“Saving five cows out of the cow industry of Iowa is nothing. It’s not even close to a drop in the bucket, but the impact that these five cows can make is huge. To have a place that people can come out and see the animals, and meet the animals, and pet them, and see how they interact, that’s how we plant the seeds of helping them get to where they can be more mindful of the choices they’re making.”
Eric Gutschmidt has seen the sunrise from the top of a temple in Myanmar. The sun blossoming pink and dewy in the sky, the silhouettes of ancient temples on the horizon. He’s been to more than forty countries, seen more of the world in the last five years than most people experience in a lifetime. Eric has also seen the inside of a prison cell. There he felt the weight of a system designed to crush a person. He decided this couldn’t be his life.
People won’t get a cancer screening because of how they think they’ll feel if they get a bad result. People act in corrupt ways to get a promotion because they think it will drastically improve their lives. But people are flawed in predicting what they want and need in their life because of the focalism effect.
“I know this sounds a little corny, but I’ve really liked Iowa; I’ve really liked Cedar Rapids in particular,” said Mario. “I think it’s a much better place to live. It’s a much better corner of the world than people who live here even imagine. I don’t think they can fathom how nice this place is when compared to the world at large.”
We call her “Susan the Hatmaker” with all the affection the title can carry. This woman was willing to send her address to a stranger (who texts with improper grammar, no less), to make him a hat, to respond with an open heart. Who is she?
“I do great business during white elephant gift-giving season. A lot of people buy them as gag gifts, but many others have told me that I’ve saved their lives.”
“On weekends we’d go to parties from house to house with their friends and neighbors. My grandparents and their friends would play cards and dance. It was an honor if I got to step in for my grandmother. It fueled my love of Irish dancing.”
The problem is, she’s not normal. She’s outstanding. She’s strong and intelligent and caring and has overcome experiences in her life that most of her peers–thankfully–will never have to face. Her history, her abilities, and her grit have shaped her into a person that others will always treat as special, because she is, well…special.
I always try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt so that I can make a fair assessment of them. And I think that if you can’t get to that point as an adult, you will be seriously handicapped in whatever you’re trying to accomplish, because good people come in all shapes, forms, and sizes, but so do bad people. And sometimes you just gotta do the hard work and sit down and get to know a person before you can find out who’s who in this world.
Everywhere I go with Jean Brenneman, she can find someone she knows. She loves to make friends. She’s a very outgoing person, but even when she’s not trying to strike up a friendship, people seem drawn to her.
Like many places in the Philippines, powerful storms and flooding were a frequent problem. “I remember the lights would go off,” Elwie explains, “and we used to make shapes out of our hands with the candle light, and we would make our own little canoes and we’d canoe through the neighborhood. The water was only like a foot deep, but we were kids, so it seemed so high to us. So we would canoe through our village and get everyone smiling, waving at people and flinging the water. We made the best out of what we had.”
(Click below to read Elwie’s full story.)
“Let’s start off with food being free and not poisoned, and then let’s see how many social justice issues remain.”
When Jacinto was 12 years old, he left his parents and siblings in Guatemala and set out on a journey to Iowa. He came to the very heart of the nation which had devastated his own for decades. The nation that funded the killing of his uncle and thousands of others was the same that provided him with a new future.
“I decided I was going to be a different person. I was never going to lie again, never going to cheat, never going to put myself around people who were not good for me and were not going to help me out in life and were not about good things for their own lives. And once I made that change, that choice, I feel like things just sort of started clicking. And I’ve noticed throughout my life that the more I make those kind of choices, the more good things happen.”
“As a kid I would look out my second-floor window, and I would see guys across the park shooting at each other. I remember times hearing stories of people dying. We would be in what they call the projects. That’s where we lived. And I would be walking, and my mom would say, ‘Hey, you smell that? That’s a dead body.’”
“When I hear him talk, I hear myself talking. I don’t care if it’s the golf course or the garden, we’re both dealing with children. What I love about it too is having people approach me in public and acknowledge that some of the same stuff I’m teaching in gardening is directly applicable to the content and life skill stuff he teaches and coaches.”
“You are so tired. You’ve been awake for days. And you want to sleep, but you can’t sleep because if you sleep they might come and kill everyone. And you just can’t sleep. And there’s nothing to do. You can’t do anything.” (Click title or image to read full story.)
“My doctor has me on a work restriction that will not allow me to pick up this guitar. And I’m like, ‘You might as well put a bullet in me!’ So, I just ignore the doctors and move on, and I tell them that. I tell them, ‘Look, if you want me to stop doing this, then I might as well kill myself.'” (Click image or title to see full-length profile.)
“As a child, I spent a lot of time in bars, hanging out while the adults drank and played pool. But I had my drawing pad, and I had my pencils and my markers and crayons, and that’s where I would create my own existence.”