An AIDS activist, a Christian missionary, a wilderness first responder, and a revolutionary rock star… Premium Members talk to four men who’ve made it their lives’ work to help other people, and how any of us can be prepared to take action in a crisis.
In our second monthly Hangout, we ran long—an hour and a half. With four invited guests who are men of action sharing their stories, there was so much to say about what it takes to help others: how to recognize that help is needed, overcome fear that you won’t know the right thing to do, and take action to help others.
Guests Miles Solay, of the activist rock group Outernational; David Wagner, a Christian minister, architect, and missionary of over 30 years experience, Kile Ozier, creative director, producer, and AIDS activist; and Kendall Ruth, writer, photographer, and certified first responder; joined host Justin Cascio and GMP Premium Members Earl Hipp and Porter Anderson to talk about how they have followed their passions into lives of service.
Watch the video all the way through, or skip around to hear these highlights:
Five minutes in, you can hear a story of how wilderness first responder Kendall Ruth was able to rescue a child from an abusive home.
At 12:30, Kendall says, “In the wilderness, whether you believe in God or not, you know you’re not him.” This thread continued throughout the discussion. Even while Christian minister and missionary David Wagner describes miracles—skip to the one hour mark to hear a genuinely Biblical miracle—that enable him to serve others, he says that we cannot wait for God to act: it is a both/and situation, requiring both man and God. “God honors faith,” but you have to take the leap.
And we are rewarded as well by the faith of others. Twenty minutes in, Kile Ozier, talking about the early years of the AIDS crisis, describes what it is like to be someone who always has his eyes open, ready to help—”the person next to you trips, you reach out to catch them”—and be heroic.
At 22 minutes, Kile Ozier on the AIDS virus: “If this thing was transmitted by kissing, we were doomed, anyway.”
On burning out in service, Kile says at 27 minutes: “As people got burned out in the trenches, they wouldn’t leave, they would just find another trench.”
At 38:30, I introduce David Wagner, who tells several remarkable stories of building schools in places that US embassies tell Americans to stay out of. He describes how his first trip to Ecuador, and the realization that Americans are rich, compared with most of the world, spurs him to help.
At 42 minutes he says of his service in Peru, “I began to see children branded, ears notched like you would an animal, by the Shining Path.”
One of the miracles is of the variety that Lisa Hickey would recognize operating in social media: faith in the philanthropic network Wagner has built, rewarded. But as he points out, you can do everything right, and often there is no rational explanation for when the help that you’ve solicited arrives.
At just past the hour, I introduce Miles Solay, lead singer songwriter for Outernational, a NYC based rock band with a revolutionary message of justice for all. He describes their origins in a response to 9/11, a band called “Not in Our Name,” that was a forerunner of Outernational. Solay talks about the mission of the band and his vision of a utopian future, toward which he and his band members strive by touring and producing music.
At around an hour ninteen, Premium Member Porter Anderson asks Solay about youth culture, Solay defines hipsterism, and the elders on the panel express not only hope and admiration for the generation reaching adulthood now, but directives for their own generation to guide and encourage youth: the World Mission Summit for college youth considering service, of the sea change in gay rights that Kile has seen from the 80s, when people he knew would lose their homes because of an HIV diagnosis, to today, when “straight kids in Idaho might have one gay cousin” and embrace marriage equality.
The world has certainly changed in the lifetimes of the men on this panel, myself included, but it has not happened purely through natural forces. Through the faithful actions of heroes like David, Kile, Kendall and Miles, the world is a better place.
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