Noses On!

It’s that time again! May 24th is the day! To be exact, it is Red Nose Day, one of my favorite charity events! For this one day a lot of media and public attention is given to the cause of ending childhood poverty. Since it was launched in 2015, Red Nose Day has raised more than $100 million dollars to impact the lives of nearly 9 million children.

Here’s what I love about Red Nose Day…

HOPE Buffalo is a movement in Buffalo, NY in support of adolescent health and wellness. HOPE stands for health, opportunity, prevention, and the three “E’s” of education, equity, and empowerment. The staff and volunteers see the impact of poverty everyday on the lives of young people. Last year they joined the call to don the Red Nose. They look great, don’t they?

First, it attacks a root cause – poverty. I’ve been working in human services, public health, and social change for my entire career. Within these domains there are many issues that adversely affect children which can be traced back to a common factor – children and their families living at or near chronic poverty. Red Nose Day is an attempt to address poverty by supporting programs and initiatives that keep children safe, healthy, and educated. These efforts do more than simply meet an immediate need for children. The myriad acts of kindness associated with helping also address the poverty of hope that children and families living in chronic poverty experience. You can make a difference by spending as little as $1 to buy a Red Nose at Walgreens or Duane Reade stores. If you would like to do more and give more, become a member of my fundraising team at A Nose for Tenacious Change.

Okay, isn’t this the cutest Red Noser you’ve ever seen? A couple of years ago a colleague got a nose for herself and for her son. You can just see this photo being featured in a graduation montage in a few years, right?

Secondly, it animates important ethical and spiritual values in my life. For me these are informed, with neither apology nor arrogance, by Christian Quaker spirituality. They come specifically from the teaching of the disciple Matthew, chapter 25, verses 31 to 46, a selection the Common English Bible calls “Judgment of the nations,” an intriguing title during these times. Most people already know this passage because one small phrase – “the least of these” – is frequently quoted in the context of explaining why we should care about others. If you have never read the whole section to get the full context and story, you may wish to do so. Though you may not share my faith, you may find we share the ethic.

Howard Macy’s “Red Nose Training Manual.” Download it today and get started!

Thirdly, wearing a red nose is fun and a great way to brighten the day of others! Don’t forget…to celebrate Red Nose Day you need, of course, a red nose. May 24th is just around the corner and you don’t want to be the only one with a naked nose do you? Okay, I understand the doubt and I can hear that voice in your head right now asking, “Yeah, but…what do I do once I put the nose on?” Good news! My friend Howard Macy (professor emeritus, philosopher, theologian, a wicked trumpet player, and a fellow Red Nose aficionado) is the author of the Red-Nose Manifesto which you will find in his Red Nose Training Manual, a masterpiece which might have won the Nobel Prize in literature if the Swedes had not cancelled it this year. (Sorry Howard.) To get started, simply download Howard’s brief, easy-to-read book (lots of illustrations) and follow the instructions. From Training Phase Moves to Intermediate Moves to Advanced Moves, Howard will lead you by the Red Nose to the point where you will be proudly sporting it wherever you can. Here is one of his Advanced Moves that I have used before, “When teaching or leading a group, slip the nose on subtly while looking away, then turn around and continue to lead.” If that seems too daunting, how about this Intermediate Move: “Slip on the nose when you’re stuck in traffic. Smile broadly, sing with the radio.” If you are Red Nose virgin and even a semi-public appearance seems way too much to you, try this Training Phase Move by yourself: “Slip the nose on when you’re tempted to feel disrespected or seriously important.” Personally, I have no less than eight red noses – including one in my backpack for Red Nose emergencies when I travel. (Fair warning: I’ll be working in San Luis Obispo, California this year on Red Nose Day. Ha!)

As much fun as I have with my array of red noses, especially on Red Nose Day, the cause is a serious one and the need is great. I do not often ask people to contribute to something, but I am making that ask today. My life’s work has been to try to make this world a better place for all – including “the least of these.” The mission of Tenacious Change is to animate and equip people, organizations, and communities to lead change for the greater good. Participating in Red Nose Day is one small thing each of us can do for the greater good. I would be honored to have you on my Red Nose Day team at A Nose for Tenacious Change. Thanks!

Remember…Be Greater, Do Good, Everyday. Put on a Red Nose and Change Forward!

Tom

Click here to join A Nose for Tenacious Change at Red Nose Day. And thank you!

 

Doing Good Everyday in South Texas

Rural Texas, like the rest of rural America, is often overlooked by the rest of the country. Like my native state of Iowa, much of rural America is viewed as “flyover” country, and of little importance because it thought to be occupied mostly by livestock and farm fields. What a sadly mistaken…and, frankly, ignorant…understanding of rural America. 

Fortunately, groups like the Community Action Corporation of South Texas (CACOST) know better. CACOST serves an extraordinarily large part of the state – 16 counties that cover the entire southern tip of the state. For the past several months I’ve been working with CACOST on the implementation evaluation of its teen pregnancy prevention initiative, the South Texas Teen Leadership and Development Program (STTLD). Sadly, this is one of 80+ programs of the Office of Adolescent Health Teen Pregnancy Prevention program that is going away due to significant budget cuts under the current administration. STTLD serves a very rural part of Texas with some of the highest rates of teen births in the state and the U.S. It is a significant loss to the youth, families, schools and communities it serves. But what does it matter? Isn’t it just all livestock and fields down here, anyway? Does any good thing come from rural America? (Read with a “sigh” and eye roll for effect.)

For the past several months I’ve been reviewing the weekly facilitator logs that

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With STTLD Facilitators in Corpus Christi

document the work of the STTLD program facilitators. These facilitators conduct approximately 50 classroom programs each week, for at least 25 weeks in the school year. Now, let’s do the numbers and see if they are seeing anyone other than livestock. 50 classrooms X an average classroom size of, say 20 (to be conservative, since we know there are few if any people in rural America), equals: 1,000. Now it is true that the STTLD facilitators have to travel large distances to see 1,000 students a week but there are still at least 1,000 students in rural South Texas who will lose the program on June 30th unless something changes.

Each year the leadership of CACOST sponsors a board and staff leadership retreat in Corpus Christi. About 125 to 150 board and leadership staff attend. This is only about a fourth of the number of all CACOST employees in all positions. This is the second year I’ve had the privilege to attend this meeting. Last year I did a plenary session that focused on the poverty of hope experienced by too many people in our country. I was asked back this year to do the closing keynote on working more effectively together. I have come to understand the value and appeal of the meeting to board and staff…it feels like a family reunion and it is wonderful!

While I was here, I also did interviews and focus groups with the STLLD leadership and staff as part my evaluation work with CACOST. The STTLD leadership and the leadership of CACOST are doing everything they can to continue the program because they know how important it is to the youth and communities they serve. What impresses me most about CACOST is that the organization and its leadership are intentional about keeping the people they serve foremost in their thoughts and plans.

Case in point…yesterday several CACOST staff led the retreat in a very complex yet

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The Zuppot Family – Zenobia, Xander, Zeke & Zola

powerful poverty simulation. I was assigned the role of being a disabled grandpa (Zeke), with diabetes, who was raising his two young grandchildren (Xander and Zenobia) with his wife, Zola, who did not speak very good English. Zeke’s disability kept him from working and Zola had a low wage job. Our grandchildren came to us from a daughter who was incarcerated on a drug distribution charge. One of our grandkids, Xander, dealt with ADHD. His medication requirements and Zeke’s need for insulin, meant the family faced a pretty big monthly prescription bill plus the regular monthly expenses. It was a moving simulation for people in the room as they experienced a full range of emotions including, embarrassment, shame, frustration, anger, and hopelessness. Several were moved to tears. In debriefing the experience, it was clear that it was a powerful tool for helping CACOST board and staff experience, or re-experience, what it is to live without enough resources or opportunity.

Organizations like CACOST are critical to the survival of families in rural America. But is that all they deserve…to simply survive? I don’t think so. Neither does CACOST or the other Community Action Agencies that were created in the 1960’s as part of President Johnson’s “War on Poverty.” I have the privilege of currently working with CACOST and another Community Action Agency in San Luis Obispo, CA. I’m very proud to be associated with these two organizations and to be helping them to achieve the greater good in their service areas. They both know it is not about helping their clients just survive poverty, but to thrive and rise. Both CACOST and the Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo are being impacted by the cuts in teen pregnancy prevention at the Office of Adolescent Health. Even worse, the youth they serve are those that suffer. Both organizations know all too well what happens when we fail to invest in the future of our country and care for those in greatest need. We must never forget…poverty is not a choice. That is the lesson we learned again in the simulation yesterday.

On a personal note…I had a wonderful surprise today when I finished the keynote for

Tom with Nisa and Megan
Tom with Nisa (on the left, who actually owns my books) and her colleague, Megan

CACOST. A young CACOST staff member, at the urging of her colleague, approached me for a selfie. Now, I’d like to tell you that I get that request a lot, but I don’t. So, I asked, “Of course…but why?” The young woman replied, “I’ve got two of your books. I heard you speak last year but it was only this morning that I realized you were they same person that wrote those books. They were recommended to me by a professor in a counseling class I took and I found them incredibly helpful both professionally and personally.”

Okay, I was shocked speechless. Both books were written over 25 years ago and I had no idea any even still existed…except on my shelves. I was really honored and moved by her request. Thank you Nisa and Megan for making my day!

If you’d like to join Nisa as an owner of these books, you can still find them on Amazon: If Your Parent Drinks Too Much and Counseling Helpsheets, co-authored with my good friend, G. Lamar Roth. I cannot vouch for their condition…I’m still stunned they are available.

Be greater. Do good. Everyday. Change Forward!

Tom Klaus

 

Redden Your Nose and Join In or Do Even More?

Today is Red Nose Day. “Say what?” you ask.

Red Nose Day is a big thing in the United Kingdom and it has been for 30 years where it has raised billions of British pounds to end poverty. It is a part of the United Kingdom’s Comic Relief charity. “Oh, I remember Comic Relief,” you say, “but isn’t that OUR (the American’s) thing?” Uh, not really. We stole borrowed the idea from the Brits and now we are borrowing Red Nose Day, too, but this time it only took us three decades. NBC is taking the credit for bringing Red Nose Day to the United States. The television network partnered with Walgreens to sell the red noses that I am modeling in this classy photo of myself. Tonight, May 21, NBC is featuring a 3 hour broadcast (think “mini” telethon but without Jerry Lewis) to raise awareness and money.

Hey! It's Red Nose Day! Where's Yours?
Hey! It’s Red Nose Day! Where’s Yours?

Though my Inner Clown compelled me to buy this $1.00 red nose the last time I was in my local Walgreens, it was never very clear to me if this was more than a marketing ploy for Walgreens and a ratings push for NBC. I am still not sure. Frankly, the promotion on the U.S. version of Red Nose Day has seemed more about NBC, its stars and programs, and Walgreens products and services and far less about the cause. (Look, I do understand cause-related-marketing but you still have to highlight the cause, too.) Until you take the cellophane off the nose and read the odd “cut-out”-like information piece that is attached to it, you might not even know which charities stand to benefit from Red Nose Day. To really learn what your Red Nose purchase supports you have to go to the official Red Nose Day website where I found this explanation:

The funds raised during the Red Nose Day campaign will be given to a variety of nonprofit organizations that transform children’s lives. This year we’ve partnered with twelve amazing organizations working in the US and abroad. The great news is the half the money distributed will be spent right here in the US at projects close to home. The other half will be spent in some of the poorest communities in the world in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

However, for me, the clearest explanation of the purpose of Red Nose Day came from an NBC Entertainment promotional site:

The aim of Red Nose Day is to bring about real and lasting change by tackling the root causes of poverty and social injustice.

Now, THAT’s a cause I can really get behind.

Nonetheless, I had secretly wondered if my mild addiction to collecting red noses had led me to unwittingly add to the profits of two big businesses. My angst was increased when I read that only 50 cents of my $1.00 red nose purchase would actually go to the charities listed as beneficiaries of the effort and the remainder would be invested in nose production. Given the scale of production required to supply so many red noses to Walgreens all across the country, I find it hard to believe they really cost 50 cents each to produce. Five cents seems more realistic. Obviously, I could do far more by simply going to each charity’s website and contributing $1.00 directly to each of them. In fact, I could double my contribution by sending the same $1.00 to them that I spent on the cheap red nose at Walgreens…except I would not have the red nose for my collection.

Ouch! That pricks my conscience. It seems like I am not really different than the many others who need to get something in return for investing in a cause. Some people need their name on a building. I simply need a new red nose for my modest collection.

Last night I attended a celebration of the work of Dr. David Greenhalgh, the Director of the PhD in Organizational Development program at Eastern University where I received my doctorate. David is retiring, in his words, “on August 31 at 11:59 PM” and the PhD Summer Residency dinner included a tribute in which students and alumni were present to participate. It was a great party! The after dinner speaker was Dr. Joanne Ciulla, from the Jepson School of Leadership Studies at the University of Richmond. She is known for her work and writing on ethical leadership and she spoke briefly and engagingly on the topic of “The Ethical Peculiarities of Leadership.” She observed that ethical leaders can be ineffective and effective leaders can be unethical. If we wish to be both ethical and effective we need to examine our leadership actions with these four questions:

  • Am I doing the right thing?
  • Am I doing it the right way?
  • Am I doing it for the right reason?
  • Am I using what I have learned?

I applaud the leadership efforts of NBC and Walgreens and the followership efforts of all of us (even if we are just wanting to merely add to our red nose collections) for falling in behind Red Nose Day. I love it that the cause is “tackling the root causes of poverty and social injustice.” I wonder, though, if we might learn from our efforts this year and improve upon them next year by thoughtfully considering the first three questions from Dr. Ciulla. Perhaps NBC and Walgreens can make it more about the cause than about pushing programming, stars, and products. Perhaps I can add a red nose to my collection and still contribute directly to each of the charities.

Indeed, what more can we all do? 

Be Greater. Do Good. Every Day. (with or without a red nose)

Tom