Structures of Grace: The Business Practices of the Economy of Communion by John Gallagher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I have long been interested in a business model based on The Golden Rule. This book presents a case study approach to ten such businesses who are members of the Economy of Communion which is a world wide organization dedicated to the common good. If you are looking for a refreshing paradigm for business then this book is a must read for you.
Jesus Freak: Feeding Healing Raising the Dead by Sara Miles
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Couldn’t put it down. It’s an incredibly well written book. I read her first book and was familiar with her. I also volunteer in a soup kitchen and a food pantry and have lived some of the same journey that she shared. I too see Jesus in the people we serve. Like Sara both the pantry and the soup kitchen are like church. They are definitely a community and they are a huge part of my life. I like Sara too because she is unorthodox and she brings a welcome freshness to holiness and what it means to be holy while remaining wholly human.
A few months back I purchased some surplus iPads from a local school district. I had intended to use them in an after-school program where I am a volunteer. When I discovered that I didn’t need them because we already had enough computers I laid them off to the side. A little over a month ago a young woman I had met at Mass at Mount Irenaeus announced on social media that she had been hired to teach at Peace of the City in Buffalo, New York. I asked if she could use these extra iPads. She thanked me and said, “Yes.” Soon thereafter I received a call from their business official who told me where I could bring the tablet computers. I drove to the city and followed the directions of my GPS. I took a reluctant tour of a neighborhood on the west side of Buffalo that not too many non-residents have seen. Eventually I got to the site which is the site of a former Catholic school. I knocked at the door and soon a staff member came to let me in. I dropped off the iPads and a Chromebook and had a short visit with the business manager and quickly left the neighborhood. As I drove away I thought of the children and how each day they came to this school and what an oasis of learning it must be in one of Buffalo’s less lovely neighborhoods. I thought of how little choice they had of their lot in life. Soon after my visit I got a nice thank you from their teacher, Emma on Facebook and then a note from the school too. What I didn’t expect to happen was the lovely note that came in today’s mail from Emma and a few of the students who had gone out of their way to craft lovely cards of their own creation. That really touched my heart and made me want to do more. Thank you to Emma and the children of Peace of the City who are truly a blessing in my life. Peace.
I’m walking to support the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in Olean, New York next month. Suicide has touched the lives of many. Perhaps someone you know has struggled with depression. I’m walking because my life has been touched by members of our community who have been affected. Please help us to raise awareness and funding for this cause. Peace and all good.
Follow this link to donate
Thank you Pope Francis for the words of your exhortation, Evangelli Gaudium. You have spoken powerfully. In his own way this pope has touched the lives of millions of people around the world who have been praying for a prophetic voice. When Jorge Mario Bergoglio was selected as the successor to St. Peter few people realized the effect this humble man would have on not only the Catholic Church but the world in general. I remember the morning prior to his selection that I prayed that we could have a pope who spoke with a prophetic voice like John XXIII. My prayers have been more than answered. This is only part of his Apostolic Exhortation, but it’s been getting a lot of press because it challenges the status quo. Many times since March 13, 2013 I have thought, “Gaudium Magnum, Habemus Papam.” Thank you for answering our prayers, Holy Father!
53. Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.
Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a “disposable” culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the “exploited” but the outcast, the “leftovers”.
54. In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase; and in the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.
This is a great concept and my son Devin actually did this for total strangers last spring at a fast food enterprise. It makes me proud to be his father but more importantly to consider how I can contribute to others. Imagine how you can pay it forward for someone else.
A Gift Economy at Karma Kitchen | KarmaTube.
[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/29671761 w=640&h=360]
Video from KarmaTube
Chade-Meng Tan’s talk gave renewed hope to an idea I had for a model economic development and empowerment for youth that promotes the greater good. Last summer I participated in a course at St. Bonaventure University’s Franciscan Institute. It was called, “Retrieving a Franciscan Philosophy for Social Engagement.” As part of the course I was required to come up with a timely application of the principles which we were studying. The following is taken from a paper I wrote this summer.
“Life reduced to its simplest equation is about relationships. Implicit in these relationships is contract. Most of the time the contracts are implied and at other times in the are complex legal agreements governing business transactions. We live at a time and in a culture that is desperately looking for a response to life that is grounded in principles that respect both the buyer and the seller. Principles that invite not only common property but value for what we can call the common good? Some might argue that such ideas are too idealistic and that nowhere is there any evidence that anyone has successfully applied such an approach.”
Chade-Meng Tan’s talk provides evidence that such principles are used very successfully at Google. Glad to have found this talk and thank you to TED for publishing it.
I first became acquainted with open source software in the mid-1990s. My brother James asked me if I had heard of Linux. I had not heard of it up until that time. A few weeks later I bought Red Hat 5.0 at the nearby Staples. Now, the open source model applies to more than software, but then even the thought of working for the common good appealed to me. There was after all a higher calling in this work. It reminded me of the early Apple II days when people shared their work and their code.
In the years that followed I became sold on the utility of open source software and the concept of working for the greater good. I believe it’s possible to sustain oneself while at the same time providing a valuable service to the customer. It’s a win-win proposition. Open source software really fueled the development of the internet. Platforms like WordPress, Twitter and Google itself run on open source. But what does the future hold and can the open source model be applied to other ventures too. This summer I came across an open source eye ware manufacturer in the United Kingdom called Botho. This quote taken from their “Why Botho” page really sums it up.
Open Source is about listening to our community, understanding our needs, developing solutions and facilitating our growth in a selfless way.
“Facilitating growth in a selfless way”. That’s really the heart of open source and social enterprise. That’s appealing to me.
Earlier today I was reading Joan Chittister’s book, “Becoming Fully Human.” It’s a great read and filled with bite sized quotes from Sr. Joan and others. One of those morsels resonated with me.
The purpose of life is to let God work through us to make the world a better place for every living creature. Anything less than that which calls itself sanctity is a sham
I’ve been thinking a lot about social enterprise and how well this desire to make the world a better place for every living creature fits in that paradigm. Are there ways to earn a livelihood that make the world a better place for every living creature? What does such an enterprise look like? When I think of social enterprise I think of Grameen Foundation and Kiva which allow micro finance that empowers entrepreneurs and others looking for financial assistance. In a time when greed seems pervasive it is ennobling to see businesses designed to help the neediest among us.
Earlier today I came across a quote from St. Francis of Assisi. I really liked it and it’s something that’s related to one of my earlier posts, “An Orientation to Social Welfare.”
“We have been called to heal wounds, to unite what has fallen apart, and to bring home those who have lost their way.”
What am I doing to heal wounds? Do I look to be helpful to those who have lost their way? What can I do to unite what has fallen apart? Helping others and being cheerful actually lowers stress both for the initiator and the receiver. Another of St. Francis’ prayers states that it is better to give than to receive. Caring for others invariably winds up being care for ourselves. Economy is strongly connected to community. And community is invariably about care for the other.