You have everything you need, if you just believe. – “Believe” by Josh Groban

[Cross-posted from Summer of Solutions: Fayetteville’s blog]
Empowerment seems to be a unicorn; quite fanciful, out of reach, and potentially a hoax.

This summer, I realized what empowerment means: wanting something you deserve but can’t have, and to be shown how to get it for yourself.
This could be civil rights.
This could be education.
Or it could be a green job.
Do we want green jobs, really? Have we fully, deeply, and comprehensively come to understand the deprivation we experience daily: our immediate need for money, being forced to acquire money in unsustainable ways, use it to buy food that’s almost poisonous, take jobs with no concern for us, other people or the planet…it goes on and on.
My swirl of confusion in SoS Fayetteville may be caused by one simple oversight on my part: we don’t really want green jobs, because we don’t realize how much we need them.
We have television sets and cookies, how could American youth ever be deprived? For one thing, when presented with the tools of empowerment, they ignore them.

As I post this, a lady in the computer lab next to me mistook my smile as an invitation to rant about bad news: “Did you hear, 12 people drowned in Louisianna and a Conneticut gunman…” All I could think was, “And today in Arkansas a youth decided not to create a green job so that more people will drown and be shot in wars over climate change…”
When a youth becomes an entreprenuer, it’s “extraordinary”. When a youth succeeds in a career in acting, music, art, science, literature, you name it – this is considered a special case, a child prodigy, a gift from God just for him/her, or at best an ability that all other youth lack.
This is a lie.
There’s a good book called TALENT IS OVERRATED by Geoff Colvin proving that this cultural misconception needs to stop. It’s obviously disempowered too many of us.
Deprivation may be the foundation for empowerment…. but the key to empowerment is to want it.
Work is a really odd word.  My high school science textbook explained it as any action expending energy or force, or something like that. What’s even weirder are the actions we choose to define as work, our measure of effort, and the choices we make based on mismeasurement.
I was in college once not too long ago.  Whenever there was something I truly wanted, I’d put any amount of work into getting it. Usually it was a trip, since I love traveling. I’d invest tons of energy planning the route, researching destinations, buying maps / gas / tickets / lodging, etc. When a challenge came up, like a blocked road, broken down car, lack of money – I’d even lose sleep over ensuring that I could still take that trip.
But for homework, college jobs, or something I had to do but didn’t really want, I’d invest tons of energy avoiding it or trying to minimize the amount of “work” that needed to get done.
One day in 2008, when I was working as a secretary who felt forced to staple papers forever in order to pay for graduate school, it dawned on me that the difference between work and not work is CHOICE.  So, in January 2009 I quit my job, lived off savings and struggled for 8 months to help write a grant for OMNI Center to get them 3 AmeriCorps*VISTAs. It was hard, but the best investment of my life. My actions are considered extraordinary, yes, and I think that’s a crying shame.
If many people realized that they did have a choice in their work (or at least their perspective of work) and invested as much energy in that choice as a college trip (with all the sleep deprivation, planning, and expenses) the very least consequence of that realization would be the instant abolishment of fast food.

In SoS 2011, we’re going to make it super clear that creating a green job involves getting paid: otherwise you end up volunteering to do what you love and working to do…anything else.
True stories:
1 phone call to a sponsor = $100
1 ask for material support = $500
1 decision to have an art show = $600
1 meeting with OMNI Center = $1,500
1 letter to Greenhouse Grille = $10 giftcards for everyone
Not sending out letters = 0
Not making a timeline = 0
Not telling businesses about a project = 0
Too many “not’s” in a daily schedule means you don’t get paid.
Volunteer Life:
“I’d love to help SoS more, it’s such a fun project, but I gotta work this weekend to save money.  It’s too bad green jobs don’t pay – I need a REAL job now. But it’s hard because the 5 job openings don’t match my values at all. I wish I could go to August Gathering, sounds fun, but I don’t have time.”
Green Job Life:
“It was scary at first, but I built a two-week timeline for my rain barrel business, advertised it, received $500 for material support, and now I’ll make at least $1,200 once they’re all sold to some of the 50+ community gardens!  Since SoS already paid me $250, that’s $1,450 – just $50 away from my stipend goal!”
And, because this person is engaged with the idea that green jobs pay, they see August Gathering as a way to further their goals, and attend with their goals in mind, so this could happen: “During August Gathering, I met someone from Detroit who has a better model and they connected me to an invester for next summer!”
I think all of your dreams are exactly what the world needs! Don’t give up on them because the way to get paid for it seems scary and less convenient than a job application to Target.

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