All posts by Karah Hawkinson

About Karah Hawkinson

Karah Hawkinson is a wife, mother, and professional historian from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her passion is advocating on behalf of the world's hungry. She uses blogging, publications, and social media to help average Christians make informed decisions that have a positive, lasting impact on the world's hungry. Follow her blog at www.foodshelffriday.com

#Challenge2020 – July Reading Challenge

I know I’ve talked about this before, but when I felt like my word for 2020 was “Challenge,” I was kinda bummed. But I went with it. I went on Pinterest and started saving challenges. I tried a few things in January and February. I won some, I lost some.

Then came March…

I had no idea what challenge to take on in March. I looked at lots of ideas and nothing jumped out at me. I decided to forgo March and set a challenge for Lent instead. Again, nothing sat right.

Then came Covid…

Okay, so maybe 2020 IS the challenge. For the last three and a half months I’ve worked (from home!) to expand my church’s and employers’ reach on social media. I’ve rebuilt and updated websites. I’ve blogged. I’ve learned Photoshop and found other tools and resources. I found ways to get groceries, cook/bake what we couldn’t buy, or go without. I attended (and hosted) church via streaming platforms. I decorated my windows with hearts, cleaned out closets, and used Zoom and social media to keep in touch with friends and family. It’s been a challenge, for all of us.

And here I sit, July first. I’m back at work – full-time in the office(s). My son has gone off to his summer job. I got my teeth cleaned last week, and restaurants are opening up. We’re back to having church in person. Cases are climbing, but things are settling back to what we consider normal.

And I have a new challenge on my heart…

Like many of you, my “To Be Read” (TBR) pile is HUGE. I’m halfway through several books at any given time, and I buy more and reread favorites even though the pile keeps growing! So my challenge for July is simple: read/finish three books. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but hear me out.

Book one is The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. As a direct result of the unrest and racial tensions in our nation, I decided to educate myself about the experiences of people who are different from me. I don’t have to agree with everything they think, do, or say, but I want to know their “why.” I want to know what I’m not aware of so I can form opinions that aren’t just based on my own experiences. I started listening to this book on audio last month, and it’s slow going. There are only six chapters (plus an introduction) but each of the seven sections is over two hours long and full of so much information that it’s time-consuming to digest.

Book two is in a completely different direction. I bought a copy of Growing up With Manos: the Hands of Fate over a year ago, and haven’t read it yet. The book was written by Jackey Neyman Jones, the child star of a really crappy movie. As a big Mystery Science Theater/Rifftrax fan, I’ve known Manos: The Hands of Fate for years, and learning that there was a book about the making of that crappy classic had my attention. This month I’ll finally give it a read.

Book three is another one off my Audible library. My Audible credits added up when I wasn’t commuting, and I currently have four unfinished books sitting in my account when I’m usually waiting for credits! Other than The New Jim Crow, my waiting books are We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce, and Extraordinary, Ordinary People by Condoleezza Rice. At least one of them will be done by the end of July!

So that’s what I’m up to right now. I hope you and yours are all staying healthy, and that you’ve found ways to make the most of this crazy time.

Psalm 46:1-3: God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.

The Struggle is Real: Non-profits in the Wake of Covid-19

As you know, my day job is at a history museum. We’re an educational non-profit, so we’ve been affected by the Coronavirus shutdowns. In fact, we’ve been declared “entertainment,” and will be among the last things allowed to open. We had to cancel a fundraiser we depend on, and we’ve had to spend more money to adapt and continue providing our research and educational services while we’re forced to be closed.

It’s not all bad news. We’ve expanded and improved our online presence. We’ve caught up on projects that cluttered our desks for months. Stimulus programs have allowed the staff to continue working and getting paid. I’m not commuting so much.

I tell you this today because thinking about our challenges got me wondering about other non-profit organizations. I currently serve on the board at my church and I watch the TV news, so I can tell you that in the social services sector demand for aid is up. People have lost jobs, businesses have gone under, and the needs are great. Meanwhile for the non-profits, fundraisers are canceled, volunteers can’t come in, and donations and distribution may be down. It’s a perfect storm…

Here are a few things you can do, and a few stories I’ve heard from non-profits I follow:

  1. Pray: That’s how it always goes. What I learned in Sunday School and come back to for every crisis, need, or opportunity: Pray, Give, Go. Whether or not you have funds to contribute, you can always pray. Pray for the missionaries, ministries, social service organizations, and non-profits out there helping people. Pray for funding, for safety, for doors to open for them, and for the health and safety of their staff. Pray for people who need jobs, and services to tide them over until they’re working again.
  2. Give – Money: Flexibility has been the theme of surviving Covid. Small businesses that existed only in brick-and-mortar stores have started selling online. Here in Minnesota restaurants have gone curbside, and are now carving out outdoor eating spaces so they can bring back customers. In-person events have become teleconferences. Birthday parties and graduations have become drive-thru parades. We’re making it work, but that’s not always cheap. Churches have had to invest in technology to create online services, and we’re all investing in Zoom memberships (seriously, they have to be VERY profitable right now!)

    One example of this is Feed My Starving Children. I got an email from them yesterday that explained how they’re continuing to feed kids without the volunteer labor they depend on. They’ve started using some machine labor, put some of their staff to work packing, and even hired inmates to pack meals (the human labor under VERY careful and stringent limitations). The email said that they’re only able to pack HALF of the meals per month that they planned for this year, and it’s costing them $750,000 more per month. Ouch! But kids around the world depend on FMSC’s Manna Pack. If you can afford to give, please do.

    Kiva and other microfinance organizations are also in need of donors. They’re trying to help small businesses stay afloat as they try to adapt, or when don’t qualify for some of the programs out there. Microfinance allows small businesses and individuals who struggle to get access to credit with small loans on fair terms. What I like about “giving” to this program is that I (almost always) get the money back to invest again and again!

    Mail in your tithe checks to your church (or give online if your church offers that), give to your favorite non-profits, buy from your favorite fairtrade retailers. It’s just like ordering carryout from local restaurants or buying from local businesses. Every dollar you spend or give is a vote for the kind of world you want to live in!

  3. Give – Non-monetary: A lot of people are using their stay-at-home days to FINALLY go through their closets and things. Purging is good for us, but it can also be a boon to non-profits. Did you find something cool your local history museum might like? Take some pictures and send them an email. Cleaning out cupboards? Donate to a food shelf. Sell more valuable items on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace and give away the proceeds.
  4. Go: According to AgingPlace, people over 55 make up 35 percent of volunteers in America. I honestly thought it would be higher. Retirees have daytime availability and tend to have a good work ethic that doesn’t make them comfortable with idleness! Unfortunately, they’re also the most vulnerable right now with Covid-19. If you are healthy and have time, check with your favorite non-profit. They might need your help right now! Offer your IT or social media skills if you have them. Like and follow on social media and share their posts to increase their visibility. Do what you can!

One last tip: If you want to do double-duty with your gifts, buy fairtrade or from local small businesses when giving to non-profits. If you’re buying things to donate to a food drive, get it at a locally-owned market. If you want to bless workers with a free lunch, order it from a local restaurant. As John Wesley said, “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”

I Can’t Breathe

Quarantine, Day 74
Minneapolis Riots, Day 3

I appreciate/understand that I’m blessed. My husband, son, and I are all healthy and safe at home. My husband and I continue to work (from home) and get paid. We’d really like to get back to the gym and church, but we’re safe, healthy, and our needs are met. Not everyone is that fortunate right now.

Likewise, we live in undeserved privilege because we were born white. I can wear a dark hoodie in public, or a face mask, and no one looks at me like I might be there to rob them. My son can go for a run after dark and not fear that he’ll be shot or arrested because he might be running from a crime scene. If I get pulled over for something like speeding or expired license tabs, I don’t worry that one wrong twitch will get me shot.

I can’t even begin to pretend that I understand what it’s like to be a person of color in America. They face challenges I will never experience. They are judged and threatened even just going about their law-abiding day-to-day lives.

When I was a child, I went about my life thinking that racism was mostly a southern thing, and that the overt kind of racism was limited to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, white trash “Bubbas,” and ignorant old people. I grew up in white small towns in the middle of nowhere, and I believed that Martin Luther King fixed things.

Even after I grew up, moved to the city, and got educated – though I learned that racism and slavery were alive and well – I still didn’t think it happened here. We’re “Minnesota nice,” right? I got to know some people of color. We went to church together, raised our kids together, and worked together. I gave very little thought to the color of their skin.

Then police shootings started to make headlines. I took my usual stance of “calm down,” “hear the whole story,” and “think before you act.” That’s kind of who I am. There are two sides to everything, and I hate when people freak out and make a situation worse because of their inflammatory behavior (something a lot of people need to consider before they hit that share button on Facebook…). But have I extended that same courtesy to the accused? We’re innocent until proven guilty in America. Yet I’ve been quick to jump to the defense of police, but not the accused. That’s evidence of my inherent white privilege bias – the “whole story” is a principle that needs to be evenly applied.

The dawning of my racial awareness has been slow…

Yesterday I woke up and MY city was on fire.

  • I can’t tell myself that racism doesn’t happen here, because it does. It did. It costs innocent people their security and their lives.
  • Being a cop is a hard, thankless job, and they deserve our support, but so is being a person of color in America. They deserve the benefit of the doubt, a chance to tell their stories, and our support as they go about their lives trying to do the right thing and take care of their own.
  • Yes, there are criminals out there – lots of them. Yes, they deserve to be prosecuted and punished. But the law, and the benefit of the doubt need to be evenly applied. And there are bad cops out there, too. They deserve to be prosecuted and punished, too.
  • I wish good and bad were fixed, concrete ideas, and that good always won and bad was always defeated. But the simple truth is that sometimes everyone is right AND everyone is wrong. I understand the anger and the protests. I don’t understand the looting and burning. This is our city, our home. Rioting vents frustration and sends a message that the world can’t ignore, but it also advances stereotypes of violence and untrustworthiness. It damages the businesses we depend on and widens the gaps between people.

I want to DO something, but I don’t know what to do. God knows I have a lot to learn, and that I don’t have solutions. I just want to serve my neighbors who are wronged. I want to support justice. I want to pull out the roots of my own biases. But I also kind of want to hide. I don’t have answers, or the right to speak for others. But just worrying about my own attitudes and behaviors doesn’t feel like enough when my city is burning.

I’m frustrated. Heartbroken. Angry. So I pray. I examine myself. I talk to others who want change without violence. I pray some more. I try to educate myself so I can do better and be better in the future.

I can’t bury my head in the sand any longer. It’s too hard to breathe like that.

Embracing New Traditions

Every year, my family and I have Taco Bell on Mothers Day.

It’s been our thing for sixteen years now, ever since my husband played soccer and we had to cram Taco Bell between church and games as he left me to chase a toddler around the field all day (A *very relaxing* way to spend Mothers Day, said no mom ever). To this day, even if we go for a nice brunch with Scott’s parents, or visit my parents over the weekend, we always work in some Taco Bell.

It’s not a bitter or sarcastic thing. I like Taco Bell well enough, and it’s become a reminder to me that traditions don’t have to be elaborate or stuffy, and that I’m glad my son isn’t three anymore. (All the parents said amen!)

I hope you all had a good Mothers Day, whatever your situation.
I hope you get to establish new traditions and reevaluate the things you’ll spend time on when the pandemic eases.
I hope you’ll get to go back to all the things you love and miss, and that you can let go of the things you only do out of obligation.

Take care of yourselves, mamas (and everyone else!). Remember, this too shall pass, and someday the new traditions started in quarantine can serve as reminders of this time – either as a fond look back or a benchmark to celebrate not being here anymore!

Overedited

During this quarantine season, many people are learning new skills. For me, this means Photoshop (among other things). I have my days when learning this complex new way to doing things seems overwhelming. I get frustrated with how long it takes me to do things I used to do much faster with simpler editing tools. But Photoshop and the other programs in the Adobe Creative family allow me to do so much more, so learning it is a worthwhile endeavor.

Last night my son and I sat down, and he walked me through using Lightroom to correct old photos. We took a scan of a damaged picture from the history museum where I work, and made some improvements to it. I’m not real nuanced yet, but the results were still pretty good.

At one point Jacob asked me why a history museum would want to correct old photos. This is a good question. As a museum, we’re dedicated to collecting and preserving the past, not repackaging it. An edited photo is no longer an artifact of the past. Jacob likened it to taking a recording of a classic singer and running it through auto-tune – it might be “perfected” but is it still the same voice? And at what point does it get so distorted that it no longer resembles the original?

This got me thinking about the modern world we live in and how hard we work to filter our reality and put out a perfected image of ourselves. At what point are we no longer authentic? When do we become so “perfected” that we lose our appeal to others?

We were not made to be perfect. We were not made to have it all together. We’re not even meant to be “enough.” We were made to live our lives in total reliance on God. Be like the Velveteen Rabbit – when he became worn from love, that’s when he became real. Don’t let yourself get so overedited that you’re unrecognizable and unrelatable. Be authentically you, striving to be the best AND most real version of yourself. Lean into God, and trust that He has made you who you are because you have something of value to offer the world.

Ephesians 2:10: For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Be you – Do good