I learned a lot about the power of heroes from the world's favorite teller of heroes' tales, Joseph Campbell. Back when I was getting the Giraffe Project started, friends and family were asking why I was putting so much into something that could well be a lost cause. Flying off to Paris from my Manhattan base to write a speech for the Aga Khan hadn't been a bad way to make a living. Why was I going on and on with this Giraffe-stick-your-neck-out thing, these stories about real people being heroic? I wasn't sure myself.
The Giraffe Heroes Project sent a team to the five-day Seeds of Compassion conference in Seattle. We talked with hundreds of teachers and parents who had assembled there about Giraffe ways to foster compassion in the young.
It was an extraordinary opening for giving people all we’ve learned; thanks to some generous grants, we gave educators thousands of dollars worth of materials.
But let me tell you about some benefits I got from those five days.
It helps to have lived in Vietnam and the Congo. I mean, I've seen poor, really poor. People sleeping in shifts on the dirt floors of scrap-metal shacks. Rice or manioc as the only food at a meal, and everyone thankful to have even that. Students using every square inch, front and back, of a piece of paper, using pencils down to a nub. Water being hauled home in jerry cans from distant pumps.
A football star recently admitted he’s been involved in dogfighting. The fans and much of the country at-large went ballistic.
Hmmm. Let’s think a bit here. The guy excels at one of the most combative sports imaginable. He’s really good at it.
Why, please tell me, is it shocking that he’s also involved in an aggressive, dangerous competition that pits dogs against each other. Is that it? That people like dogs so much they think it’s fine to bash fellow humans around but not dogs?
Remarks by Ann Medlock
Founder/Creative Director of The Giraffe Heroes Project
To the International Creativity@Work Conference
Upon accepting an Award for Special Achievement
From the American Creativity Association Austin, Texas, March 22, 2006
Thank you for this award. Especially to Marilyn Schoeman Dow who I’ve heard put you up to this. I spend my days giving commendations, not getting them. And it’s particularly startling to be commended for something that has annoyed the hell out of the people in my life who had other ideas about what I should be doing.
Creativity—AKA making it up as you go along—you know people who think that’s too odd to be tolerated. It’s got to be stamped out. It’s great to be in an assemblage of people who want more of it.
Making it up for me included making up a job I was willing—even delighted—to do, after years of trying to fit into slots created by others. It was always a lousy fit. Mainly because employee creativity was not exactly high on my employers’ agendas.
Near TED Experience
The Project's founder was invited to speak about real heroes at the first Seattle-area TED conference. Read about her "Near TED Experience" on the Huffington Post.
YOU & THE FOUNDER
From time to time, Ann Medlock, this Project's founder, does a brief but inspiring email called Heads Up. You can check out past copies here. They're so good (and so free) we bet you'll join the Heads Up circle and send them on to friends & family.
For further wit & wisdom from Ann, check out her speeches, radio commentaries and OpEds.