Posted in Different Learning, Different Moments, Uncategorized

“Uber” Exciting

This past week, ride-sharing app “Uber” opened up in our city, only to be followed the next day by “Lyft” as well.  Decatur, IL was finally getting “on the map” in a way that seemed to echo finally being included in “Craigslist” a few years before.  Certainly we’re no Chicago, but we are a greater-area population of about 85,000 – and potential for growth as we were also recently identified as #3 most affordable housing market in the WORLD.

uber-redesign-russellwarwickI’m a confessed extrovert, and love meeting new people.  So it wasn’t surprising to my wife when I joked about signing up as an Uber driver, not as a money-making venture, but for fun.  Even after quickly moving through the process, snapping pictures of my documents like insurance and registration, and getting notified I was approved – I didn’t think I’d find myself driving anytime soon.  Although as a pastor there was another layer of appeal.

Fridays are my “day off”, and the rest of my family was occupied at our homeschool co-op.  My wife told me to take the morning to enjoy.  As I sat at Panera, reading the latest edition of Harpers, I flicked the “Online” toggle on my Uber-Driver App, and officially became available.  I figured, it would be fun to give a ride or two, in the midst of my morning coffee.  Ten minutes later, it was obvious Decatur didn’t need many Uber drivers around 9am on a Friday.  Almost an hour in, I realized it wouldn’t be so bad to just spend the morning reading with coffee.

Then it happened.  I don’t even remember much about what the alert looked like. All I could think of was “There might be several Uber drivers getting this same notification, I’d better accept it quickly!”  Boom.  I accepted.  Then I looked at the address.  It wasn’t far, so I loaded up, made sure the radio wasn’t blaring princess music, and began to follow the built-in navigation system within the Uber app.

As I eased my family mini-van into the driveway of a nice quiet neighborhood, a smiling middle-aged man and his wife emerged with two suit-cases.  I quickly asked his name to confirm, though it seemed pretty obvious he was definitely my fare.  I helped load his luggage into my trunk, and opened the door for both he and his wife.  As I started the van, I slid the “Start” button on the Uber app, and asked him where they were headed this morning.  He smiled and said the airport, which I’d kinda anticipated from the luggage.  There was only one issue:

The airport he was talking about was 1.5 hours away in Peoria, IL.

For a brief second, I thought he was joking.  I think he caught my surprise, because he clarified, “You saw that when you agreed, right?”  I looked at my clock, and saw I had just enough time to get there and back before the family came home for lunch.  Why not?  I was honest, however.  Laughing, I confessed I’d not seen it, but it was no problem – let’s go!

He and his wife were very kind, and were in good spirits as they were heading out of town on vacation.  Their flights had been changed last minute, and they decided to try Uber since it had proved useful in previous times of transportation need when they’d visited larger cities.  They even tipped well, although Uber does not require this habit.

Altogether, I enjoyed my coffee and met some new people whom I was able to offer God’s blessings to for their journey ahead, as I dropped them off for their flights.  They’d paid Uber about $75, and I received about $55 of that (plus their gracious tip!).  Probably the most I’ll ever cash in with Uber, since I was just doing it for fun.  I was thankful that their few hours of need happened during my few hours of availability.

I also learned an important lesson: Before you agree to help someone get somewhere, make sure you know where they want to go.  (That’s probably a deep profound truth, eh?)  Next time I’ll make sure I check the request fully, before accepting.  I suppose I could be glad they weren’t heading to an airport in Chicago, or Canada…? lol

Thanks, Uber.  That was fun.  Maybe we’ll do it again someday.

Posted in Uncategorized

How to Make Fans & Influence People

I grew up in Michigan, and bleed red for my Detroit Redwings.  I still have love for the Hawks and Blues.  I’d love to see a “Hawks/Blues vs. Wings” Stanley Cup Final series someday.  I’m even training my daughters to love hockey, and they’re constantly asking me throughout the season how the team is doing.  My oldest daughter melted my heart recently when she used the name “Datsuk” in a large game of charades some families were playing.

I’ve been wanting to take my girls to watch a local hockey game, ever since hearing the “Decatur Blaze” had come to town.  Even though it was a church-night, I headerdecided to try it once last month.  We were all bundled up, and ready for action.  At an inexpensive $5/person, I wasn’t too worried if they ended up getting too tired to stay for the whole game.  On the way in, the friendly woman selling tickets asked my girls if they were staying after the game to skate with the players?  Giant smiles on their faces, they looked at me.  As if I had any power to deny.

As it turns out, the team Decatur Blaze was supposed to face Saturday night had their franchise folded suddenly on Friday morning.  Instead of locking the doors for the weekend, the Blaze wanted to use the opportunity to offer something special to their fans.  A black/white scrimmage was put together, with plenty of fun and talented puck handling.  The atmosphere was still pretty exciting for a fan-base that was cheering for and against the same team, ultimately.  Our girls chose the black team, and were not disappointed.  Even though it was obviously a bit more fun than competitive, there was still some great puck handling and teamwork.  Watch out for these future stars, like # 95 from Illinois, Micah Young, or Slovenian #11, Luka Znidarsic.  We even had some great local talent represented, in #52 Ty Gehrken and #58 Ryan Redpath.

The night was made even sweeter, as my girls were invited to come help collect the “Chuck-A-Pucks” between periods.  Getting on the ice, and seeing the Zamboni made them even more excited to skate after the game.  So when the time finally came, close to 9pm (keep in mind, these girls usually head to bed around 7:30), they were first in line for their skates.

Here’s the problem:  I was skating solo that night.  My wife was attending the local production of “Peter Pan” with her parents, and I was pretending to be the image1(7)responsible adult that night.  How could I juggle three girls who’ve never skated before?  As we walked awkwardly toward the ice, my girls and I had no idea what to expect.   The loud music and low lights seemed fun, but also very distracting.  That’s when the first hand reached out.  Wearing #88, and coming all the way from Belfast, UK, Gareth Smyth instantly become a part of my daughters’ life.  For the next hour, I successfully navigated caring for all three girls, and even took some pictures/video to prove it.  Whenever one of them struggled away from me, there was usually a helpful Blaze jersey skating nearby.

As 10pm approached, I knew my girls needed to head to bed soon or they’d never make it to church in the morning.  Being the responsible father that I am, I spoiled the party, and promised we’d skate again soon.  As my girls skated around in their dreams that night, they’d solidified their love both for ice skating, and for a sport who’s players show heart both between buzzers, and after the game.

Posted in Different Thoughts

Confessions of a “Neighborphile”

I grew up on a highway. (Well, not “on” the highway, but you know what I mean.)

There were some great things about this. I remember having a pool as kids, and not being too concerned about who saw you wearing what…or not wearing what. We played football in our front yard, and rode bikes up and down a driveway that was as long as a city block. You could sit on the roof on the back side of our house and see the sunset over miles of fields.

But then, there were a few downsides, too. I remember riding my bike for miles to be there early in the morning when our city’s very own McDonald’s opened. Or making a long list of things needed from the grocery store, because we couldn’t imagine running all the way into town just because we didn’t have ketchup for burgers that night. Mustard never tasted so good.

Then I went to college, where everything was contained in one giant bubble. Life was a bit TOO close. You ate in the same building you retrieved your mail, shopped for books, and met for foosball tournaments. Eventually, I was spit out as a college graduate. I was married, and had everything I needed to begin life as an official “adult.”neighbor-620x330

Life brought us here to Decatur, Illinois…

(Read the rest of my post over at !!!!)