Skin in the Game

January 31, 2013 0 Comments

Skin in the Game

I've been up since 2am. Maybe it's my excitement for the Super Bowl this Sunday (who's playing again?), but this girl is a sleeper and these restless nights don't come too often. However, the pillow isn't getting any fluffier, so I thought I'd ponder a few things with you instead. There is a question I've been asking a lot lately:  

What does it look like to live a life of love and radical justice in this time and place?   

There are a lot of answers.  Some great books. A billion and one non-profits to volunteer with and some very well-written blogs to read.
But at the end of the day, if you are justice-minded and love-driven this is a very personal question that has to be answered by you, for you.  

I think it is worth looking at generational trends as we ponder. I'm a Generation X/Y straddle.  I've always felt like I fit somehow into both places - kind of like the extrovert who needs to recharge by spending long hours alone. Gen X is consistently characterized by independence, a desire for deep and meaningful relationships, a 'work to live' mentality, a need for freedom and flexibility, and a desire to contribute to the greater good.  Gen Y is known for it's family-centric values, need for genuine experience, tech-savviness, love of working in a team, desire for feedback, and deep passion for environmental and social issues.  


What I interpret that to mean for myself is that I am an experientially driven individual who listens to my intuition and personal feelings and yet has a strong sense of loyalty and individuality while being achievement oriented.  Maybe my generational timeline has nothing to do with it. Maybe it's all about my Myers-Briggs score. Who knows?

As I look around at my current peer group, a group largely motivated by current events and justice issues, I think it is important to ask some gen-specific questions.  Because I see some trends that are intriguing...and they make me wonder.  Most of the current generation has constant and instantaneous access to information and technology, bringing the global community closer together than ever before.  This generation cares quickly and passionately (for a time) about that which concerns them.  When an issue is able to capture them (which is typically through an experience of some kind) Gen Y is immediately right there, passionate, aware and ready to engage. It's really quite inspiring. This group of young adults is more aware of social and current issues than many who have gone before them. 

However, this passionate embrace is often short-lived as the next most-concerning topic flashes across the media feed.  

Gen Y needs to be hip, current, affirmed.  So when that next biggest topic presents itself, the issues of the past are discarded in favor of the newest crisis trend like last year's skinny jeans.  The good news is that Gen Y will devote themselves just as passionately to this next cause, the sad news is that those previously advocated for are left in the hands of a faithful few with even fewer resources.  So what to do about this fair-weather philanthropy?  As my young friend Zach has said:

"We need to get skin in the game." 

And I'm not just talking football. Passion isn't enough apart from action these days. 

Our theoretical 'skin' can be giving our hard-earned cash, volunteering, taking an overseas trip...all with the same end result. Activists are invested at their own expense, meaning it's much harder to walk away.  When we engage, when we know, when we encounter, when we LOVE we are changed.  And changed people change the world.  


We can no longer allow ourselves to be people motivated by the most desperately presented need, nor the most frequently tweeted.  We must be motivated by love.  Only when we are motivated by love do we remain committed long enough to see justice done, regardless of our generational trend.  To paraphrase Jim Martin of IJM: 

The perpetrators of injustice are more committed than the justice seekers.  We so-called 'activists' show up late and leave early. Justice will never be done until we are as committed to freedom as others are to exploitation. 


For me that means taking my craving for experience and using it to step into the lives of others.  It means taking my loyalty and choosing to stick there.  It means using my individuality and achievement orientation to love and serve others in practical and consistent ways.  But I don't know what that means for you. 

Whether you are a Baby Boomer, a Gen Xer or a Millenial child, my question is the same:  

How are we going to get some skin in the game?  

While we nosh on our potato skins and chicken wings this Sunday, why not take a $4 million commercial break to ponder who it is that we see truly committed to freedom and ask ourselves how they are walking that out?  

I'd love to hear what you come up with.  



photo credits: 

1- Mattea Norman Photography 

2 - Marlena Outlaw 

3,4 - Kristin Shultz of Boulevard Studios