Profile Response: Kelle and Waid Barfield, Vicksburg MS

HWWLT Logo on yellowThe force field that pulls us back to our hometowns cannot be charted or measured. Some of us rocket away and never return, others never venture far from our nest. Still others explore the wider world and wind up back home through circumstances that could never be predicted.

Kelle Barfield grew up in Vicksburg, daughter of a Corps of Engineer man in a city where engineers have wrestled Old Man River for generations. Kelle went to University of Texas, moved to New York City and worked for the Museum of American Folk Art where she met someone seeking writers for Southern Living. Thirty-one years ago, she returned to Vicksburg for a friend’s wedding and met her husband, a nuclear power engineer. They raised three children, assembled 900 acres of beautiful hunting forest five miles east of town, and hand-built an impressive house festooned with equally impressive mounted deer. img_8639Kelle redirected her career as a communications writer for Grand Gulch Nuclear Station, and works with the International Atomic Energy Commission on nuclear power strategies in developing countries.

Son Waid followed his mother’s footsteps at University of Texas. He is home for a gap year before attending law school; study for which this nuanced young man is well suited.

 

 

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Our dinner conversation centered on communication. Kelle is fascinated by Rachel Botsman’s recent TED Talk about how we have stopped trusting institutions and started trusting strangers. Does that bode well or ill for our society? Kelle also wants to take her lifelong interest in communication in a new direction. “I am interested in studying listening. People are not trained to listen.” We become entrenched in our ideas, often based in incomplete or inaccurate information, and we cease being open to new input that can affect our positions. “When was the last time you changed your mind on a major issue?”

 

How will we live tomorrow?

img_8637“There’s so many ways to approach that. Technologically: self-driving cars; virtual reality headsets; social media. There’s a digital and technology age developing.

“I also think about politics coming off the election. I watched an interview on The Daily Show of a woman who’s very conservative. It turned into a debate. After it was all over, everything was about ‘who won.’ Debate ideally is an effort shape opinions and find common ground. If the future is ‘my opinion vs. your opinion’ and one is right, we are not going in a good direction.

“The cynic doesn’t see good signs ahead. But morally, we are making many strides with interracial couples, gay and transgender issues. I think people are more accepting, but then, I did live in Austin for a few years.” – Waid

“I’m interested in how we view the past versus the future. In St. Augustine’s Confessions he writes about time. People find happiness and contentment in their past and are fearful and anxious of the future. There is no golden time, except in our minds.” – Kelle

 

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Profile Response: Rosalie Gould, McGehee AR

HWWLT Logo on yellowRosalie Gould has striking grey hair, perfectly cut, clear skin and strong features. She is a handsome woman for any age. At 91, Rosalie Gould is a marvel.

Rosalie’s family emigrated to the Arkansas delta from Italy in 1895 when a priest brought twenty families to Lake Village to build the railroads. When she was six her father moved the family to a farm in Tillar, where the other school children had never seen an Italian or a Catholic.

imagesRosalie married a man with a heart defect. In 1955, news of an innovative surgery drew them to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. Rosalie figures the procedure gave him ten more years, though he died in 1965, leaving her with three children and a farm in Rowher, near site of the former World War II Japanese-American Internment Camp.. “Joe bought 1,000 acres of good land three months before he died. We cleared it ourselves. I’ve just been working all my life. I’ve had some downs, but if anyone hears me complain, they can wallop me upside the head.”

Rosalie moved the children to the nearest big town, McGehee, and got involved in that community. In 1976 she met the young man running for Attorney General, Bill Clinton. “When you talk to Bill you think he’s the smartest man in the world. Then you turn around and think, now what was that about?” The two have enjoyed a long relationship; Rosalie considers him a friend.

screen-shot-2016-12-23-at-9-28-10-amIn 1983 her daughter Lie suggested Rosalie might enjoy being mayor. It seemed a fun idea. Rosalie filed the papers, ran against “three fine men” in the election and won. “I enjoyed it, but I got in a lot of trouble. We had a police force that was not the best; they didn’t like me.” But the voters liked her. Rosalie served until 1995.

During Rosalie’s tenure, the monument at the Internment Camp up in Rowher was not well tended, so she sent a maintenance crew up there every so often. She began hosting Japanese-American visitors for lunch. They gave her keepsakes from the camp, including artwork created by the internees. Rosalie was impressed by these quiet people. “They do not hold anything against the government. They lost face because they were considered traitors. I tell them they should stand up and say, ‘Yes, we were in the camps, that was our part in winning the war.’ I have learned so much from these people and their outlook on life.”

In 1989, after the railroad consolidated and the depot sat empty, Rosalie suggested the town turn it into a museum about the interment camps. The people of the Delta were not ready for that. Rosalie received hate mail, even death threats. But she continued to champion the idea of honoring the Japanese-Americans who lived in the Delta against their will.

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Time passes. Rosalie’s art collection was appraised at over $1 million. She donated it to the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies in Little Rock with one stipulation. “Any time any descendent of any internee visits, he can see and hold any piece in the collection.”

Money gets appropriated. Three years ago, McGehee turned the depot into a museum honoring the two intern camps in Arkansas.

But not all wounds heal. Rosalie will not allow any of the art entrusted to her to be displayed in McGehee. She speaks highly of the effort, though she’s never stepped foot inside the museum. I am confident she never will.

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“When we make mistakes, atone and learn from it.” That is what Rosalie learned from Japanese-American Intern camp descendants. But it is difficult to apply to the hate she received from her own neighbors.

How will we live tomorrow?

img_8587“I have a dim view of what’s going to happen. I’m 91 years old. The two or three generations after me are the ‘me’ generation. They want instant gratification. First, they want a nice house, lots of stuff, and when that doesn’t satisfy they pick up marijuana. They are not satisfied.

“Last year I was asked to speak to the seventh and eight grade. Half of the children were asleep, the other half on their phones. I quit talking and left.

“There are good things. Some young people are giving their lives to help others. They are a ray of sunshine.”

 

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Profile Response: Cindy Smith, Tillar AR

HWWLT Logo on yellowDinner with Cindy Smith at 43 Grill is a lively affair. As Public Relations Director of Delta Resort and Spa, she knows everyone in the place. Between introductions she spins great stories. And there’s a third presence. Though he was not physically at our table, Cindy’s husband of 35 years, Don, is always on her mind and integrated into her conversation.

When the University of Arkansas coed fell in love with the quiet hunter and farmer she followed her heart back to his roots in McGehee. “Rather than think I didn’t like small town life, I decided to love the life I had. I got involved in my community and set up a shop.” Cindy owned a gift shop in McGehee for 27 years.

images-1Five years ago, after their children were grown, Cindy retired – sort of. They took in another child for a few years and guided him toward adulthood. Then Cindy became one of seventeen Commissioners of the Arkansas State Recreation and Travel Commission, representing the Delta, an area whose recreational appeal is not immediately obvious. Then Delta Resort asked her to spearhead their PR efforts.

Delta Resort is different from say, Yosemite or Miami Beach. Cross a deserted railroad bridge and pedal two miles of straight, flat gravel road to a hotel and clubhouse on a spit of dry land surrounded by marshes that ducks love. The Arkansas Delta is the nation’s premier duck hunting region, and Delta Resort was made for them. During duck season, a hunter can pay $650 per day for an all-inclusive experience that includes lodging, guided hunting, retrieval, and cleaning.

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Cindy’s job is to broaden Delta Resort’s appeal. She facilitated the 2016 Olympic shooting trials here, and is excited about having Georgia Pellegrini, author of Girl Hunter, lead an adventure weekend for female hunters.

Not that Cindy hunts. That’s Don’s world. “I’ve sat in the deer blind a few times, but hunting is his thing. I’ve told him he can never leave me for another woman because she hunts, since he’s never even tried to teach me.” She laughs and I realize that is a very unlikely prospect. A sound man would never leave such a dedicated wife.

How will we live tomorrow?

img_8601“It’s a weird question. I hope that people will be kind. That’s how we have to be; and with conscientious effort to help others. That’s how we get our own happiness.”

 

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Profile Response: June Hardin, Bryant AR

HWWLT Logo on yellow“These are sinful. They taste so good you feel you’re doing something wrong.” June Hardin, poet, daughter, sister, citizen, and pecan waffle lover savored every bite of her syrupy Waffle House breakfast while we talked.

Ms. June is a beautiful communicator, a woman of flowing hands, clear voice and precise vocabulary. Her words burrow into the personal deep and then soar to universal pronouncements. During our hour together Ms. June cried three times, but laughed even more often. She is simultaneously in touch with an expansive range of emotion and a profound capacity to express it.

imgres-2“My daddy must have been there sometimes; there were 17 kids. But my parents hated each other more than they loved us. He was a preacher in Louisville. He had a small congregation; they were his true family. His real family didn’t even go to that church. He was a good man, an honest man, just not a good husband. When his church found out about us they drove him down. He died broken.

“I know what it is to be unloved, and it pains me. I forgave my mother when I realized she didn’t hate me; she hated him.

imgres-1“I grew up in Lousiville during busing. I was in bus accidents three times; people cut the brake lines. Then I got to school and I was assigned to tutor a little white girl. Our hearts are all the same color.

“I don’t care what your great grandfather did to my great grandmother. This country has become so toxic I can’t get into this racist thing. If you want to talk that way, go away. Don’t go away angry, just go away. When I was sick a white woman came to my aid, drove me, cared for me, while people of my race did nothing. What’s important to me is not beating the past; it is the intangibles of today.

“Nothing is new. These lifestyles are not new. We’ve had gay people forever. So why is it so divisive now? My brother, a drag queen died at age 28. The gay community embraced him. My own family did not.

imgres-3“Five of my brothers have died. About ten years ago my father died and my sister died. I needed to leave Louisville. A friend invited me to Arkansas. I was 48. Here I still am.

“The pain of the past is always present. You have to decide whether that can help you in the present. If you own the past in front of you, you own it. If you bury the past pain, it is still there. It owns you.

“I graduated with a degree in psychology in my 50’s. Psychology is everything. I learned it to take care of me. You have to find the balance – through education, or drugs, or talk. I love being in my 50’s because I’ve pistol-whipped my demons. I own them.

images“I’ve learned I don’t mind just hanging out with me. I get lonely sometimes; I prefer it to stirring drama. When the vertical is centered, then the horizontal will spread and connect around you.

“Mountaintop thinking is how you gain perspective. You are getting a mountaintop view right now on your trip. When you follow your passion, you are at the mountaintop view. Altitude changes your attitude. When you get high above the fuss and muss you can see so much.

“America is a great nation and things get righted over time. But we will never right things by flames and stoking. Since when do we all have to agree anyway?”

How will we live tomorrow?

imgres“The toxicity that has gripped this nation will have a long effect, but the roots of decency that underpin this country will win out. The folks making the noise are not the majority; the majority will win out in the end.

“We live in the age of dissension. If you only love whom you agree with, that’s not love. Love transcends dissension.

“The only way to change is to shut down certain communications. We are phonetical creatures. We learn what we hear repeated. But preserving decency and honor by stopping to listen to messages that are harmful, that’s not intolerant, it’s protecting certain truths. Sometimes you have to cut communication to rewire your thinking.

“Material desires are fleeting. My hope for tomorrow is that people will learn that material things cannot bring contentment. We are far form that understanding.

“How will we live tomorrow? A lot more guarded, a lot more uncertain.”

 

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Profile Response: Dean and Terrie Turner Little Rock AR

HWWLT Logo on yellowOne of my favorite songs to sing along the road is “You Made Me a Pallet on the Floor.” The traditional blues/folk tune sounds great at full throttle into the wind and always reminds me of the many, many gracious hosts who have welcomed me into their homes. Some have indeed given me a pallet on the floor; others have cossetted me in guest suites with fully stocked kitchens. Either way I have come to appreciate the generosity from which each person shares what little or largesse they have with a stranger.

imagesBut no host can compare with Terrie Turner, a marketing specialist from Little Rock four degrees of separation removed from me; now a solid friend. Terrie did not just invite me to her home; she connected me with three other hosts in the area and enabled half a dozen conversations with fascinating people. I stretched my stay in Arkansas’ capital because, thanks to Terrie, it proved one of the most fertile places to talk about tomorrow.

Terrie was homecoming queen in McGehee, a railroad town in the Delta. She left for college in Dallas, and like at least half of the folks I’ve met in Arkansas, thought she’d never return. Terrie met Dean Turner, a fellow Arkansan who one worked on Bill Clinton gubernatorial campaign, in Dallas. They lived there many years, and then moved to Lakeland, Florida to help out Dean’s son.

images-1Terrie liked Dallas well enough, but she appreciated Lakeland in a different way. “I had never been anyplace like Lakeland. People had indoor-outdoor carpet. A neighbor invited us to Thanksgiving, and invited homeless people as well. Those things never happened in Dallas. I know a woman in Dallas who renovated her kitchen before she entertained.”

Four years ago Dean’s mom needed care, so they moved to Little Rock. Hard to believe Terrie’s been here that short a time. She knows everyone in Little Rock’s world of philanthropy. She applies thirty years of marketing savvy to raise money for educational, hunger, and children’s organizations. Then she rolls up her sleeves and gives her time to those causes.

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Yet when a stranger on a bicycle showed up in town Terrie invited him in, served tasty hors d’oeuvres, and treated him tto he biggest steak of his trip at Doe’s, a Little Rock institution. We still got home before too late because Dean had to get up at five the next morning and go to his prison ministry before work.

In a world filled with good and generous people, Terrie and Dean Turner are extraordinary gems.

How will we live tomorrow?

“By the grace of God. Economically, security, Biologically, there will be dramatic changes, but it will be okay.”- Dean

“Who is ‘we?’ When is ‘tomorrow?’ It depends on the choices we make today. Since I heard your question, I’ve been thinking about 2 Chronicles 7:14: ‘If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.’

“The destruction of our planet goes back to the family unit. The violence in our society is no worse than it was in Biblical times. The family unit was more intact in an agrarian society. The industrial revolution deteriorated that. Then mom went to work and kids didn’t get raised by mom and dad. It’s a huge crisis that leads to poverty and less of a moral compass.

“Our government in many ways has been giving out fish rather than teach people how to fish. That leads to the sense of entitlement that’s generational.

“The church’s role has been to minister to the ill, feed the poor and visit the elderly. How many are focusing on that?” – Terrie

 

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Profile Response: Rhonda Sanders, Arkansas Food Bank, Little Rock AR

HWWLT Logo on yellow“This is a concept of transferring food from people who have too much to those who don’t have enough.” Rhonda Sanders outlines the basic premise of the Arkansas Food Bank as she tours me through the 76,000 square foot facility that includes a bulk warehouse, a refrigerated warehouse, community rooms, clean preparation rooms, volunteer work spaces, and a small store. Sixty-five employees and over 10,000 annual volunteers accept food from a variety of sources and then store, sort, repackage, and redistribute it. Five AFB trucks deliver 25 million pounds of food to food pantries in 33 counties throughout central and southern Arkansas.

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I appreciate the effort, as well as AFB’s focus on using its $8 million budget ($21 million factoring donated food value) effectively. On the Monday after Thanksgiving, coming off the busiest week of their year, the place hums with quiet efficiency. However, I cannot escape the sense that AFB is yet another lesson in how the United States shuffles ‘stuff.’ So much food; most of it recently available for retail purchase, some donated in food drives, about 10% of it USDA commodity; is now transported and handled and transported again in a secondary, ‘post-consumer’ process.

screen-shot-2016-12-22-at-7-15-23-amArkansas Food Bank is a marvelous facility that fills a real need the way our society is structured. But isn’t it too bad that those who require food – all of us – can’t simply get it, wholesome and fresh, at our local market?

 

How will we live tomorrow?

img_8524“How will we as a society live tomorrow? Am I having a positive or negative day? The sense I get at this point in time is that we will live selfishly.

“We’ll always get volunteers, but they are more selfish. They want to determine what they do, in a nice space, with a snack and with the friends they’ve made. Even when volunteering, it’s always self. People don’t look for a way to add value; they look for what’s in it for them.

“That’s how society evolves. When you get to the point of more comfort than discomfort, then it starts to disintegrate. It’s the cycle of life.”

Upon reflection, Rhonda clarified, “This is not an accurate depiction of my volunteers. I am very concerned about our society’s selfishness and how so many people are focused on their own comforts and their own gains. We live in a day and time where even those who give a lot slip into a mindset of giving only when it meets their needs. I find myself falling into that trap too often and I see it in others in many different situations like church, community and work. However, I cannot paint everyone with this broad brush nor can I judge others past some things that I see. We have so many wonderful volunteers and so many work very hard and have fun helping.

“Your question made me think of the future and my concern that we have to be vigilant to avoid selfishness and how quickly even good acts can be tainted with a bad attitude or less than perfect motives. This is true of so many people not specifically food bank volunteers. My response to your question was meant to keep me focused on avoiding selfishness first and then to challenge others to be aware of this slippery slope of selfishness and to avoid where it can take us as a society.”

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Profile Response: Jensyn Hallett and Tracey Meyer Chesser, Heifer International, Little Rock AR

HWWLT Logo on yellow“Our mission is to end hunger and poverty while caring for the earth.” Those words, on the main display at the reception area in Heifer International’s Little Rock headquarters, might seem presumptuous if they weren’t so true. Since its founding in 1944, Heifer International has become one of the most respected philanthropic organizations in the world, grown out of the simple premise that if you provide someone the means for a productive life, they will become self-supporting.

imagesHeifer International has an appealing donation model: give a few dollars to buy chicks for a family in Ecuador, a bit more buys a pig in Swaziland, even more buys a cow in New Guinea. It’s a model that engages young children and families in philanthropy even on a modest pocketbook.

After Heifer establishes operations in a developing area, the organization provides animals only to families who seek them out. Families receiving farm animals are expected to ‘pay it forward’ by giving offspring to other neighbors.

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Tracey Meyer Chesser, Director of Heifer Village, toured me through the organization’s LEED Platinum headquarters building, adjacent education center, and 3.5 acre demonstration farm, all built on a brownfield site just east of downtown Little Rock. Heifer also operates two larger demonstration farms in the US. Tracey describes Heifer’s current focus on helping farm families be greater participants in the entire process of food production and distribution. “How can we develop the traditional model to be responsive to real market needs?” To that end, Heifer is reaching out to disseminate improved farming methods, form cooperatives, and include farmers in distribution networks.

imgres-2This is a leap from providing chicks to a needy family that requires a different level of funding. Jensyn Hallett, Foundation Officer, explains, “Over 95% of Heifer’s funding was from small donors. Now, we are working with organizations like the Gates Foundation on the East Africa Development project, working to create a complete value chain for dairy farmers.”

Heifer International’s impressive campus may seem too grand for a non-profit institution that addresses fundamental needs. Yet I came to see it as an integral part of their mission. True, they spent a lot of money. But they turned a polluted site into viable land, and they constructed something that will cost much less to operate over time. I could not help but compare Heifer to their giant corporate neighbor in Arkansas – Wal-Mart – a company whose relentless focus on low first cost doesn’t reckon with the environmental or resource implications of their actions as carefully as an organization rooted in distributing chicks.

How will we live tomorrow?

img_8534“With the experience of today and hope of a better tomorrow.” – Tracey

“I want to start a woman’s coaching business in work and life.

“I hope we will live more consciously in the future—whether it’s in consumerism, what we say, or how we treat others.” – Jensyn

 

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Profile Response: Matt Cleveland, Little Rock AR

 

HWWLT Logo on yellowArkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson has described a crisis in the state’s foster care system. There are twice as many children in need of foster care as available placements. The governor is trying to increase the number of foster homes, particularly among faith-based communities. One established foster care setting is the Sherriff’s Youth Ranch, a compound of four eight-children houses that has the capability to double capacity. Matt Cleveland, Development Director, described the situation and some of the hurdles the foster system faces.

imgres“Our history is of sheriff’s finding children with no where to go.” Forty years ago, they banded together, purchased a ranch outside Batesville, and began Youth Ranch. The organization is sponsored by all 75 county sheriff departments in the state. Youth Ranch grew to three campuses, but the economics of operating multiple sites proved difficult, so the group is focusing on its original ranch and hopes to expand operations there.

Certain aspects of Youth Ranch are more generous than traditional foster care. Foster children age out of the system at 4 p.m. on their eighteenth birthday. At Youth Ranch a boy, or less often a girl, “can stay until they transition out as long as they follow the rules and work towards a goal, even up to age 21.” Youth Ranch residents also have educational goals and opportunity to work outdoors: the setting includes a 600 acres working cattle ranch.

images-1Creating a nurturing and stimulating environment for the children costs money. It takes $30,000 a year to support a child at Youth Ranch. “The state’s foster care allowance covers only 10% of our budget.” That’s a lot of money compared with raising a child in a family household, but only a fraction of what adults gone astray can cost society.

“There are about 5300 children in the foster care system at any time – over 8000 cases per year.” Matt attributes the spike in foster care need to high numbers of single parents and mandatory removal laws. “Fifty percent of these kids are in the system because of drugs. When drugs are found in the home, the children have to be removed. Some of these offenses are minor offenses. The children are not always well served.”

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Matt believes that people want to help, but it can take up to six months to become an approved foster parent. “People who want to help get frustrated by the system.”

How will we live tomorrow?

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“I figure we’ve got to figure out ways to live together. We have more commonalities than we find on social media. More binds us than divides. We have to find more ways to open up to each other. It doesn’t have to be, but it might be, opening your home. Things aren’t going to get better until we do that.

 

“People put themselves on auto-pilot. We are going to have to be more intentional about that. I’d like to see the future communities and churches focus on service rather than sin.”

 

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Profile Response: Erica Swallow, Little Rock AR

HWWLT Logo on yellow“It all comes down to education and who you hang out with in school.” Erica Swallow acts as if there’s little remarkable about the daughter of a single mother who grew up in a trailer with intermittent electricity in northeast Arkansas graduating from NYU, working for The New York Times, writing for Forbes, starting her own business, and attending MIT’s Sloan School. “Education was the thing I needed to do to get where I wanted to go. My mom always said the things that motivated me, even though she never did them in her own life.”

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What seems to astonish Erica more is that, at age 28, she’s back in Arkansas. “I never thought about coming back to Arkansas. The only opportunities are factories or quick service.” Erica was invited to judge a high school Hack-a-thon sponsored by the non-profit Noble Impact at a Little Rock charter school. “I was so impressed the kids built something, which is not part of the K-12 system where you read, listen and take tests. They were doing in high school what I was doing at MIT.” Erica decided to work at Noble Impact to develop a business plan and scale their unique educational program. She worked to get the curriculum certified by the State of Arkansas, establish teacher training with continuing education requirements, and create a digital portfolio. After a year the state’s first public school adopted the program.

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These days Erica is focused on Southern Swallow, her digital content strategy firm and Entrepreneur Kids, a book series devoted to children who start businesses. She lives in downtown Little Rock and plans to stay here, at least for a few more years. Arkansas has proven to be a fertile place for her interest in the freelance economy and innovative education. “I want education to include wide exposure and individual exploration. I’m evaluating to what degree I can make an impact in this state.”

How will we live tomorrow?

img_8509“The key thing I focus on is, will we have to work for ourselves? Traditional jobs are automated. Tractors took over farm hands; machines took over manual labor; now even knowledge is getting automated. There is an automated news company that writes sports and business articles. Everything we do in our lives that’s repetitive will be done for us. If we want people to work, we’ll have to figure out what they’re going to do.

“Then, we are living longer, which expands the issue. If you combine AI (artificial intelligence) with nanotechnology, we will be able to address any technological or biological issue. 2048 is the year that Ray Kurtzweiler projects the singularity will occur, when AI surpasses human intelligence.

“One day people won’t die. If you line up the DNA indicators in the right way, you can live happy and healthy. So, we have people who don’t have jobs who live forever. How will we use our time? How are we going to accommodate living so long? Who will be able to access this? More people than you think. Look at the Genome sequence. Now it only costs about $1,000 to analyze your known genome. The cost will keep going down.

“Education will be the link that will make all of this happen.”

 

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Profile Response: Shawna Remy and family, Russellville AR

HWWLT Logo on yellow“My clients call me before they call their doctor because they know I will look for ways to get healthy rather than accommodate being ill.” Shawna Remy is a massage therapist who has a range of long-time clients and a variety of consulting arrangements with area physicians. She melds hands-on work with listening. “I don’t diagnose, I don’t prescribe, but I take the time to listen and can influence my clients’ care.”

Shawna’s fiancé, Johnnie Marlin LaCaze commutes several days a week to Little Rock as a founder of EEtility, a firm that helps electric coop customers obtain energy efficiency improvements, which is also Arkansas’ first B Corporation. Johnnie is a quiet man who tends to the domestic chores of raising eight children without reminder.

img_8479Wait a second – did I say eight children? Actually, Shawna and Marlin have twelve in total, but four live away right now. There’s Marlin’s oldest daughter, adopted from a first wife, Shawna’s four, Marlin’s three from a second marriage, the toddlers they adopted, the granddaughter they took in when her mother couldn’t provide, and another one whose connection was not clear, which clearly didn’t matter.

Their house is jovial chaos, at least when there’s an itinerant cyclist about for diversion. There are chore charts and blessing quotes on the walls. Meals are buffet style and portions are huge. For breakfast Shawna scrambled 18 eggs; Marlin cooked two pounds of bacon and griddled twenty hot cakes like seasoned short order cooks. Everyone seemed pretty happy to be there. I sure was.

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How will we live tomorrow?

screen-shot-2016-12-21-at-8-28-36-pm“There are a few things that come to mind, a combination of philosophical and spiritual. We live tomorrow how we live today, and how we live today will determine how we live tomorrow.

“I try to be earth friendly, to leave a lighter footprint on the earth. I had a huge garden in the back of our old house. That first summer I canned and had enough produce for our family and many others. Those cans lasted two years. We scaled back, yet still fed ourselves.

“I want to participate in my own life.”

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