Too Short for a Blog Post, Too Long for a Tweet LXIV

Here's an excerpt from an article I recently read, "In the war between millennials and baby boomers we have forgotten about the work-hard, play-hard Generation X":

Generation X is unique because nobody has had lives like we’ve got. Boomers were old by the time they were 40; millennials have yet to hit that milestone. Generation X is pushing back the envelope of old age, through attitude and health, like never before. We can do the shopping and read comic books and pay the bills and play video games. We can “adult” all you like, but we’re still kids at heart.

The problem with you millennials and boomers, though you’d never admit it, is you’re too alike. You’re both insular, in different ways. You’re both selfish. You’re both so blinkered, you think you’re the only two factions in this petty little fight of yours.

You forgot about Generation X.

But don’t fret, we’re still here. Working hard, playing hard, innovating, learning from the past and planning the future. So have your little generational war, and when you’re done, don’t worry.

We’re Generation X, and we've got this.


Lazy Linking, 180th in an Occasional Series

Stuff I liked lately on the Internets:

180.1 A conservative's plan for climate action nyti.ms/2ll3mAS @nytimes @gregmankiw

180.2 Find out what the income distribution of your alma mater's student body is nyti.ms/2jMlPCl @upshotnyt

180.3 How much light costs = a story about inflation, innovation, & quality of life bbc.in/2kxwAch @bbcnews @timharford

180.4 The science behind why talking on the phone makes some of us anxious sciof.us/2knfO2R @nymag

180.5 @PremaGupta, place-maker extraordinaire, on why old buildings at @NavyYardPhila matter bit.ly/2kOVN3I @eotsphilly


The Obligation and Privilege of Seeing Both Sides

You know I am a "on the one hand, on the other hand" sort of a guy.  That when everyone is arguing for something, my inclination is to take a step back and see if there isn't any validity for the opposite perspective.  And that I value greatly that all sides have a right to exist and be heard.

These things are important even and especially when times are rancorous and divisive, when the news updates are flowing fast and furious, and when it is not assumed that what you read is the whole story or even remotely truthful.  Indeed, part of the venom against Donald Trump is on account of his creative license with and at times utter disdain for the truth.  And while I find this highly inappropriate and utterly abhorrent behavior from our president, I also find it ironic and annoying that some of his opposition is fueled by information that is also not totally or even partially true.  So I will continue to try to see both sides and encourage others to do the same.

But I realize that there is a posture of privilege contained from such a perspective.  It is as if I am not on the field itself, but can observe it from a distance as a detached referee or evaluator.  But many who are protesting are not detached from the consequences of President Trump's actions and words, but rather are personally and deeply affected by them in ways that my privilege shields me from.

So which is it?  When is seeing both sides or being neutral what our discourse needs, and when is it a mark of privilege to be able to walk away without condemning a position?  Please consider...


Adoption as a Metaphor for Our Fear and Embrace of the Other

If there is anything that is dominating our national discourse nowadays, it is our reaction to "the other."  Many in our country think of "the other" in negative terms, concerned about implications for already unfavorable labor markets, already strained public sector budgets, or personal and national security.  In contrast, others in our country consider such opinions to be fear-based and despicably inflamed by fear-mongering politicians, and so are loudly and publicly proclaiming their embrace of and appreciation of "the other."  It is hard to think of anyone who straddles these entrenched perspectives; you are either one or the other.  Such is the state of our increasingly divided states of America.

You can probably guess which side of this I'm on.  And yet it is my nature to want to see both sides of the story, and if the majority of what I am hearing is on one side to work extra hard to make room for the other side.  And so, no matter how strongly I feel personally, I realize that others feel strongly too in different ways, and even if I disagree and think them wrong, I seek to listen and understand and respect.

It occurs to me that as an adoptive parent I have a lens on "the other" that others may not have.  Birthing a child is, of course, a special and beautiful thing, and one that brings you into a lifetime of selflessness, as you bear great sacrifice to protect, nurture, and influence that child.  And children are utter wild cards: you hold your breath until they're born because you don't know if they will have health issues or medical complications, and you shake your head at times because you don't recognize the child at different stages in their life when they act in unpredictable ways.

And yet, there is much that is predictable and controllable about the parenting experience, when you birth a child.  That child, genetically, is a combination of you and someone who you love, usually someone you have made a forever commitment to.  So long as resources provide it, you are able to give that child a huge head start in life through careful pre-natal care, and in doting on that child from its earliest minutes of life you are creating a strong and special bond that is essential to their healthy development.  Again, there are so many wild cards throughout the developmental process.  And yet there are also so many knowns, too.

Adopting a child is truly embracing "the other."  We have had three different adoption experiences with our three children, which is normal because there is no normative adoption experience.  For each of our beautiful children, there were more and different unknowns that we had to accept.  Who were their birthparents and what were they like?  What is their health background, which suggests what challenges they are more susceptible to as they grow older?  What kind of care did they receive when they were growing in their birthmother's womb?  Did they get held at all when they were just days and weeks and months old?  In almost every case, we either don't know the answer to the question or the answer is not the one we would have wanted if we were in control.

Adopting a child means a lot more is not in your control.  And it means a lot of accepting of "the other."  And I would be lying unless I acknowledged that some of how I feel about all of this is fearful.  Even if we accept and embrace that life is better through diversity, our desire to be with those like us is strong, and birthing a child is making a human being that is just like you and your partner, whereas adopting a child is bringing into your family someone who is not like you at all.  Even if we accept and embrace that children are unknowns, birthing a child means knowing many more important things about that life, whereas adopting a child often means knowing almost nothing about really important things.

And yet, in spite of and really because of that, adoption is beautiful.  Whether you are adopting because you want to or because you cannot have children any other way, it is precious to embrace "the other" and make a new sense of belonging with it, not just accepting them into your family identity but having that family identity stretch to accommodate who they are.  As a Christian, I can also tell you that the Biblical metaphor of God adopting us into His family is made more powerful by my own experiences of adoption and of the fear and embrace I have felt throughout.

Furthermore, if you believe in the power and beauty of diversity, then you know that what really matters is real human connection: not just a sense that we have a nice distribution of people in our Facebook photos and social circles, but that we are substantively engaging with all walks of life.  Well, what is more intimate a human connection than bringing a human life from outside your family into the life and identity of your clan?  And if you truly value diversity, isn't that just about the best and most beautiful thing possible?  

The process of adopting three kids and then raising three adoptive kids has been a roller-coaster.  To say that there have been tears and fears is probably not a controversial statement, and yet it is important to acknowledge that.  Embracing "the other" is not easy.  But it is beautifully worth it.


Why I Serve Where I Serve

I recently joined the board of the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia, the region’s voice for historic preservation.  In this new role, I look forward to learning, contributing, and advocating alongside a great staff and board.

Non-profit boards are, of course, a great way to learn, contribute, and advocate, and perhaps you have detected in my volunteer choices some recurring themes, which I’d like to further articulate in this post. 

To begin, here’s where I’m involved as of now.  In addition to historic preservation, I am also involved in Asian business (Asian American Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia), Christian education (City School), design (Community Design Collaborative), triple bottom line business (Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia), and immigrants and economic development (Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians).   I also have less formal but still meaningful participation in groups that are working on diversity in journalism, public policy education, and social impact real estate development. 

I like all of the people I serve and serve with, and these activities are hugely helpful (directly and indirectly) for my business development responsibilities at work.  Not to mention the fact that everyone I interact with in each of these spaces knows way more than I, so it is a good stretch for me and I am thankful for such a rich learning environment.  So there are significant selfish reasons for me to give of my scarce time in these ways. 

But they are also a way I can contribute to the kind of urban community I aspire for Philadelphia to be, one which is economically vibrant, intentionally inclusive, and deeply authentic.  In these causes and organizations I have found a vehicle to push for just that kind of place, and I am deeply grateful for those who serve with me, almost all of whom who give more of their time and have far more insight than I ever will. 

Someday (probably a long time from now!), I will retire, and when that day happens I want to say that I gave it my all and helped the next generation to keep fighting the good fight.   That’s why I serve where I serve.


Urban Challenges

You know from this space that I am a lover of cities, a booster for Philadelphia, and bullish on our urban future.  Donald Trump's remarks about America's urban centers are, to say the least, pointed.  Just about everything I've heard him say on the subject is clangy, not to mention coded.  And even when the speaker and the words are less confrontational, I bristle up when cities are trashed, since a lot of those opinions are outdated, misinformed, and borderline racist.

And yet.  It's fair to say that while cities are booming nowadays, all is not well in every neighborhood.  Broader and long-running economic forces have created a tale of two cities, and here in Philadelphia as well as throughout the country can be found entire communities that have been laid waste economically, physically, politically, and socially.

It is right for me, as someone who moved into the city 25+ years ago from the suburbs, to defend urban settings from undue slams.  But it is wrong for me, while touting the wonder of my lovely urban neighborhood, to forget that not everyone who lives in my city has access to the same level of public safety, school quality, or recreational amenities.  In fact, an uncomfortably large number of Philadelphians live in crushing poverty, trapped in awful schools among burnt-out blocks.

I say this not to sensationalize urban blight, feed nefarious stereotypes, or ignore the beautiful things that are still able to flourish here, but rather to acknowledge that all is not well in many parts of Philadelphia and other urban settings in America.  Let us learn and love our great cities in this country.  But let us not be blind to the real challenges they face or unaffected by the fact that our fellow women and men suffer so. 


Fundraising Season (the Spring Edition)

Last fall, I posted about "Fundraising Season," but spring is also a time of many such events.  Here are four I'm a part of organizing, sponsoring, or attending:

March 2 - Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians is having its annual fundraiser, the Solas Awards.  Click here for more info.   I'm on the board and I scarcely have to tell you my opinion of the role of immigrants to a flourishing society and economy.

March 24 - Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia is having its annual fundraiser, Sustainaball.  Click here for more info.  This is another board I'm on, and I'm proud that our firm is a member as well.  Triple bottom line businesses, yo!

April 4 - Community Design Collaborative is having its annual event, Leverage, this time at Pennovation Center.  I've served on this board since 2014 and it's a great organization that knows how to throw a fun party.  More info here.

April 18 - Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations is having its 25th anniversary gala.  Click here for more info.  I've served on the host committee for this event the past few years, and I am so impressed by the effort and results of these great community-serving honorees.