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Muddy Boots         

The Wear Muddy Boots Blog

Muddy Boots Blog

Leadership never comes from sitting behind a desk....you need to get your boots muddy and get in the field with your employees, customers, clients, vendors, and stakeholders. The more you listen the more you learn. The individual closest to the action generally knows the real story. 

I have been a manager for 40 years, starting with IBM and now leading a non-profit, Episcopal Community Services, in what I hope will be my last professional chapter.  I have a fair amount of scar tissue, which I have come to learn is the best teacher. Leadership can be about talk and vision, but it is way more about deeds. For what it's worth, here are some of my thoughts on the subject of leadership, muddy boots and other stuff I find interesting. 

Thank you for your interest and I welcome your comments and exchange. Ideas and views are better when shared.


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deg muddy boots consulting

Posted by Dave Griffith on April 20, 2019 at 7:30 AM Comments comments (0)

My board, speaking and consulting fees go to fund the nonprofits Jacqui and I support. At the urging of you all I am posting the deg muddy boots consulting site. I work with several individuals in this work and you can refer us where you see a fit or if you are like minded you can join us.

What we do.

"deg muddy boots" consulting provides tested advice and counsel to family businesses and nonprofits. Services include leadership development, strategy creation and review, team alignment, company and board governance, employee relations, executive and board recruitment, compensation, networking, family office facilitation, sales and marketing, dispute resolution, advancement and development, technology, supply chain, operations, finance, banking and funding, advocacy, and best practices referrals. The team is available for conference and meeting presentations on the Call to Service, Leadership, Governance, Inclusion and Diversity. All fees go to nonprofit organizations that deliver impact.

Who we do it with.

With 40 plus years of experience garnered from the practice of wearing muddy boots and the power of listening, we dig in, find the pain, and help you fix it. The firm is based on a network of associates whom I have worked with over the years and have problem solved some hard issues and have the scar tissue to prove it. Reach out and ask for advice from individuals who have been and are in the trenches and who are constant students of the art and science of business. Never underestimate the knowledge that the sun will come up tomorrow to someone in the dark of a crisis. We work with organizations that value experience, innovation, and the value of an outside perspec

DEGMUDDYBOOTS.COM

"deg muddy boots" consulting

Family business and Nonprofit consulting services and advice

Leadership Matters

Posted by Dave Griffith on April 3, 2019 at 12:25 AM Comments comments (0)

“It is hard to be accountable for history that you did not make. However, it is even harder to be accountable for the history that you will make.”

It is popular in the current political environment to look at the historical record and find an explanation for today’s ills. Poverty, Race, Economic Inequity, Climate Change, Gender differentials to name a few across the spectrum. One hears in the current call for restitution to right historical ills a call for accountability for prior generations.

I would suggest that’s interesting but flawed. Interesting in that it explains how we got here. Flawed in that it does not address the root cause and thus does not change the narrative. History is history; what matters is the future. To quote:

“You cannot change history, but you can change the future” Carolyn Correia.

No doubt that history and science teach and informs how we got here on any given issue. The energy and the debate and most importantly the actions required to drive change need to shift to the question of what do we do going forward? On so many issues we are at a legacy inflection point.

Poverty and economic inequity continue to grow. We know that prosperity is not inclusive. We know that the inevitable outcome of poverty is system failure on several levels. What if prosperity included not just shareholders, but employee stakeholders? What if valuations included social returns created by living wages and health care?

Race and Gender continue to be the third rail in America. We know that diversity is an excellent strength if we dare to have an all-encompassing tent. All be it a tent where access to opportunity is level across society in housing, wellness, education, employment, and the rule of law is equal for all.

Climate change. The evidence is compelling, and while many challenge the science as to the why of climate change, there is little fact-based debate that it is occurring. The coal that has been burned we can’t do much about, but the wind and solar power we harness going forward, well we can own that change. To quote “will we be that arrogant that we put greed ahead of grandchildren when it came to the environment?” It is not a question of is climate change human-made or a natural cycle or some combination; instead, it is that it is occurring and the world voice to drive response is failing to push the political will to drive collective behavioral change.

In American, we will soon be in a primary election cycle. The candidates we need to support are those who are willing to be accountable for our future and bold enough to challenge us to do the same, even if the solutions identified call for us to do the uncomfortable. I want specifics on these issues of Poverty and Economic Inequity, Race and Gender, and the Climate. President Lincoln in our darkest days as a nation spoke of a house divided and the consequences. Well, we are a house divided, and if we are to address the hard questions with hard answers, we need to come together, and not just in America. When will we learn that self-interest is a team sport?

Leadership matters, and not just from our leaders.


So you want to run a nonprofit ?

Posted by Dave Griffith on March 23, 2019 at 6:05 PM Comments comments (0)


After 37 years of working in the for-profit world, I was asked to lead a nonprofit social service agency in Philadelphia. Having made the switch from CEO to Executive Director, I get asked about the differences from individuals thinking about making a similar transition as a final professional chapter and what they ought to consider.

So after 6 years here is my list.

1. Talent Matters. In both sectors the better the talent, the better the outcomes. Historically nonprofits have had lower compensation and benefits and the approaches I use to use to attract talent had to get retooled. While I have found that investing in professional development, best of breed communication practices and an inclusive workplace, as in people who work for you have a seat at the table with strategy and problem solving, all help attract and retain talent in both sectors. The great talent in the non-profit sector is called to this work. Discerning that call is critical in the hiring process.

2. The Pace is different. Not for the challenges, amount of work, and long days. Instead, the pace for getting answers from funders, government, and in matters of compliance is very different. I am used to regulation, but in this sector the amount of paperwork and the number of touches on any given issue is complex and at times lacks a sense of urgency. Persistent and specifically relentless patience is a necessary tool in the tool kit.

3. The myth vs. reality of this work. I thought I was savvy on the issues of poverty, race, economic opportunity. After all, I had run a large business and was well read and involved in nonprofits as a board member and volunteer. Never has the ability to listen, ask questions, talking to the people closest to the work, mattered more. I would urge anyone to come into this work with an open mind and an open heart. Business skill can make a huge difference, but the program work is complex and layered. It took two years before I could start to connect the dots around poverty and race and privilege in this space and understand what mattered to move the needle.

4. Collaboration is not a given. Forty percent of the social service agencies in our region have six weeks of cash on hand. Most agencies depend on government funding for ninety percent of their funding. As an observation, most agencies do not naturally collaborate as a function of protecting funding. I think the ability to bring focus on the work, especially work that delivers impact and to collaborate to produce a wide range of services is a skill where an individual with a business background can bring value. Joint Ventures can bring terrific value to the individuals being served and drive impacts at much more effective levels.

5. Data matters. I am used to using data to drive quality improvement. Getting data that you can take action on is difficult in this sector and only now being recognized as critical to driving process improvement. Like the for-profit work talking to your customers, finding the pain and addressing it is the key. In both sectors, we make the mistake of telling people what they need rather than asking.

6. Overhead. I ran a profitable business with 21% overhead as measured by GAAP and sit on several for profit boards. 990’s if you believe them suggest 8-10 percent in this sector. Funders are only now understanding that overhead is critical to successful programs. Finance, IT, HR, Marketing, Development all need to be done right so programs can function and focus on delivering quality impacts. Changes coming in GAAP will drive a better accounting in the sector. Donors and funders will take some time to reset the model on what defines success. It is not the budget mix, but the impacts. The best agencies deliver impacts in the most cost-effective manner. Education on that mix is critical.

7. Boards. There is a significant difference dealing with a paid board vs a volunteer board. Board recruitment is critical in both sectors. However, with a volunteer board there are different levers when making decisions, and with governance and nominations, while it should not be, it is different. Again this is a space that a business background can add value. It is essential to look at skills, diversity of thought and experiences, funding capacity and networking ability. The ability to have clear, transparent communications, hear from all views, have two-way feedback, and clear expectations, is essential for effective nonprofit board relationship with management.

8. Focus. It is easy to be pulled in many directions in both sectors. A critical skill is the ability to say no to your staff, your funders and board. Your heart will want to say Yes. The key is the focus to drive impact, and it requires a clear vision and strategy. In nonprofit work, there is a tendency to chase funding. Mission, Vision, Values matter, and they should define your work and your direction. If they are right and they respond to real needs, then the funding will follow.

9. Humble Experience. It is easy to think that the scoreboard you measured yourself with in business matters in the nonprofit sector. In many cases it does, but the program work is hard and it by definition is humbling. I would strongly suggest that the better way to share experience is as scar tissue. In that when you made a mistake, share what you learned, that you continued to move forward, that in most matters a mistake is rarely fatal, and that the sun will come up tomorrow. Experience is perspective and it is something you need to share from a frame of reference that matters to the people you work with.

10. Muddy Boots. If you know me, you know the story. You do your best work in the field with your muddy boots listening to the people closest to the work and the people you serve. Ask how we are doing and what can we do better. And you listen. You listen with intention and without defense. I have long believed that a leader is at their best in their muddy boots. This is true in any sector, profit or non, and I could make the case true in life.


Finally, if you are not called to the work I would strongly suggest you consider other options for a final chapter in your professional life. Understand what you are getting into and do it for the right reasons.


But if you are called there is no more rewarding work. You work with amazing people and stakeholders, you have the opportunity to coach young people, you get way more than you give, you learn and grow tremendously, and if you can move the needle in your space, make a difference then the opportunity for a legacy that matters are significant.

But, it sure as hell is not retirement……




"Time, like an ever rolling stream"

Posted by Dave Griffith on February 24, 2019 at 4:45 PM Comments comments (0)

There are moments in all of our lives that are touchstone moments. We all know where we were if you are old enough when JFK got shot, when Armstrong stepped on the moon, 911.

There are also touchstone moments that are more personal when you met your spouse, the birth of a child, a wedding.

Then there are those that are markers, moments when you will never look at life the same way again. Your first paycheck, the first time you experience death, the day you “arrived,” the day you “left.”

All this has been triggered by an event this week of sitting in church saying goodbye to an old friend and reflecting that I am playing the back nine and realizing that we really don’t know when we will take our last shot. The classic hymn lyrics “Time, like an ever rolling stream, Bears all its sons away; They fly, forgotten, as a dream; Dies at the opening day” hit me as if I heard them for the first time.

We are here for a limited time, and I have been thinking of late about impact, about legacy, about dreams that die at the opening day.

In the class I teach on leadership, I talk about how time is the only commodity that we control. Said another way how we spend our time is a choice. I contend that a life well lived is when an individual spends time with intention and with forethought. That time spent well has the opportunity to have an impact, not only on yourself but on others.

This notion gets challenged. Many say that life controls much of what we do. That work, relationships, family, economic status, birth order, parents, race, gender, age all dictate how one spends there time. True, but not entirely true.

Start by carving an hour that you spend with intention. Think about legacy, about impact, goals, about others, and having done so, take action. Exercise, volunteer, change jobs, pray, read, call an old friend, make a new one, act with kindness towards a stranger. The point is to have an impact, be intentional with your time, for your dream to not die at the opening of the day you need to not only have them but to act on them.

I believe we all have a tremendous capacity to make a difference. I know this to be true because of the people we work with at ECS. I am in awe of the individuals we work with who are the most resilient folks I know, who have all the excuses not to move forward but overcome barriers and obstacles that would crush most individuals. They decide to spend time differently and in doing so create an impact for themselves and in turn others. We can learn much from their example.

Start with an hour, then two, then three.

Imagine a world where touchstone moments are not random, but intentional. That you can answer with confidence the question, did I make a difference? Did we do it together?

Where would you start?

When?


A Patagonia Lesson

Posted by Dave Griffith on February 11, 2019 at 1:10 PM Comments comments (0)


I have been away from Philadelphia for 12 days traveling in the Patagonia region of Chile and Argentina with my spouse and a small group. This is a trip that requires hiking boots, rain gear and because of the wind, layers even though it is summer. It does not need a jacket or bow tie for anything.

Patagonia is in the very southern part of South America on the Magellan Strait and to the north. Its main features are the lower Andes mountain range, the inland fiords, and the ice fields which contain, other than Antarctica and Greenland, the most freshwater anywhere.

We had come to see the Andes and their glaciers.

The scale is measured in miles. Condors float on the winds, Guanacos abound, and Pumas, while rarely seen, are clearly present. One finds themselves thinking that this is what the world must have looked like 20,000 years ago during the last ice age. Fossils of 20-million-year-old tiny squids dot the rock formations laid open by the glacial ice. The land is defined with vast isolated ranches, call estancias, of cattle and sheep, worked by gauchos. It is very much a wild land.

Yet even here in this remote wildland, you see the impact of man on nature. Clearly, you see evidence that vast ice fields covered this entire region. Torres del Paine as massive as the three towers are, the land was shaped by ancient ice. The scientist will tell you that ice ages have come and gone for eons. The issue here and now is that the glacial melt and receding are at a record geological pace. The Serrano Glacier at the southern end of the ice fields is retreating some 400-500 meters per year, and that pace is accelerating. Our world is no longer in its natural cycle and the consequences we, the non-scientific public, are only now starting to understand fully.

It is hard to understand why we are debating global warming. The science is clear, the evidence is clear, not only at scale in the ice fields of Patagonia, but in our oceans rising temperatures, the concentration of CO2, and the weather impacts with record heat and cold, rain and drought. Rather than debate, we ought to be relentless with our regional and world political process and respond.

Sadly, looking at the data, we may have crossed the tipping point. Even if that is so, do we want our legacy to be to future generations that we saw the evidence, and we were so arrogant that we failed to respond meaningfully. That greed took precedence over great-grandchildren?

No doubt hard choices need to be made, but I would like to think we are smarter than this current state, and that real, worldwide change in environmental policy is possible, that deeds rise above rhetoric.

What if science is right?

It is our time to be a force for nature, while the glaciers, and we, are still here.

Listen, See, Act.


A Storm in America

Posted by Dave Griffith on January 17, 2019 at 9:35 AM Comments comments (0)

Poverty in America is not unlike lightning that comes in the middle of a summer night.

You lie in bed the windows open. It is dark but you wake to the rumble of what could be distant fireworks, but it is not July. If the shades are open, you might catch a flash of light over the horizon followed again by that rumble.

Slowly, but not that slowly, the rumble grows louder and the flashes more distinct. You grow more awake and a primal fear grows.

The air grows moist and you become aware of a static and a smell of ozone.

Then suddenly you are lifted out of bed by a flash and a crack of thunder that are simultaneous. The storm is on you, the lightning strike may or may not have done damage, you can’t tell until morning. Another strike, and now the thunder shakes your house. You feel helpless and fragile.

You are grateful to be in your house, perhaps a house with lightning rods and circuit breakers, and you feel protected. You wonder what you would do if you were in the open?

Hold that feeling and thought.

Poverty in America is growing. It is a rural and urban problem. Looking at the data you see that all of our public and private funding and efforts are not moving the needle on the poverty rate and deep poverty is growing. Unfortunately, many of us are lying in bed and despite the summer lightning feeling safe and in some cases not feeling there is a problem.

Pew will tell you the cost of each family in poverty is $60,000/year. The cost to business of 15% of Americans living below the poverty line, let alone at a living wage is huge in the context of consumers who do not have the income to consume. The cost of maintaining the poverty level over generations is unsustainable. Do you hear the rumble yet?

Set the public and private cost of poverty aside. As a people of faith, regardless of your tradition, is the notion of the common good, that a rising tide lifts all boats. As you sit in service next Saturday or Sunday, ask what are you as a person of faith called to do. As I have noted before in this space, self-interest is best served when you consider your neighbors interest. Consider that you neighbors may be folks you cannot see or know. Do you see the flash of light in the distance?

The economic and faith based reasons are compelling for us as a society to address poverty. The hard work is that our traditional responses is to participate in efforts that maintain poverty. Vital services that feed, cloth, provide housing and education, and a host of other services. I take no issue. But to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty we need efforts that drive transformational impact.

My direct experience with individuals in poverty is that they are among the most resilient people I know. They have to be. I have yet to meet someone living in poverty who wants to be there. What breaks the cycle of poverty is access to opportunity, specifically access to economic mobility in the form of a job at a living wage. Without that job you are out in the storm in the rain and the lightning.

At ECS where I work we will launch MindSet at the end of the month. MindSet is a program based on the most current brain science available that provides coaching and financial assistance to help individuals navigate the system and access opportunity that many of us take for granted. MindSet is based on programs that have been running for ten plus years and have shown significant results. It is a three to five-year program that has the objective for the individuals when they are done of having the economic stability of a job at a living wage, benefits, savings, and no longer needing government assistance. It is to bring people out of the rain. For good and on their own efforts.

MindSet is our response to the gathering storm. In addition to MindSet we have implemented the coaching model in all of our existing programs that provide stability and prevention to our participants. We also are building along with our stakeholders and partners a formal advocacy effort that address the SPP’s that impact our participants. SPP’s are “Stupid Public Policy” that by unintentional design hinder an individual journey out of poverty. Two specific examples are benefits that phase out at an average of $1.50 for every additional $1.00 earned and benefits that cliff as in go away entirely at a specific income level. Childcare assistance is one example.

For information on our work see www.ecsphilly.org .

The storm is very much in play in America. The lightning and rumbling you see in our society is very much the storm of Poverty in America. For many there is no long term shelter from the storm. For all of us, on many levels, it is a storm we cannot ignore.

Will you help bring people out of the rain before the storm grows?

Join the movement. Look Up and Challenge Poverty.


Face Book Live 1.9.2019

Posted by Dave Griffith on January 6, 2019 at 8:10 PM Comments comments (0)

On 1/7/19 I will be participating in a Face Book Live event in my role as Head Coach at Episcopal Community Services. Our chief of programs, Arley Styer, and I will be fielding a number of questions about our agency and our work and some of the challenges our participants face. I thought I would share some of the questions and our responses. The FB Live will be posted, but in case you miss here are some of the points we will be covering.

1. Why do we need to innovate in this sector?

Poverty in 1960 in America was 15%. In 2019 it remains 15% with an income level of approximately $22,900, unadjusted for inflation since the early 1970’s, with safety net programs available at higher income levels. However, for every dollar of additional income, benefits are reduced a dollar fifty, with some programs phasing out abruptly, or cliffing. The social service sector while providing essential services has done little to lower the level pf poverty in America. In the Philadelphia Region where we work the poverty level in the 26-27% level, the highest of any major city. Innovation is necessary as clearly programs at scale have not moved the needle on poverty. As an agency we have made a commitment and investment to innovate and find programs that give our participants the opportunity to move out of poverty and stay there. Our ambition is to create scalable programs and partnerships to drive this innovation. 

2. What do you mean when you say ECS is moving into the” change business”?

One could look at the many of the programs in social services and government that serve individuals living in poverty and make the argument that they are more about maintaining individuals, rather than driving change in individuals economic levels. We provide maintenance programs that provide stability and prevention as do many well run agencies. However, poverty remains the dominant domestic long term challenge costing some $60,000 per individual per year according to Pew studies. In addition, no one living in poverty wants to be in poverty. In fact, individual living with poverty are some of the most resilient people I know. At ECS our focus is to create programs that drive economic change in individuals lives.

The longterm sustainable way out of poverty is a job at or above a livingwage with benefits and a career path. Simply put that is the change w ewant for our participants. 

As a result of our strategic plan where we identified intergenerational poverty as our focus, we have identified brain science based approaches that supports individuals in poverty to lift themselves out of poverty. This approach is currently in use in some 80 other agencies around the country and has been shown to have significant results. We are the only agency in Philadelphia using this approach, however another change we hope to drive is to share our learnings and experiences and partner with other like-minded agencies. Maintenance has it place in our work, but long term we want to be in the change business.

3. You also refer to yourself as “head coach.” What is that in reference to?

The brain based science that shapes our programs, is based on a coaching model with financial incentives. Traditional case management often takes the form of telling a participant what to do or how to do an activity. Fill out this form, go to this agency, etc. To use the parable giving people a fish. Coaching is about teaching people how to fish. Our MindSet program uses coaches to help people asses where they are and what goals they have to change their status. By coaching, setting goals, and providing financial rewards when goals are achieved, we teach people to fish. My job is to hire and develop talent that is outstanding at this work and provide the best environment so they can do their best work. My title of Head Coach it is to remind my staff that we are all about coaching, not just our participants, but each other. It also give me an opportunity to explain to stakeholders our focus as an agency.

4. Okay, last Dave-ism—what do you mean when you say we are working against the SPPs?

SPP is an acronym for “Stupid Public Policy”. Another part of our strategic plan is the creation of an advocacy effort in partnership with our stakeholders. The focus of our advocacy is to advocate for changes to public policy and regulations that are not in the best interests of our participants and in turn our Region. Many programs have not adapted with the times and changes to them can and will drive significant impact at scale.


5. Internally we’ve been talking the three-legged stool of our programs: Stability, Prevention, and transformation. What do these mean to you? Do you think we need all of them?

The answer is Yes on thinking about all three. If you put these terms in the context of maintenance vs change it really frames out work. Remember we have been at it for almost 150 years and many of our programs are well established and well regarded. I think of our shelter and housing programs as providing stability for some of our most vulnerable participants. I think of our Out of School Programs as prevention in that they provide significant future opportunity for the student in our program as well as affordable childcare for working parents. Mindset is about driving economic transformation in individual lives. We also provide significant volunteer opportunities with our visitation and meal and gift delivery programs through CORP, Dolphins and various parish supported programs. I also know our coaching model is improving the quality of our work in all of our programs and not just MindSet. Over time I would like the mix to shift more to transformational impact and I think as we partner with other agencies we can shift our mix to do so. 

For additional information on our work go to www.ecsphilly.org and our Facebook page is

@ECSPhilly. You can also reach me directly at griffithd@ecsphilly.org.


Christmas Eve 2018 at Carversville

Posted by Dave Griffith on December 24, 2018 at 11:35 AM Comments comments (0)

Christmas Eve 2018 Solebury, Pennsylvania

 

For as many years as we have lived here, Christmas Eve dinner has been at the Carversville Inn. We know the owners, our kids went to school together, and the hostess holds our reservation made in June without conformation. It is crowded, year after year we see the same faces, children once small people now have their own wee ones. My good friend Bill will send drinks to the table as he has every year.

Most years we will have come from the Christmas Pageant at Trinity Solebury. A service filled with familiar noise, carols, and a story as old as our tradition. It is a time when I reflect on family, friends, the woman I love, and I am grateful for my life.


I am also mindful that time is finite. Christmas Eve is also the birthday of my good friend Ian, and while he is no longer physically with us, he is very much present. His woodwork is throughout the church and my office holds several of his carvings and boat models. I will visit his marker today with one of his sons and we will break bread in some local dive. We will remember and laugh and talk about his future.


This is also a time when I think about the good men and women I have worked with and with those whom I still roll up my sleeves and put on my muddy boot. I think about the people of Modern, the folks at J.J. Haines, Hoober, Verus, Dad’s Hat, Delaware Valley Floral Group and the Academy of Natural Science. People I know well and who have their own families and holiday traditions. I am proud to be associated with them and for the companies and organizations they run and the services and products they provide. All good and decent people, and like all of us, with challenges and dreams for the future.


I am also especially appreciative for the women and men of Episcopal Community Services where I currently serve. I am humbled by their example and called to our common work in this I suspect my last professional chapter. Also very much on my mind as I gather with my family this Christmas Eve, are the people we serve at ECS.


Carversville is a long way from West Philadelphia, or Camden, or Trenton, or Chester, or Darby. But the contrast that matters is not what you might think. Yes, these are communities where poverty is pervasive with all that brings. However, these are also communities of families with dreams, challenges, and hopes for their children. Many of the individuals I meet are the most irrepressible folks I know; they have to be to persevere. Good and decent people for whom access to real opportunity has not been available and that is the painful contrast that matters between us. In many ways it is the root cause of much of poverty. Access to opportunity leads to employment with a living wage and the way out of poverty is steady employment with a living wage and benefits. Just like everyone, I suspect, sitting down at Carversville tonight.


Our work at ECS, and I hope yours, this season and in all seasons is to coach, train, and help create opportunity for individuals in poverty so they can live their own dream and meet their own challenges. Our work at ECS is underway in this space as we launch our new program “MindSet” in the new year, ecsphilly.org/mindset.


This work will not be done in my lifetime, but along with many organizations in this sector, it is a start to move away from programs that maintain to programs that drive change in individual lives.

 

So as another Christmas Eve marks the calendar I am grateful for the many blessings bestowed on me and my family.

 

Perhaps the biggest is the ability to bestow such blessings on others and that is perchance the real lesson of Christmas Eve.


Peace.

 

A Christmas Blessing

Posted by Dave Griffith on December 20, 2018 at 10:05 PM Comments comments (0)

In this season of Joy, may you find Joy.

In this season of Peace, may you find Peace.

In this season of Hope, may you find Hope.

May you be blessed with all three.

As you anticipate the birth of the Carpenter from Bethlehem let me offer this addition.

To those where there is little Joy, may you bring some.

To those who have little Peace, may you create some.

To those who have little Hope, may you give Hope.

To the good women and men of ECS for whom this is your everyday work and to all in our sector who answer this common call to service. Thank You.

In a world sorely lacking compassion, courage, and care

your work is a beacon for Joy, Peace, and Hope. Thank You.

To those who support this common call, Thank You.

To all who wear Muddy Boots and go into the field and do or support this work, we are grateful.

But more than grateful, more than Thank You, let us call on our better nature and the long held notion of the common good and call for change and make change happen. The reality is time is not on our side. 

Change to public policy that does more than maintain the status quo of poverty, change that creates impact investments in education, housing, and wellness, changes that create employments at living wages. Poverty ends with a job at a living wage. Rather than build walls, lets create bridges.

Perhaps then Joy, Peace, and Hope can be more than just a blessing.

With a deacon;s heart

Posted by Dave Griffith on November 7, 2018 at 3:05 PM Comments comments (0)

I spend a lot of time thinking about how to communicate the work that we do at ECS and the need for our wider community to both understand the issues of intergenerational poverty and the solutions that deliver real impact and effect change with the individuals who experience poverty.

I have used numbers, but they are both overwhelming and can be numbing.

I have used stories, but they can be lost quickly in the mind of the listener.

I have used video and onsite visits and participants to tell their own story and experience.

I have appealed to the economics and the social costs.

All of these move the needle a little bit, but not in the profound way needed to drive real change.

Today I learned a new approach. Better said, I was reminded of the fundamentals.

We added to our board recently a vocational deacon. By tradition and practice a vocational deacon is in our tradition "a baptized person called and empowered by God and the Church to be a model of Christ’s servant ministry for all people. As agents of God’s compassion and reconciling grace, deacons are missionaries to the world and messengers to the Church of the world’s needs, hopes, and concerns."

We were discussing an issue in an advocacy committee meeting as to what and where ECS should take a position on a specific bill pending in front of city council. He used a term that hit me like a ton of bricks. “I look at these issues with a deacon’s heart.”

Exactly.

We are called in our tradition, and I can argue in all traditions, to look at our behavior, our actions, our deeds with a deacon’s heart. Our baptismal covenant calls for us to love our neighbor as ourselves and to respect the dignity of every human being. To understand that no one is safe until we are all safe. That acting in one’s self interest is best done when one considers their neighbor’s interests.

Exactly.

We are called to deal with poverty not because of the economics, the social costs, the stories and the contrasts with our own, all of which are compelling and serve as a clarion call for effective action and leadership.

No, what we are really called to look at is the issues of poverty with a deacon’s heart and make it our own. We are called to service not because of our specific religious traditions, but because the call to service, the call to make the world a better place, lies deep in all of our hearts and the call from the carpenter from Bethlehem is both universal and true.

So it is with a deacon’s call and with the example of a deacon’s hearts that we do this work and we welcome you, we ask you, to look deep into your own heart and answers the deacons call to service. We can help you with the specifics and what works to move the needle, but we need individuals to answer the call, both personally and on the wider stage. Social justice is not a spectator sport.

Exactly. With a deacon’s heart. Then the numbers.

Thanks Phil.


Vote

Posted by Dave Griffith on October 27, 2018 at 11:50 AM Comments comments (0)


So America, are we looking in the mirror this morning?

Do we like what we see in our country?

Do we like what we hear from our leaders and the media?

Can you name the real values of America?

Can you name yours?

What the hell happened to the “us” in America, versus the “we” and the “them”?

What happened to the American Dream lifting all boats?

Two weeks ago I had the privilege of traveling to the United States Military Academy at West Point. I had the chance to meet and share a meal with several of the cadets. Fiercely bright, physically fit, focused young Americans willing to serve and I hope eventually lead not just our military, but all sectors of our country.

I am not worried about the next generation.

I am worried about the current one.

Martin Luther King wrote from the Birmingham jail:

“We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.”

Dr. King’s words still ring true. They ask all of us an uncomfortable question that we need to answer.

Silence does not move policy. Silence does not address the problematic issues of our times. Silence enables and encourages bad behavior.

It is time to look in the mirror, time to remind ourselves of our values as a nation and ask if our actions and our leadership match? Respond not to our emotions and self-interests, but to the facts and to our better nature that has defined the American experience.

It may not be comfortable, but it is time that we understand that our diversity is our core strength. That it is in our interest that the American dream is available for all and not just a myth. That we find, as our north star, solutions in our common ground and in all our national assets to address our challenges. That one’s self-interest includes your neighbors.

So America as you look in the mirror what do you see?

It is time not to be part of the appalling silence.

Vote.

Participate.

Act.

Speak, with courage, capacity, and will.


Piper 2005-2018

Posted by Dave Griffith on September 29, 2018 at 7:50 PM Comments comments (0)



One of the things about writing a blog is you know ones are coming that you are dreading. Today is such a day.

For weeks now our 13-year-old Westie, Piper has been acting oddly. Whining at dusk, having a hard time with stairs, having eye and kidney issues. All of which we attributed to him getting old. We have been partners for a long time, and we adjusted our routine as we hope someone, someday, will for us.

Last night late he woke me and I pulled him into bed. He settled between the two of us and slept till late morning, not his usual pattern. I woke him, and he could not walk without buckling, and he declined to eat. I put him out, and he did not move. We took him to his buddies at Holiday House, our long-time vet, and we got in right away.

The doctor examined and by looking at his eyes, that were fluttering, could tell he more than likely had an advanced brain tumor, which explained the last few months’ behaviors and symptoms. She could help us comfort him, but there was nothing more to do.

If you own a dog, you dread this moment. When they are puppies this day is light years away. All the memories, joys, trashed rugs, shared cookies, chased squirrels, flood into tears. And then you do what you know they would want. You decide to end the pain and let them cross over in peace. You realize it can’t be about you, it needs to be about them.

So we did. We both held Piper as he passed. Fittingly, it was a beautiful sunny day.

We drove home with an empty collar. We put away his bed, his food and water bowl, his crate.

We cried. We called the kids.

Few things in life are marked by unconditional love. Living with a dog is filled with unconditional love. Come through the door at night; you could hear him running to jump and give you a lick. Have a bad day, and he would sit on the couch flush to your leg. He would bark at the Cowboys and wag his tail for the Eagles. Move from room to room he would follow. Little people could pull his ears, and they just got kissed. He, like all terriers, was a marker and you had to keep an eye on him when we went to new places. I couldn’t argue with the choice of people he took a leak on.

13 plus years he spent with us. I remember bringing him home from the breeder in Lancaster sitting on my wife’s lap all of us full of love.

Today he went out the same way.


Poverty, Privilege, and Race

Posted by Dave Griffith on August 9, 2018 at 1:05 PM Comments comments (0)


I was recently invited to speakat Westminster where I am an Alumnus. Given our work they asked me to talk about Poverty, Privilege, and Race. The following are my prepared remarks. 

Good Morning. My name is Dave Griffith, and I graduated in 1972 and served as a trustee from 2004 to 2012. Our 2 children are among the 12 Griffith’s who have graduated from here since 1953. While here I played hockey with Peter Briggs, I was a goalie, and this was when there was no roof on the rink, so basically we were gladiators. From my hairline you will no doubt see the family resemblance between me and my nephew Charlie. His Dad and I are brothers. I went on to Kenyon College in Ohio, and then for 38 years worked in the for profit world. The last 23 years with Modern Group Ltd in Bristol PA, an industrial holding company, where I remain Chairman. I also serve on several public and private boards.

I am currently the Executive Director and Head Coach of Episcopal Community Services. We are a 150-year-old social service agency focus on asking individuals, both participants and stakeholders, to Look Up and Challenge Poverty. We envision a world where opportunity is available to all. We do so on the bedrock values of Dignity, Community, Justice, and Impact.

As an agency we work with some 3000 individuals a year, we are by design a learning organization and by design a thought leader in our space, and we advocate for change to public policy on a local, state, and federal level. I am the first non-priest non-social worker to lead the agency. I am called to this work in part because of some of the early lessons I learned here. Not all of them pretty.

For the record, I am also an old, white, business guy.

Up until five years ago when I started at ECS, I would never have identified myself that way. Having been directly involved in the agency's work has been an education and a wakeup call, these learning have altered my perspective on poverty, gender, and race in America and my purpose today is to share that perspective with you as students and you as faculty. As a community these are issues you need to be in conversation about and take the appropriate actions when opportunity presents itself. 

For many of you, this may not be a comfortable conversation. But it is a conversation that needs to be had. Especially, in the halls of education and in places like Westminster.

Let me ask you a few questions. If you would please answer me by raising your hand.

How many of you own more than two pairs of pants?

How many of you know where you will sleep tonight?

How many of you know where you will sleep in a week?

How many of you know where you will have dinner tonight?

How many of you know if you were sick where you would go and how it would be paid for? 

How many of you expect to go to college?

How many of you have a home? 

How many of you have a home that is safe? 

How many of you expect a job when you graduate with your degree at a living wage? 

For 15% of Americans, both urban and rural, white, Hispanic, and black, the answer to many of these questions is No. 

This is in America, the wealthiest country in the human history with an average household income of $59,000.

It is important that to understand Poverty you understand some of the numbers. So bear with me for a moment and stay with me while I share with you some of the data. There are lots of myths about poverty, let’s look at the hard facts. If you are like me, the data was part of my wake up call.

Poverty in America is defined for a family of four at $22,900. A number not adjusted for inflation since 1972. Safety net support is available up to $34,000 regarding food with SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), medical with Medicaid and CHIP (Children Health Insurance Program), childcare assistance, early childhood education, out of school time. However, the safety net programs in America decline $1.50 for every additional $1.00 earned.

In Philadelphia where I work, the poverty level is 28% of the population or some 400,000 individuals. Half live at 50% of the poverty level, and 100,000 are children under 18. In America, some 1.5 million people live on $2.00/day or less, many on safety net programs, but not all. Poverty and near poverty cuts across race, gender and age demographics. 

Poverty in America in 1960 was 15%. Today unadjusted for inflation it remains 15%. Apparently, the war on poverty has failed. One could, and I do, argue that the vast majority of social service programs in America are in the maintenance business. What they and all of us need to be is in the changing business.

In the Philadelphia region, the 14 federal and state safety net programs cost some $5.8 billion a year. Nationally some 35% of the federal budget is allocated to this space. Despite all of this funding and history, poverty is getting worse.

So what is the “So what” of all these numbers?

Poverty will consume us as a nation if we do not deal with it as a nation. 15% and I can argue for larger numbers, is a staggering cost to us as a nation. Left unchecked the social, moral, and economic costs are unacceptable and potentially a threat as critical as any we face. The economic gap is widening, and at some point, we will see social and economic unrest that will make 1968 look like a walk in the park. This is an issue that is very much part of your and my children’s future.

So what do we as a society do? What do you as a Westminster community do? You are already engaged in the surrounding communities; serving a monthly lunch in Hartford, running two summer academic programs here for underprivileged area students, sending students over spring break for community service projects, and also, of course, your civic engagement courses. But I want to challenge you to raise the bar.

First become knowledgeable. The roots of today's challenges are historical and influenced by deep seeded issues of economic justice, race, and gender. While we hold the founder’s words that “all men are created equal” as America's guiding light, our history, and frankly our actions, tells us a very different story both then and in today’s context.

Poverty is not a choice. No one wants to live in poverty. In fact, some of the most resilient people I know, are participants in our program. Learn the root- causes of poverty. Understand the differences between where and how you live, and someone in poverty. To go deep understand the issues of housing and family stability, of wellness, of education, of financial literacy, and workforce development.

The way out of poverty is a job. Not a minimum wage job at $9/hour without benefits, but a living wage of $26/hour with benefits. But a job at $26/ hour or better also starts with a core belief that opportunity with all the prerequisite is available to all. Not handouts, but access. The blunt reality is that core belief is not true.

As an old white guy let me name the elephant in the room. It’s called privilege. Of course, the way out of poverty is a job, just like the one I got when I graduated from Kenyon in 1976 with IBM. I worked incredibly hard to get where I am today. I didn’t need welfare; I thought poor people needed to get off their rear end and get a job.

The truth is I was born on third base, and I thought I had hit a triple. I had parents, a home, their network, education, access to opportunity. Yes, I executed when I got there, but a clear path had been laid out for me. Access to opportunity was and is available to me, for many in America, and not just those in poverty, this is directly and uncomfortably not true. For many the truth is they can’t even get into the ballpark. To be clear I am proud of my accomplishments, but I can’t and you cannot make the assumption that the “American Dream” is available to all in our country. Our future as a society depends on changing that reality.

Let’s contrast my experience to that of one of our participants at ECS. Shelby, not her real name, is an African American woman living with her Grandmother. She does not know her father and her mother is working the streets and on drugs. She is the fourth generation of her family to live in poverty. She attended a public high school where the attendance is 45%, and the graduation percentage is less. Fewer than 20% of her class will go on to get additional education. Her ambition was to work as a beautician because that was her experience. At 18 she was not sure where she will live when her Grandmother is no longer around, and she contributes all of her income of $7/hour, 35 hours from two jobs no benefits to help pay the utility bills and rent. She has been raped twice. Unlike many of her peers she is not a parent.

Shelby is in crisis 100% of the time. No one in crisis 100% of the time can productively problem solve, let alone lift themselves out of poverty. Placed in the same circumstances, how would you do?

I can tell you the same story 1000 times. Many more complicated, many more tragic.

Shelby does not want to be where she is. She sought us out at ECS and working with her we are setting goals to move her out of crisis and put her on a path the will provide her access to opportunity and in time real employment and the chance to break her families cycle of poverty. Shelby now has ambitions to work in marketing and digital media and is in a program at Philadelphia Community College to gain the skills she will need to reach this goal. Her paid internship is more than twice her last two jobs. All we did is provide a safe space, access to resources, and coach her as an individual with potential and the dignity that anyone deserves.

So get educated on the real story of poverty. Get the facts, not the political rhetoric that is so destructive on both sides of the aisle these days. Look at this issue not from your perspective which frankly may be privileged, but walk with a heart that is open to justice, dignity, community and an overwhelming sense of fairness. This is the essence of a Martlet’s values of character, community, involvement and balance.

The second thing you can do is when you can and have the opportunity get involved. While financial support helps fund this work, the key to helping break the cycle of poverty is building relationships, mentoring and direct involvement. Every child is one involved adult away from success. For many in poverty there is not such an adult let alone an involved peer.

There are organizations you can join, and work you can do. But please do not be poverty tourist. If you do this work, meet people where they are, get to know them and their stories. Work when you are ready with professionals at an agency and learn to be a coach or a peer to an individual living in poverty. Remember that your experience is not their experience. Understand what it means to be privileged and do not judge. While the scale of this issue is daunting, it starts one individual at a time. Someone helped you. Pay it forward when the opportunity presents itself.

The vast majority of agencies and individuals in this work are in the maintenance business; they tell people what they need rather than listen. I have found if you ask, people will tell you what they need. Be a coach and help them set goals and achieve them. The best brain science tells us that individuals learning to set goals and achieve them move from crisis to control. In fact, the efficacy of such work goes from 30% to over 85%. As an informed volunteer mentor or peer, you can help do this. The lesson is in the story of the fishes. I can give a man a fish, and he eats for a day. Teach him to fish, and he eats forever. Join the movement, be an agent of change, teach people to fish, help people know what fishing is.

Finally, you can advocate in the appropriate ways available to you. Public policy and funding in this space are designed on science that is 20 to 30 years old and is built around the concept of maintaining people, not helping them change and lift themselves out of poverty.

You can advocate for fair housing, better education, no more regressive benefit funding as income grows. But the single best thing you can promote for is employment, jobs, and a living wage with benefits in America. The way out of poverty is a job. Poverty robs individuals of choice; choices economic wellbeing can provide.

With housing, education, and workforce development we can prepare individuals in poverty for the workforce, but where are the jobs? Yes, unemployment is at record lows, but a job at 40 hours a week at $26/hour with benefits and a 25 hour a week job with no benefits at $9/hour both count as individuals employed in the data. The working poor is a large number of the 15%. Understand and challenge the data, see the reality.

Advocate for job creation and job training and critically for individuals in poverty to have the training and access to jobs that are created. Right now there is a lack of individuals in the trades at critical levels. Infrastructure is failing, fund it. New technology jobs, startups. We need incentives to be created that drive real employment and not just for some Americans, but all Americans.

Here another elephant is the issue of race, gender and economic privilege. Economic privilege and access is not readily shared. We live in an investor, bottom line, economy; we need to live in one where social impact is a significant element in an investors criteria and not financial returns alone. I firmly believe that government funding will not, on its own. change the level of poverty in America. Our history suggest that public/private partnership drive the most effective programs. Partnerships that leverage inclusion and drive social impact create solutions that work and are driven by the market. 35% of the GDP not spent on safety nets could fund a lot of our other needs.

Your generation is the one that I hope will get this right. There is great power in inclusion and social impact investing and you know it intuitively. Hold your elected officials accountable, vote when you are old enough, be an informed citizen and start now. Not just of America, but of the world. When you are in a position to do so hold your community, your employers, and hold yourself accountable. As an old white guy, it took me 60 years to learn what real equality really looks like. Diversity is a checked box on an EEOC form, inclusion is a seat at the table, social impact is a return that also drives social justice. Our best moments as a country occur when everyone has a seat and return is measured in part by social impact. One can do good and make a profit.

You can make that decision now. How you behave, what you say and write about matters. Every day and in every place. Weather you be a third former, a senior looking towards college, or faculty teaching and coaching our next generation.

So I leave you with a few thoughts on poverty, race, and privilege. 

First, acknowledge them.

Second, get educated on the facts, the history, and the issues. Understand what works. What is maintenance, what is myth, and what drives change?

Third, understand that it is in your interest to deal with these issues as the consequences of not are unacceptable. You and Shelby could have been each other, but for the luck of circumstances. Decide what you stand for, what is acceptable, and what your hopes are for the future, not just for yourselves, but the Shelby’s of this country.

Fourth when you can, reach in, volunteer, become a peer, understand social justice is not a spectator sport. No one wants a handout, what individuals in poverty want is a hand up.

Fifth, once you have done 1-4 advocate, vote, over time drive informed public policy. Understand that your individual behavior on the issues of race, poverty, gender, and privilege speaks louder long term than any letter to the editor and it is something you control, no one else. Look in the mirror.

And finally understand that what happens here on the Hill is an extraordinary opportunity that many individuals do not have access to, let alone are aware that such institutions exist. You can coast, or you can take what you learn here and challenge the status quo. Invest now, to be able to give back later.

It is my experience you can and will build a good life, but know a great one is when you do that and give back. You all can be agents of change. Much of what I learned, I learned here. Be curious, ask questions, read, and engage. Years from now the head start you get here will be the basis for success. Use that success to lift all boats. 

You will note that one of the core values of ECS is Impact. All that we do is based on the core value that what we do has an impact. If it does not, we stop. Our work demands no less.

I suggest to you it is also a good value to have as an individual.

Answer one fundamental question? Does what you do make a difference beyond yourself?

Life, real living, is not all about being comfortable.

I have come to learn that by doing and facing the uncomfortable, one learns the most, grows the most, and it is rarely fatal. Scar tissue from such experience is the best teacher. You can live in fear of people different than you or you can meet people where they live and find common ground. In doing so you too can look up and challenge poverty. It is my working definition and implementation of Grit and Grace.

It is your choice. Choose wisely, but choose, knowing that not everyone has the gift and privilege of choice. Respect that gift. 

Thank you, it has been my honor to speak with you this morning.

Oh, and lest I forget, in your spare time, beat Avon.


We hold these truths to be self-evident

Posted by Dave Griffith on July 7, 2018 at 11:35 AM Comments comments (1)



I recently had the opportunity to attend a function at Independence Hall. Three individuals, incredibly well done, reenacted Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson and some of their interaction around the Deceleration of Independence.


Reread the document. Some excerpts.


“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness……….And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”


It Is not new news that these and their colleagues were extraordinary men. Yes, they did not deal with the issue of slavery, gender remained an issue, and yes these were different times, and history casts a romantic image where myth and facts no doubt get blended.


However, what strikes me is the contrast to today and the consequences of the vacuum of “sacred honor” leadership. This is not a red or a blue comment. It is a national, public observation, pointed out in the press, by the pundits, and by the facts.


As a nation what is it we value? We are a nation of immigrants, yet we look to close our borders. We are a nation of merchants, yet we seek to end free trade. We are the wealthiest nation on earth, yet fifteen percent of our population lives in poverty. We are a nation of builders, yet our infrastructure crumbles. We are a nation of innovators and inventors, yet our math and science scores do not reflect a bright future. We are a nation of outdoorsmen, and yet we fail to support clean water and air. We are a nation that values individual freedom, yet the government has grown on many levels out of control.


Where is the “sacred honor” leadership that puts the nation and all of her people ahead of personal greed and gain? Where is the common good that brings our people together, rather than tears at each other’s throats? Where is the civil dialogue that begets comprise and in turn movement and progress? Where is a nation that cares about its future more than the current moment?


We stand on the shoulders of giants. We owe it to them and their sacrifices and to the generations that follow to find common ground. To look in the mirror and elect leadership that we hold accountable to the standards and values of 1776 and the hard lessons learned since then. History and Lincoln tell us that a house divided cannot long stand. We are on the brink. We cannot go back, but we can choose to go forward.


Life, Liberty, and Happiness are worth fighting for, but not just for ourselves. The lesson of history tells us that the good fight is a fight for all people.


I saw a sign the other day. It read, “It’s my Country.“


Yes, it is.


It is self-evident.


The Work Bench

Posted by Dave Griffith on June 23, 2018 at 2:10 PM Comments comments (0)



It is a point of honor in the book of guys that when something breaks, you have the tools and necessary replacement parts on hand to address the matter. This explains my workbench and storage cabinets. Claw hammers of different weights, rubber mallets, somewhere around 40 screwdrivers of various lengths, sizes, and tip configurations, same for pliers, brushes, spackle blades, wrenches, hex keys, saws, measuring tapes, chisels, wire strippers, power meters, stud finders, (my wife wants to borrow) and a boatload of screws, wire, nails, staples, rivets, electric tape, duct tape, and an assortment of electric drills, saws, screwdrivers, welders, power washers, extension cords, and finally paints both current and ancient and glues that can bond wood, metal, tile, and small children.


It’s not that I dread going to the hardware store. In fact, I view a trip to True Value, Home Depot or Lowes like my wife does Saks. The problem is when I go for what I need for the job at hand rarely is that all that returns home. One can never have enough 9-volt batteries or light bulbs. The last trip to get replacement screens for the back door that the dog blew out, resulted in a volume buy of wire mesh screen that will last several dogs. The point is I will be ready and at a reasonable price. This is the same theory as buying a lifetime supply of paper towels at Costco.


God forbid the project is electrical or plumbing. My partner for life insists I call a professional. This is akin to waving a red flag in front of a bull. Often the results are the same. The beast gets mad and in the end, dies. That said almost all projects short of a space shot have a website that will walk you through step by step and part by part. I consider one of my most significant professional achievements is the replacement of our kitchen garbage disposal with only one trip to Home Depot. No leftover pieces, worked the first time and did not leak. I posted a picture on Facebook and got more likes than a puppy. Men understand this.


The best part of all this is when your children call and ask you for advice or to come help. Teaching your son or daughter how to fix a leaking faucet, check the circuit breaker before you call the electrician, the reason hanging a picture with the right size hook matters, and finally the value of a job well done, tools put back, and the dust vacuumed up.


I can tell a lot about an individual from their work bench or tool box. First, do they have one? Second is it organized? Do they value the right tool for the job? The world can be separated into those who read directions first and those who read them after. Third, do they clean up when the work is done? Finally, will they share their tools and knowledge? Somehow learning the how the first time takes the fear out the next time. There is no substitute for experience.


Not all that different than life.


Faith Flows Freely,Trinity June 10, 2018 Remarks

Posted by Dave Griffith on June 10, 2018 at 11:25 AM Comments comments (0)

With our rector on sabbatical I was asked to speak this Sunday. What follows are my remarks. Several of us have been asked to witness our experiences at Trinity and I was delighted to do so. 


Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.

Good Morning. I am delighted to be with you this morning and participate in the time-honored tradition of being a witness. While I know most of you, for those I don’t my name is Dave Griffith, and Jacqui and I have been attending members of Trinity since 1993 when we moved here from Newtown Connecticut. We raised our family here; we built a life here, and our experience here strongly influenced my call to service at Episcopal Community Services when I retired.

Let's start with today’s Gospel reading:

“The crowd came together again so that Jesus and his disciples could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebub, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.

“Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

What I hear in these words is the power of a spiritual community, as well as the behavior necessary to fully join. Also, the words invoked by Lincoln that serve as core advice as to the destructive power of a house divided.

So taking these thoughts let me share our story.

In 1993 we came to Solebury, and as we were building our house, we moved into an apartment complex next to Doylestown Hospital. Some of you will recall the winter of 93 was snow and ice, lots of snow and ice, and a small apartment with a 2 and 5-year-old was going to test the system.

Jacqui and I wandered into Trinity the week before the fall house tour, and we were sucked into the community. Helen Montogomery whose husband Monty was my first boss at IBM welcomed us, and within a week the kids were playing at Kyle Evans house, and we were having dinner with Ian and Jane McNeil, and he and I wound up parking cars and started what would become a best friend friendship.

These and many other new friends made that first winter much more bearable. A faith community had put its arms around us and welcomed us into their house.

Time passed, we moved into our house, and Lindsay and Ian grew. Dave Anderson asked me to “help out “ with stewardship, meaning join the Vestry and dig in. Out of that experience came foyer dinners, small groups, and formal stewardship education. The kids as they grew became acolytes, Sunday school participants, helpers at house tour, and the Christmas bazaars. When my daughter went off to boarding school, she asked, and we hosted a brunch for her church moms. Women who had taken her under their wing, taught her to knit, bake, serve tea, and while I can't prove it, shop. They also served as role models of what family, community, and being a strong woman mean. We served in the same role for our friend's children.

A faith community had put its arms around us and welcomed all of us into their house.

Jacqui and I went on to serve on the Vestry, me as finance warden and she as outreach and then strategic planning. Dave Anderson, our priest at the time, was impossible to say no to, must be a seminary course you take. In the late 1990’s we started to plan for expansion as we were growing. I taught Sunday school with Kin Sager and Sharon Burd. Years later one student would be on my Vestry, and the other came to work for me at Modern. I am not old; they are just young, but Jen still calls me Mr. Griffith. I was asked to cook a few lobsters with brothers faithful and true. That number now stands over 20000 and those brothers are indeed faithful and true.

A faith community had put its arms around us and welcomed us into their house and now was asking us to do the same.

Mother’s Day weekend, the phone rings and the church is on fire. Arson we would learn, and the community comes together and grows stronger, our youth leads us. We worship in the elementary school and out of the ashes we build a new school, repair the Chapel and build the sanctuary we are in today.

In the devastation, a faith community had put its arms around all of us and taught us that a church is not a building.

The Andersons leave, and we call a new Rector. It does not go well, and we learn that Mark was right. If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. We go through a tough time; we lose our way, we stop listening. People leave, people, hurt, but slowly we heal, we call an interim rector Emory Bynum, and he asks Lorri Perkins and me to serve as wardens. We are in the midst of a recession, and my business is demanding all of my time, but my church is calling. It becomes one of the most rewarding experiences of my life leading me to accept the job as Executive Director at ECS when I step away from day to day at Modern.

A faith community had put its arms around us and welcomed us into their house, and through service, we grow and learn what is important in our faith.

We call Rick and Ellen. Ginny continues as our ever-present assistant. Tim still tickels the keys. Together they bring a new life and worship to this place. Times change. We say goodbye to good and faithful servants. My sister in law Anne, Monty Montogomery, Doug McArthur, Ian and Jane McNeil to name a few.

The ministry I am most proud of is the reaching out we do to each other when we are in need. My call has been to help individuals, young and old seeking employment and reach into my network and experience and coach them through the process. My great joy is that more than a few folks have landed employment, but not because of my network or sage advice, but as I learn, because they were not alone.

A faith community has put its arms around us and welcomed us into their house and asked us to do the same. Know that as a community we are never alone.

And so we welcome new families, new children, new individuals. The times change, and programs vary, the community around us changes, but a faith community on the not so quiet hill in Solebury still stands. And it welcomes us into this house and continues to ask us to do the same for the strangers among us and not just on this hill, but hills far and wide, for there is need everywhere.

And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

So let me witness this here and now and I call on you to do the same.

Trinity is a bedrock in my life, not the building but the community and through the faith that flows so freely here. We give freely of our time, our treasure and our talents to this community and it has given so much more back than we have provided.

We all are asked to live into our baptismal covenant as individuals, but also as a people of God, bound by a common faith.

Will you love your neighbor as yourself? And the people answer. We will

Will you respect the dignity of every human being? And the people answer. We will

Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ? And the people answer. We will.

We are indeed not perfect, and as Adam and Eve, we are flawed from the beginning. But when we answer ”We will” to our baptismal covenant as both an individual and as a community of faith, and we truly live into the promises of the resurrection; and our “we wills” turn into intentional actions. When we do that, we stand as a witness to the power of Gods love, God’s forgiveness, and the joy of letting his word being our guide.

Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

I stand as a witness that this is true. I thank you all, past, present, and those who will come, for making this so. May we welcome as we have been greeted. Together let us reach out to the stranger, the broader community, and together answer our universal call to service. In doing so witness, stand as examples, and share that which we have and that which we experienced with all our brothers and sisters.

For here faith flows freely.

And the people answer. We will.

Amen.

 


On the water

Posted by Dave Griffith on May 28, 2018 at 5:35 PM Comments comments (0)

I am up to my wader belt in sixty-degree water. The sun is dancing on the surface, and the ripples are in and out of shade from the overhanging trees. A short waterfall is on my left, and a deep pool is in front of me and runs along the far bank on my right. I am casting a six weight rod and line with a caddis and sinking grees nymph set up. For me, this is about as good as it gets.

I get a rise in front of me at about 35 feet. Then a second. I cast and lay the fly about a foot in front of the last rise. The indicator starts its drift in the current. I can't feel the line, but the cork does its job and disappears with a hit. I lift my rod sharply and set the hook.

I reel in the excess line and start the dance. The fish runs for the bottom, then turns, then breaks the surface. We do these steps three or four times, each time I can bring in more line. As the fish tires, I get my net and look to bring the fish over its submerged opening.

The fly is barbless, as we fish catch and release, and for a second I let the line slack. In a flash, the fish spits the fly and is gone.

The pool grows still again. The waterfall the only sound. I check the fly, strip some line and cast back into the moving foam of the falls.

It does not matter if I catch a fish. It only matters that the soul restores in the attempt.

Prayer takes many forms.

That is the beauty of fishing.


The Summer Job Lift

Posted by Dave Griffith on April 30, 2018 at 9:50 AM Comments comments (0)


Across the region, a time-honored transition is occurring. The school year is ending, and summer vacation begins. For many young adults, this is also the time for early resume building to occur in the form of a summer job, summer internship, summer camps or travel that provides exposure and experience.

In large parts of our region, such a transition holds no such sets of experiences. For many, the summer is a time when the experience gap widens, and the associated access such opportunities provide only grow more distant.

In the cycle of intergenerational poverty, one of the distinguishing attributes is the lack of experiences and exposure to the opportunity that many of us take for granted. A summer job teaches both the hard and soft skills necessary to perform in the workplace as well as a modest income. A summer internship allows an individual to learn about a career field and learn what it takes to chart a career in a given industry. Understanding the skills required for a given vocation often drives a focus in school and the importance of a degree and/or professional skill. The networking that occurs often set the stage for a later interview and perhaps employment.

The good news is that across the city there exist many programs that serve to close this experience gap. At Episcopal Community Services we are members of PYN, the Philadelphia Youth Network, and together we provide paid internships four days a week and the one day of professional development for eight weeks over the summer months. Working with a network of for-profit businesses and nonprofit agencies we are able to place 130 young people in summer employment. Also, we extend our Out of School time program to summer camps where some 700 youth participate and gain both STEM experiences and other activities.

The data shows that individuals who have such experience are more likely to graduate high school, go on to additional education or professional training, and land employment that gives them the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty that grips our region.

We know that the way out of Poverty is a job. One with a living wage, benefits, and a career path based on performance. Income provides the opportunity for stable housing, wellness, ongoing education, and the chance to participate as a full member of society.

The challenges are quite simply the numbers. Philadelphia’s poverty rate is 28 percent, and the number of youth needing employment and professional development and mentoring is significant and not just in the summer.

If you are an employer, consider participating in summer hiring. Better yet allocate some of your hirings to the population that is experiencing poverty. Invest in mentoring and professional development for individuals experiencing poverty. If you can coach or mentor a youth reach out to one of the many agencies that run such programs, get trained and volunteer. Provide financial support so such programs can scale to meet the demand.

Poverty will consume us as a society if we do not challenge its grip on our brothers and sisters. The long and short-term costs are staggering. We ignore the issue at our peril, and the solutions lie in our collective action, not in our collective avoidance of the issues.

Together the cycle of poverty can be broken and if you are in a position to hire, mentor, coach, or contribute you are part of the solution. Help provide the opportunity to a young adult, and in doing so challenge poverty.


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