we never know what part of your story will captivate others to live a better story.

As one way to help start a conversation, to start a chance for people to share their story First Presbyterian Church is sponsoring “Table Talk” at the Keeping Room on 717 Central Avenue Nebraska City, NE on Tuesday, November 18, 2014 from 6PM-8PM. We will be asking the question “What is faith all about?”

This is designed to be a conversation, a way to share ideas and stories, a group of spiritual seekers who love good conversation, good food, good wine, & good beer. Come join us for a casual conversation about significant topics along life's spiritual journey.

I invite you to join us and share your story.

At dinner every night, my family goes around the table and shares their high points and low points of the day. We call it “Favorite” and “Not Favorite”. Here are my “Favorites” and “Not Favorites” of the week.

Favorite: The excitement of renewed energy around Nebraska City.

Not Favorite: It’s a pretty good week.

Diary of a Dad- Now What (November 7, 2014)

c1e69-123I have been asked to contribute a weekly column to our local newspaper, The Nebraska City NewsPress, my goal is that people are reminded that they are loved, they are not alone, and that we can do positive things together as a community. Here is this week’s column, it’s called “Now What?” On Tuesday, millions of people around the country cast their votes for local, state, and federal representatives. They voted on propositions, bills, laws, overtures, school boards, water districts, regents, and all manner of things were decided this week.

If you were to glance at my Facebook® timeline you would think either this was the great week or a terrible week. Some believe that we have reclaimed America; some believe we have returned to the Dark Ages. My guess is, it’s somewhere in between. Some of the people I voted for won, some of the people I voted for lost. Some are licking their wounds and some are rejoicing in their victories. Some of the things I was hoping for didn’t work out, some did. I was surprised by some results and some results worked out as I expected. I just don’t think there is a blanket statement you can make about this year’s election, although many pundits, talking heads, armchair politicians, and people on social media will try.

One of the beautiful things about our country is that, according to our Constitution, we, the people, have control of how we are governed and who will represent us. (This point is up for debate in our current political climate, but that’s somebody else’s column to write.) We made our wishes known by our votes, some won, some lost. That happened, the question is…Now what?

As a dad, we try to help our kids understand what they can control and what they can’t. We help them to respond to decisions they have made, live with the consequences, and move forward. We try not to fight old fights. We try to learn from our experiences, make decisions based on those experiences, and try new ways to respond. The thing is, I think we all need to work on that, I even find myself learning while my daughter is learning.

I think we in this country keep fighting old fights; some of those fights need to be fought because they are ongoing. Some of those fights have been decided and we need to move forward, together.

I’m not sure of what’s next, I’m not sure where we, as a town, state, or nation is going, but I do know that the only chance we have is to work together. That doesn’t mean together focusing on our own self-interest but together trying to work for the good of the people, all of them.

This Nebraskan did. Go vote #inNECity! #electionday2014

A photo posted by Greg Bolt (@ggbolt16) on Nov 11, 2014 at 6:20am PST

If you follow me on social media or talk to me for a little bit you probably know that I have some really strong opinions and am willing to share them. My highest value is being inclusive, that means everybody, even if we disagree. Too many times in our current climate, people who disagree are considered the enemy and that’s not helpful, because it’s going to take a myriad of ideas from many different perspectives and political, social, theological, and economic ideals to move us forward.

The votes have been casted, the ballots have been counted, what will you do to participate in making sure we continue to be a great nation.

At dinner every night, my family goes around the table and shares their high points and low points of the day. We call it “Favorite” and “Not Favorite”. Here are my “Favorites” and “Not Favorites” of the week.

Favorite: Halloween with my children at the Ambassador.

Not Favorite: Social media posts that stoke the fires of division.

Diary of a Dad- Get Out the Vote (October 31, 2014)

c1e69-123I have been asked to contribute a weekly column to our local newspaper, The Nebraska City NewsPress, my goal is that people are reminded that they are loved, they are not alone, and that we can do positive things together as a community. Here is this week’s column, it’s called “Get Out the Vote”. This Tuesday, November 4, is Election Day. People will turn out for all types of races, midterm elections for Congress, Governor, State Representative, County Council, City Commissioner, Sheriff, Board of Regents.  In Nebraska City, we even have a vote on a proposed pool. I’m sure you know about these already as long as you haven’t been living under a rock for the last few months.

Our town has been littered with signs of all sizes, every candidate imaginable tried to slap their support sticker on my children as they walked in the parades this summer, and you can’t even turn on your television or radio without hearing some kind of advertisement or promotion from one candidate or another. All the papers have endorsed their pick; there have been forums to discuss issues, photo ops, handshakes, and lots and lots of baby kissing.

Now, you’re probably wondering what a pastor from a small town in Nebraska is going to say about voting, you might even say he’s going from preaching to meddling, but here goes anyways.

I encourage you to do some praying, thinking, reading, contemplating, and learning about the issues and the candidates for the upcoming election. I encourage you to make an informed choice relying on your own intellect, understanding, and faith and go out to your local polling station and cast your vote.

That’s right, I said let your faith guide you in your voting process; don’t leave your faith outside the voting booth.

I read somewhere one time, “If your faith doesn’t impact your politics, you probably don’t take either of them as seriously as you should.” Because I take my faith seriously, I try to follow God’s leading as I step into that voting booth and cast my ballot.

The funny thing is we aren’t all going to be led to vote for the same people or in the same way. In the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s constitution it says, “That “God alone is Lord of the conscience,” That means that you must listen to God and let God guide your conscience to where you feel led. Make your pick, cast your vote, and pray that our leaders will follow their conscience and their faith to lead our city, county, state, and country in a way that will honor God.

The question then becomes, what kind of decisions honor God?

That’s where your faith and God can guide your conscience. We are not a uniform group, but we can be unified and that starts here in Nebraska City and in Otoe County. Certainly, the governor’s race and the Congressional races are important but as for our day-to-day lives, those votes for County Council, City Commissioner, and the swimming pool are vital.

I know how I’m going to vote. I’m going to listen to God, my understanding of the issues, and my faith in those who are running and make a choice. I trust you will too.

The only hope we have to make a difference in our town and our country’s governance is to vote. As we seek to be in charge of our own future and in charge of the future’s of our children we must make our voice heard at the voters box.

At dinner every night, my family goes around the table and shares their high points and low points of the day. We call it “Favorite” and “Not Favorite”. Here are my “Favorites” and “Not Favorites” of the week.

Favorite: The excitement my children have for Halloween and painting pumpkins with them.

Not Favorite: People who are willing to complain but not willing to contribute.

Diary of a Dad- The Wind has Changed (October 24, 2014)

c1e69-123I have been asked to contribute a weekly column to our local newspaper, The Nebraska City NewsPress, my goal is that people are reminded that they are loved, they are not alone, and that we can do positive things together as a community. Here is this week’s column, it’s called “The Wind has Changed”. Something’s different, something has changed, the air feels different, there’s a different wind blowing in Nebraska City, there’s a different feeling, can you see it? Can you hear it? Can you feel it?

I’m not talking about the cooler temperatures and the changing leaves. I’m not even talking about how the fields that surround us have gone from green to brown to barren during the harvest. I’m not even talking about the impending closure of a good portion of the town’s attractions for the season. I’m talking about a sense that I get that we are in an exciting and seminal moment in the life of Nebraska City.

I’m sure that these moments have come several times over our long history. There are moments like this in the lives of towns all over the country, but right now it’s our time. It’s our time to actually do some of the things that people in this town have been talking about for decades. You might ask yourself, how do I know, I’ve only lived here less than two years? I know because I’ve been listening to those of you who were born and raised here, those of you whose families helped charter this town, and have been here for generations. I’ve also listened to a new generation of people, a group of people who have devotion and excitement about this town, those who have chosen to move here to raise families, those who have chosen to return here to make a life when so many others moved away. They are here and they are ready to work, they want to be involved.

All it takes is a chance, a chance for new ideas to come to the forefront before they get squashed down with a chorus of, “We’ve never done it that way!” A chance to take our words and put them into action, a chance to, like a coal miner friend of mine would say, “Be who you say you are.”

We say we are the best town in Nebraska, there’s a billboard that says, “A town so great they built a state around it.”  We say this is a great town to raise your kids in, a great town to start a business in, a great town to live in. If we REALLY believe those things, we should DO something about it. According to the Nebraska City Tourism and Commerce, Inc. we’ve had record sales and record numbers of people coming to Nebraska City to celebrate, to shop, to enjoy our festivals, and all the things we say we love about our town.

The way I see it, we are at a crossroads. We can do the same things we’ve done in the past, we can be led by the same people, we can make the same excuses for why things won’t work or why we can’t do it, we can continue to blame society, the younger generation, the economy, the president, our neighbor, and continue to not take responsibility for how we got here. If we follow this path, it will only lead to a slow, painful death of a town that we all love. We have seen this story played out all over the country as small towns continue a downward spiral to extinction.

There is another path. We can go a different way, we can let new leaders emerge, we can listen to them, we can support them, we can find our opportunities, and we can make a way.  We can decide our own future, a future with more community involvement, more job opportunities, more attractions for families, more things to be proud of, more things that allow us to walk tall and be proud of the fact that we are RED TO THE CORE! Offering for the future generations the chance to say they grew up in the best place in Nebraska, the Midwest, and the country.

I know it sounds like a big, bold move…it is! We won’t fix everything overnight, but there is something in the air, a new wind blowing in Nebraska City. I hope and pray that we can harness it before it floats away.

At dinner every night, my family goes around the table and shares their high points and low points of the day. We call it “Favorite” and “Not Favorite”. Here are my “Favorites” and “Not Favorites” of the week.

Favorite: The new energy and determination I see here in Nebraska City.

Not Favorite: This was a pretty good week, so I don’t have a not favorite.

Diary of a Dad- Big Hairy Audacious Goal (October 17, 2014)

c1e69-123I have been asked to contribute a weekly column to our local newspaper, The Nebraska City NewsPress, my goal is that people are reminded that they are loved, they are not alone, and that we can do positive things together as a community. Here is this week’s column, it’s called “Big Hairy Audacious Goal”. I just returned from a weeklong conference sponsored by the Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church (USA) (the denomination of First Presbyterian Church in Nebraska City). According to its website a CREDO conference is designed “to help PC(USA) teaching elders [pastors] cultivate their spiritual, vocational, health, and financial well-being, as well as their leadership potential.”

CREDO is a Latin word that means “I believe” or, more specifically, “I give my life to”. There was a lot of that time away that was restorative and helped me to focus on being a better dad, husband, pastor, and community member. One of the things that we were asked to think about was a big dream that we had; they called it a “BHAG- Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal” or “Mi Gran Sueno”. I wanted to share my BHAG with you because it will affect you in some way and you have an opportunity to be a part of this big goal if you want to be.

Here it is.

I want to create a scholarship fund that ensures that any senior graduating from Nebraska City High School receive full tuition and fees to a Nebraska state public school or its equivalent, for four years.

According to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln website that amounts to $8,169.50 (http://admissions.unl.edu/cost-aid/tuition-fees.aspx) a year.  That’s a total of $32,678 per graduate from Nebraska City High School. Last year there were 89 graduating seniors, that’s $2,908,342 over their four years.

Now that you’ve gotten up from fainting looking at those figures let’s talk about why I think this is important.

From Indiana University Northwest Chancellor, William J. Lowe, “According to new data, based on an analysis of Labor Department statistics by the Economic Policy Institute, Americans with four-year college degrees are not only equipped for a fulfilling adult and professional life but made 98 percent more an hour on average than those without a degree. And, the wage gap is only increasing, up from 89 percent five years ago, 85 percent a decade earlier, and 64 percent in the early 1980s.” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/william-j-lowe/education-is-worth-the-in_b_5767518.html)

I know that college is not for everyone; I know that not everyone needs financial assistance, but I also know that education and access to education has always been valuable when increasing opportunities for all people.  According to the 2010 censes 17.8% of our population has a Bachelor’s degree or higher, the total for the state of Nebraska is 28.1%, the average for the United States is 30.4% (the first time in history that we’ve been over 30%).

As you can see we are way behind the average and we can do better.

I believe if we can offer great public schools and then guarantee everyone, regardless of merit or need, a chance at a four year degree not only will we attract residents to our town who are interested in better education, better opportunities, and better jobs, we will also offer an opportunity to students to break the cycle of poverty that can lead to poor health, poor decisions, and little, if no, hope.

Like the GI Bill before it, this Big Hairy Audacious Goal gives us an opportunity to invest in our young people and provide a model for how our neighbors around us can get back on their feet and be a part of the next great wave of US History, witnessing to the power of a small town of dedicated people.

“American history has proven that personal and public investment in college and knowledge yields huge dividends. During the past 150 years, the United States emerged as an industrial and economic giant, democratized education through the land-grant and public university system, and became a global leader in science. During this time, continued growth transformed American society and kept the nation strong. It produced a new class of wealthy industrialists, a prosperous middle class, and provided opportunity for all Americans, including generations of immigrants. It also created the world's first sustained upwardly mobile labor force.” Vartan Gregorian (the president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York and co-convener of the June 25 conference at the Library of Congress celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act and the National Academy of Sciences.) (http://www.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2012/07/02/investing-in-education-is-key-to-americas-future-success)

It’s going to take a lot of time, energy, passion, and most of all money, but I believe this big dream is one that can be made a reality.

At dinner every night, my family goes around the table and shares their high points and low points of the day. We call it “Favorite” and “Not Favorite”. Here are my “Favorites” and “Not Favorites” of the week.

Favorite: The King of the Hill Basketball League, it is the most fun recreational league I have ever been a part of even though I am terrible at basketball.

Not Favorite: The lack of housing options for people in transition and in need of help in Nebraska City.

Diary of a Dad- Nebraska City Helpers (October 10, 2014)

c1e69-123I have been asked to contribute a weekly column to our local newspaper, The Nebraska City NewsPress, my goal is that people are reminded that they are loved, they are not alone, and that we can do positive things together as a community. Here is this week’s column, it’s called “Nebraska City Helpers”. I go to a lot of meetings. Sometimes I think my main role, as pastor, is to go to meetings.

Lucky for me I like meetings.

I go to meetings of other Presbyterians, I go to meetings of other pastors, I go to meetings of community leaders, I go to meetings of people just trying to respond to issues, I go to board meetings, I go to one on one meetings, group meetings, and conventions. I go to informal meetings, I go to meetings planned months in advance, I go to meetings that happen on the street, I fly, walk, and drive to meetings, I meet with principals, parents, executive directors, parents, and concerned citizens. Like I said, I go to a lot of meetings.

What I’ve found in almost all of those meetings is that people in this town, in this state, across the country, and across the globe, for the most part, want to help make their situation and the situation of those around them better. Whether that’s better schools, churches, roads, towns, neighborhoods, etc. people are trying to make the world a better place, and I think that’s an admirable goal.

Here’s the problem.

A lot of the meetings I go to, especially here in Nebraska City are just like the silos that surround us, except for the grains of ideas held in them never get spread around to do their job or passed on to the next silo, or used in any way.

That’s a weird metaphor, but here’s what I’m trying to say. We do a great job of working to make our town the best it can be, we just don’t do a good job of working together.

Which means, that effectively we aren’t making our town the best it can be.

Here’s what I am hoping for: if you are on a board, a foundation, a panel, a council, or any other kind of organization that seeks to do good in the world or make a positive impact in Nebraska City, Otoe County, or anywhere else I want you to do a little research to see what other organizations are doing the exact same thing or have very similar goals. This shouldn’t take a long time. Talk to the people on your board, my guess is that they are aware of groups doing other things in town, or even are on other boards seeking to help out. Even better send me an email at (nebraskacityhelpers@gmail.com) about your organization and it’s goals and, if I get a good response I will profile your organization on my column and then we can start to not only work to make Nebraska City the best it can be, but also work together to be successful.

I’ve heard it said, “Many hands, make light work.” So let’s lighten the load and spread the wealth and achieve some of those goals we’ve been talking about.

At dinner every night, my family goes around the table and shares their high points and low points of the day. We call it “Favorite” and “Not Favorite”. Here are my “Favorites” and “Not Favorites” of the week.

Favorite: There are so many people in Nebraska City willing to give their time and energy to help out. The Royals making the playoffs for the first time since 1985.

Not Favorite: Mosquitos