The Path to Social Change: Love and Service

I’ve been thinking a lot of about what it means to be social, which has led me to wondering how being social, on and offline, can change communities through the establishment and maintenance of healthy relationships.

I was struck by the words and wisdom regarding love and service in Cornel West’s book, Hope On A Tightrope:

“When we dare to love and serve, we will be willing to speak, act, dialogue, write, fuse, share, laugh, and love with others whom we can inspire and who can inspire us. There’s never any guarantee of victory in history. There never has been, there never will be. Nevertheless, if we can commit to loving, serving, and understanding each other–recognizing that we are far more alike than we are different–we have chance.”

Look at that. Right there, embedded in a message of hope, is a clear call to action for each and everyone of us:

  1. Dare to love and serve: Get past yourself, your own issues, your own problems, and care about what is happening to other people.
  2. Be willing to engage: According to West, we need “to speak, act, dialogue, write, fuse, share, laugh and love with others” for the purpose of inspiring each one another.
  3. Through the good and the bad times, commit to developing and maintaining healthy relationships: Life has a way of being messy when we realize that we are all messed up and have issues. It is easy to run away from problems or to pretend they don’t exist, that is not being social and that is not being committed to loving and serving others.

I am challenged to re-examine what it means to love and serve others. I like to think that I care and that I bend over backwards to take care of the people that I love, but what about the people I don’t particularly like, or even hate? Am I finding ways to foster an attitude of love and service towards them? That takes me back to point #1 of West, “Dare to love and serve.” It is daring, risky and painful to love and serve the people we hate.

How daring are you?

Are you playing it safe?

“There’s never any guarantee of victory in history,” so what do you have to lose?


The Smells of Summer

I got out of the car this morning and was struck by a very distinct smell, the nostalgic smell of summer.

Flashing back to the days of visiting my grandma and grandpa’s house in California when it was a little cool in the morning, the air was fresh, and life was blossoming along with the flowers.

Summer mornings have always been my favorite. The heat of the previous day is gone and the hope and promise of the day ahead is covered in a thin layer of morning dew.

Now that I am an adult, no longer a child, I look forward to the upcoming summer sitting on my back patio drinking a cup of coffee, reflecting on the day before me and taking in the warmth of life’s nostalgia.

What smells of summer bring a sense of nostalgia for you?


Reflections Of My Mom

Being Mother’s Day, I spent a lot of time reflecting upon my mom and how great she is. When I look at the man I am today, I can point to very specific things that she did growing up that built a foundation for the vast majority of my interests, my career and the way I treat people.

My mom bought me my first electric guitar and practice amp for Christmas, along with a lot of different guitar tab books and effects pedals. She encouraged me to play guitar and I honestly never remember a time when she told me to stop because it was horrible. She probably told me to turn it down, but I’m grateful she never had a single discouraging word about my early devotion to learning the guitar. I can’t imagine what she felt when I stood upon an 8-foot scaffolding in a 2007 Christmas production, playing the lead guitar to “Sarajevo 12/24” by Trans-Siberian Orchestra. I wonder, in that moment, did she flash back to those early moments when I attempted to play a Metallica or Pearl Jam song and sucked horribly?

In addition to my first guitar, she also bought me my trumpet that I would use for eight years throughout middle school and high school.  I’ll never forget the first day I took that trumpet to school.  She dropped me off at the end of our gravel road to wait for the bus.  I set down the trumpet case behind the car, thinking that she was going to go to work.  She backed up to say something and ran over the case.  The trumpet wasn’t harmed, but the perfection of the case and finish of the trumpet was scuffed and scratched, I was wrecked!  But my mom calmed me down,  smiled at me and said, “One day, we’ll laugh about this.”  To this day, we laugh about it.

I remember the day when we got an IBM PS/2 personal computer with DOS, 5.25″ and 3.5″ floppy disk drives, Prodigy, AOL, “Zack McCracken and the Alien Mindbenders” and all the great things that came with the early computers. She never complained when I spent hours on the computer, learning how to create batch executable files and to program. I smile thinking of those early computers and how slow, yet amazing, miraculous and mysterious, they were.

But it wasn’t just computers that my mom was enthusiastic about, she loved technology.  Whether it was the Atari 5200, the Nintendo Entertainment System, a Super Nintendo, a Nintendo 64, VHS camcorders, VCR’s and stereos, she always found a way to have the latest and greatest. I can remember records, tapes and the mysterious compact disk player. Magical and awesome.

I can point to physical possessions all day long, but when I look at my interests, my mom really influenced the things that I love.  Art, photography, movies, music, reading, cooking, all there because my mom loved them as well.

I can remember learning how to cook.  At first, it was Hamburger Helper or Cream of Mushroom Porkchops, but then I learned how to make homemade spaghetti sauce or even lasagna, because of how great of a cook she was, and still is.  She always has an answer for how to make things and that is something that I am truly grateful for.  This past Thanksgiving, we cooked dinner together.  That was one of the best days for me and it makes me smile thinking of the way she showed me how to prepare a turkey and how we all enjoyed the food cooked by mom and her son.

I love photography because of my mom.  She always had photography books around.  She always seemed to be taking pictures at key moments.  I remember the mystery of her JCPenney 35mm camera in all it’s automatic glory, and the gray/black camera bag that was always sitting in the bottom of her closet.

Finally, when I look at my character, I am grateful that my mom taught me how to listen.  Growing up in a houseful of women (my mom and two sisters), listening was critical and to this day, it is the one aspect of who I am that I am most proud of.  As a documentary filmmaker, I love the interviewing process, and my ability to listen and draw out what people are thinking is all because my mom taught me how to listen.



Fight For Me

I sat across from the table and thought about an answer to his question, “what can I do differently in the future?”  After a moment of reflection, it was simple, “damn it, fight.  Fight for me, fight for my time.”

While this was an actual conversation with a living, breathing human being, it was also a conversation I had with myself this morning.

I started thinking about the ways that I don’t fight for the things that matter to me.

Stop sabotaging yourself Chris.

Keep writing, taking photos, making documentary films. These things are good. There is value to your creative expression. Don’t lose heart, protect it.

One of the greatest joys in my life is spending time with friends and hearing about their lives. The successes, the joys, the failures, the hurts. This morning, I spent a few hours with a friend at a coffee shop in the mall. At one point we ended up talking about the fears in our lives and I came to the realization that while I used to think that I fear both failure and success, I really feared being exposed for being a fake, a phony, someone hiding behind the mask of “having it all together.”

Perhaps the desire to break free of the fear of exposure and to fight for the joys buried in my heart is why I have an increased interest in expressing the fruit of my introspection, reflection, honesty and transparency.

All I know is that to fight through the fear means that the fear needs to be identified, named, labeled, and looked at with the eyes of someone that knows what they want.

Damn it, fight.

It is good.



One Year Later

One year ago today, weighing in at a whopping 273 pounds, I started the Medifast program and lost a lot of weight and inches.  Here is a look at where I started and where I am today:

  • Weight:  273 lbs. to 147 lbs. (-126 lbs.)
  • Upper Arms:  16″ to 10.5″ (-5.5″)
  • Chest:  50″ to 36.5″ (-13.5″)
  • Waist:  54″ to 34″ (-20″)
  • Hips:  50″ to 35″ (-15″)
  • Thighs:  25″ to 18″ (-7″)

I won’t lie, the numbers are staggering and amazing.  I am amazed that I was able to accomplish something that I have always dreamed of.  However, this morning, my friend Scott Carden asked me a series of difficult questions on Twitter:  “How do you feel about yourself today vs. a year ago?  How much of a different person are you?  Inside and Out?”

These are great questions that have really caused me to reflect upon my internal and external appearances.  I have always been overweight which led me to constantly dream about being thin.  I would often visualize myself residing in a fat suit that at anytime I could unzip, step out of and instantly gain favor, love and acceptance from those around me.

For 20 years I fostered that belief and it created an expectation that if I was skinny, my life would be better.  That I would feel better about myself.  That I would do what I wanted to do with my life, because I wouldn’t have to deal with how I looked anymore.

How do I feel about myself now?  I am now dealing with those false expectations.  My life didn’t change when I weighed in at 147.  My insecurities still exist.  I am still me on the inside.  At times, I look in the mirror and still see the old me.  Sometimes I don’t even recognize myself.

I did notice that how people treated me changed.  When I was heavy, my worth was determined by others based on what I could do for them creatively (website design and development, graphic design, video production and photography).  But as I lost weight, people started to value me because of my physical appearance.  That was really hard for me to accept at first, because I still wanted to be valued based on what I could do.

I can honestly say that I have been successful because in addition to learning how to eat healthy foods, I was also seeing a counselor in order to deal with the emotional issues of why I was eating.  I have always been an emotional eater.  I eat to numb my pain.  I remember as a kid, eating bags of Chips Ahoy cookies in one sitting or downing a whole container of frozen cool whip, just because I was bored and hurting deep inside.  Emotions are a powerful force and food is my addiction.  My drug.  That is the biggest thing I have learned about myself in this whole process and I accept full responsibility for my actions in the past, present and future.

I feel like I am rambling a bit, but the honest truth is that while the exterior has changed tremendously, my interior needs a lot of work.  The exterior was easy compared to the journey that I am now on.

At the end of the day, I am grateful for losing the weight, because it has led me to a place of acceptance and desire to be emotionally healthy, even though the work is a million times harder when dealing with the interior of my life.

Thank you Scott for asking these tough questions.