My friends are awesome. Besides putting up with plenty of b.s. from me, they make and do amazing things. I’m so blown away by their talent and courage. Lucky me.
See what I mean?..
Ghost Bike: Michael Christensen
Mike and I sip coffee at Coffea every so often. He usually wears tight pants and a helmet. He’s the author of The Minus Car Project, a blog about his mission to minimize the use of his car. That means biking it is his normal mode–even in January. This seems awesome enough in itself. But he recently did something that might just be the coolest project I’ve seen yet. He and his bike-shop buddy came up with Ghost Bike, an artful tribute to a fallen bicyclist in Sioux Falls. Read about it on MinusCar and Argus Leader and watch it on Keloland and KDLT.
Park(ing) Day: Whitney Parks
I learned how awesome Whitney is when I watched her almost single-handedly make a community tool library from straw bales rise from the parking lot in a neighborhood that needs it. That was the first project for the Sioux Falls chapter of Architecture for Humanity, which she and some other friends founded. Now, along with firing up their own affordable green housing design competition, the edgy group will be hosting Park(ing) Day in Sioux Falls on Friday. On September 17 they’ll turn one Phillips Avenue parking spot into a park for a day, open to the public. Like it usually goes with Whitney, I just gave her the idea, got out of the way, and need to do nothing. It will happen, and be awesome. The major bummer is I won’t be there to see it, or sit in the grass-over-concrete. But you should. Go there on September 17.
Hen in the Fox House: Jamie Horter
She made Will Steger’s team of youth delegates to the Copenhagen World Climate Summit by sending her application in a ski pole, then got messages and doodles (my daughter) Hope and a bunch of other South Dakota kids made into the hands of President Obama. So I wasn’t surprised when Jamie told me about her latest project over a cup of tea at Black Sheep two weeks ago: convincing a house full of sign-waving conservatives to let a scary liberal live among them in a Fox News-loving theme house. She’s off to work an internship for Senator Tim Johnson in D.C., and housing is expensive. This project–infiltrating the righty house–is two things that Jamie does better than most: thrifty and creative. She’s a bold artist in every sense of the word. I’m sure she’ll get in.
Printerns Wanted: The Andrews
In the basement of Falls Center, better known as HQsquared, you might see a few people sharing beers and witty banter pouring ink over a DIY printing press, then pulling it back to lay the latest screen on a hot new event poster. Two of these primitive printers would be named Andrew. My pals Andrew Osborn and Andrew Brynjulson run Harlequin Studio on evenings and weekends. You should read about them. Their shop is pretty odd. They have no employees, only printerns. That’s a printing intern. Printerns are people who volunteer to help make very cool posters and such in the somewhat creepy former comedy club where the Andrews do their dirty work. In fact, if you hire HQ to make prints for you, chances are they’ll convince you to show up and help them print. These days they are inviting other artists to come into the HQsquared (that’s Harlequin Headquarters) space to make more kinds of beautiful things. Fill out your Printernship application here.
Ship Me to Haiti: Stacey McMahan
She’s pretty much my hero. Or at the very least a kick-ass. Stacey, an architect and dear friend, was already the guru of green gurus in South Dakota, which wins lots of points with me. She was also the most dedicated, hard-working, passionate volunteer I have seen yet. Then she called me one Sunday afternoon with something big–she’d applied, and been accepted, to be a Fellow with Architecture for Humanity in Haiti. What does that mean? She left everything and everyone behind to volunteer for a year to help lead the rebuilding effort following the still-devastating earthquake. She’s there, growing her own food, re-designing a rubbish mess, and learning the local culture, goat butchering and all. I’m so proud of her.
A Growing Place: Tim Olsen
My buddy Pastor Tim Olsen always greets me as “brother.” I’ve only known him for a bit shy of a year now, but we’ve become fast friends and kindred spirits. Tim is as remarkable as they come I guess. He heads up Summit House, a unique ministry that places seminary students as members of a diverse and under-served community in central Sioux Falls. In exchange for a roof over their head, Summit House residents serve as part time community organizers in Pettigrew Heights. Tim coordinates the “Urban Ag Committee,” which has overseen the very successful launch of A Growing Place garden at Lowell Elementary School. A Growing Place is a blend of learning lab for students, food pantry for the neighborhood and catalyst for community pride and connectedness. We just finished putting a roof on a donated greenhouse there last week (not there yet in the picture), and are scheming to start another garden at Hayward Elementary next Spring. There’s nothing like getting people’s hands and souls in the soil to grow food together.
Marathon to Tanzania: Lisa Hienert
I met my pal Lisa at Arbor Day Farm several years ago. We both took part in a learning experience that changed our lives. I won’t get into those details, because I don’t know how to express them, but you can read a little bit about the Meadowlark Project here. She’s a quiet, reserved young woman with ferocious passion to serve. She works full time with kids at her church in Lincoln, NE. These days, though, she and her husband are in Tanzania, volunteering for the next year to work at an elementary school there. She recently trained for and completed a marathon to raise money for the trip. See, I said she’s fierce. You can read about her travels and experiences living in Africa on her blog (also a good way to send her a donation), and about the Indigenous Education Foundation of Tanzania, the organizers of her mission.
Solo Community: Matthew Mayer
It started out over a cup of late night hot cocoa at the USD Newman Center, way back when. Matt, the greatest musician I’ve ever known, had registered a domain name, solopiano.com, to sell his CD’s from. By the end of the night, we had bigger ideas. Now it’s real. Check out solopiano.com to listen to world-class artists, read about them, connect with them, and buy their music. I could sure go for another cup of hot chocolate.
The Village Gardener: Uncle Ray
I love the little town we live in. People often say there isn’t much here, but people are often stupid. We have the only true community garden I’ve heard of. Our garden isn’t the kind where a family can rent a portion, or even the kind where they can use a portion for free if they qualify. Nope, the whole damn thing is everybody’s. You can dig your fingers in the soil every Tuesday evening during the planting, growing and harvest seasons, and you can share in the bounty every Saturday morning on Main Street. All the produce at the Montrose farmers market is free. Donations are accepted if you can manage it, but nobody’s hounding you.
So this one isn’t exactly about one friend’s remarkable work, but about a group of people who coordinate the garden to perfection. A (nearly invisible) ring leader of that group is Ray Wingen. I’m picking on Ray for a couple of reasons. First, he’s my great-uncle. And, he’s one of Zoey’s favorite humans. Certainly her favorite baker. Ray works hard with pride and unselfishness down in that garden. He’ll even deliver to your door if you ask nicely. What a beautiful ministry–thanks everybody who makes it happen. You’re all awesome.
I’ve left oh-so-many out.
So many friends who are shaping life in good, fun, healing, kick ass ways. And that’s the way it will be. Thanks for sharing the spaceship.