Monday, March 31, 2014

Creating a Ripple

Events from this past week have me thinking about the ripple effect. All of us who serve others hope to see the ripple effect in action, though we do not always get to see the fruits of our labor. I definitely believe in the ripple effect. I firmly believe one small act of kindness can lead others to pay the act forward; therefore, our actions have a much bigger effect on the world around us than most of us realize. However, truth be told, I cannot say with any certainty that I have witnessed the ripple effect as much as I wish.

This completely changed this week, and I just want to take a moment to share this tiny event with you. I went out for Breakfast Burrito Ministry, as usual. I met a lot of the regulars and talked story with them. As usual, I had to drive around town to find some of the other folks who prefer to stay hidden. Along the way, I noticed many new faces. This is not unusual. I tend to see more new faces when the weather gets warmer.

One of the new faces was going through the garbage at a 7-11. I hopped out of my car to offer him a burrito and a water. He was very happy to get a warm meal. He also wanted to talk for a minute, so I happily obliged. During our short conversation, a construction worker walked by us. The construction worker gave me a weird look - which is also not unusual, and then went into the store. I was about to head back out to see who else I could find. As I was getting into my car, the construction worker walked out of the 7-11, looked at me one more time, smiled, and then went over to the man and asked him if he could buy him something to eat or drink for later.

It was amazing. The construction worker went in and bought him a couple of things, came back out, gave me a nod, handed the guy some food and drinks, and then took off. I had finally seen something other than dirty looks and condescending stares. This construction worker saw what I was doing, and he wanted to do the same. Moreover, he did so expecting nothing in return. It really blessed me to see someone else do something for the homeless. I only hope others will do the same.

Anyway, I just wanted to share this with you all. Sometimes it feels like our efforts don't help at all, but we don't always know how we are creating change in the world around us. If you can make a difference in the life of even one individual, I believe it is completely worth it. To see others try to help is also pretty incredible. Keep at it. It's been over year since I have seen anything besides people giving me dirty looks or making rude comments about helping those in need that they perceive as unworthy, but every so often you see something amazing that shows you that it is all worth it.

Thanks for reading! Have a wonderful week, everyone!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Lessons from H.I.M. 2014: Fr. Greg Boyle

This past weekend I attended the H.I.M. Conference in Honolulu. H.I.M. is the largest conference in the state and offers numerous amazing speakers from all over the world. To talk about all of the people I had a chance to meet over the last few days would take quite a while, so I will focus on one speaker here.

One of the amazing people I got to meet and learn from was Fr. Greg Boyle. Fr. Boyle runs Homeboy Industries, which is the largest gang intervention program in the nation. I was eager to meet and speak with him because of my work with those on the margins in my own community. Although I have been serving the homeless, drug addicted, troubled youth, and other marginalized groups in my area for a while, like many people, I still have questions and need encouragement from time-to-time. Working with these groups is a continual learning process.

One of the things I wanted to hear him discuss was what kind of advice he might offer to someone who is unsure of what to say to a homeless person, gang member, drug addict, or any other troubled person he or she may hope to serve? In response, he mentioned this: "The minute it's about imparting wisdom or saving lives, it's over. It's about connecting. Can you receive people?" One of the things he firmly believes in is the importance of just being there. It isn't about having just the right thing to say or accomplishing your own agenda. One of the ways you can help is by simply showing that you care by showing up and taking the time to just be there.

This was timely advice. The number one comment I get from people who also want to serve the homeless or other marginalized group is: I'm not sure what I can do. As result of being unsure, they usually end up doing absolutely nothing. The truth is: just being there is often enough. Taking the time to show you care at all for a person often means more to them than you may ever realize. I agree completely with Fr. Boyle's remarks. The main reason I have had any success serving the homeless in my community is that I show up. I talk to them when no one else will. And even more important than talking with them, I listen.

If any of you are interested in serving others, I urge you to go out there and give it a go. Do small acts of kindness for folks in your community. Start somewhere where you feel comfortable, but start somewhere. Remember, it's about making a connection. You can make a difference. However, I can guarantee you won't make a difference at all, if you do nothing. Have a wonderful week, everyone!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Results from Read an E-book Week 2014

This past week I participated in Read an E-book Week 2014. My book, Beyond Heights and Depths, was free on Smashwords. As I have written before, I have had trouble getting any promotions going on Smashwords. The results of previous promotions were terrible. However, I had no problem getting behind this one because I already participate in multiple efforts to promote reading in general.

I love to promote reading because I believe reading is incredibly important. When Smashwords emailed me about participating in Read an E-book Week, it was a no-brainer for me to participate. I really wasn't sure what to expect. I don't know what it is about Smashwords, but giving away books with them is one of the most difficult tasks imaginable. I have never reached anywhere near the kind of success on Smashwords as I have through other channels.

However, I was pleasantly surprised to see a small increase in this promotion. I gave away somewhere around 20% more during Read an E-book Week than I did during the previous promotion only a few weeks earlier. In my opinion, the major difference was Smashword's involvement with the promotion. Normally, there is no involvement on their end. In fact, I am pretty sure I have never seen another promotional event on Smashwords besides this one. Overall, I am pleased with the results, but please keep in mind that I had very low expectations for this promotion to begin with.

How about you? Did anyone else participate in Read an E-book Week? What kind of results did you achieve? I would love to hear about your successes or frustrations with running promotions on Smashwords. So far, I have not found anyone who has had great success with Smashwords. Tell me about your experiences. Thank you everyone and have a great week!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Participating in Read an E-book Week 2014

Life sure is funny, sometimes. Last week I discussed my failures promoting my book through Smashwords. Specifically, I ran into problems promoting my book with the coupon feature. I had no intentions of giving up on Smashwords yet, but I was unsure of what to do next. Smashwords does not have many of the options or benefits of promoting on other sites.

A few days ago, I received an email from Smashwords asking if I would participate in "Read an E-book Week 2014." Unlike other promotions, I have no problem getting behind this one because I already participate in multiple efforts to promote reading in general. I read to kids on a regular basis. I also participate in field trips for preschoolers to check out the local library. I help with book fairs. I try to participate in anything that promotes reading.

I believe we need to promote reading as much as humanly possible. It's sad how far reading has declined over the years. One of the worst comments I hear on a regular basis is, "I'll wait for the movie to come out because I don't like reading." I know more people who use their Kindle Fire to play games than to read books. As a result, I meet a lot of kids who don't like reading because the adults in their lives do not read. They fail to understand how important reading is, until it is too late. Take it from me, a person who made it to college before I realized I had the reading level of a child: reading is very important!

If you're an author on Smashwords, consider participating. If you are already participating,  great job! Let's keep promoting Read an E-book Week. Readers, there are thousands of books for sale at discounted prices, and many are free. Browse through the catalogs. Find something you like. Above all else, keep on reading. Have a wonderful week!

For those of you interested, my book, Beyond Heights and Depths, is free this week with coupon code: RW100.