Curiosity versus Fear


Curiosity, Charleston, South Carolina (2016)

My daughter came home from school a few months ago and reported that a classmate’s mother “didn’t like her.”


“[Classmate] said his mom doesn’t like me,” she said. I remember he words exactly, along with the puzzling expression she carried.


“I’m sorry, Little One,” I said. “Not everyone has to like everyone, though.” I refrained from elaborating. As Laurel Thatcher Ulrich said, “Well-behaved women seldom make history.”


“It’s because I said that girls can marry girls and boys can marry boys,” she continued. “[Classmate] said they couldn’t, and I said, ‘Of COURSE they can.’”


That’s my girl.


“You’re totally right,” I told her. “But not everybody agrees with that, even though it’s right and it’s the law.”


“And the thing is,” I continued, “Not everyone has to agree with everything. Lots of people disagree about lots of different things. The trick, though, is to always be respectful and kind of different beliefs, even if they are different from yours. As long as you do that, you’ll be okay.”


Mother Emanuel, Charleston, South Carolina (2016)

Mother Emanuel, Charleston, South Carolina (2016)

I couldn’t help but recall that conversation when I heard the tragic news from Orlando last week. We were in Charleston at the time, watching the city prepare to commemorate the one-year anniversary of another tragedy motivated by hate and intolerance. And fear.


In a shop on Queen Street there, I snapped a picture of the store’s window display: “Replace fear of the unknown with curiosity.”


Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we didn’t fear people who disagree with us? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we instead extended curiosity to know the human behind the beliefs, or the behavior, or the rhetoric? Wouldn’t it be great to distinguish between a fact and a belief? It is a fact that anyone can marry in this country. It is a fact that love is love. It is a belief that those laws are good. It is also a belief that those laws are not so good. But beliefs don’t change facts. And one person’s beliefs cannot and should not be imposed on anyone else.


Our children will learn about beliefs that challenge those we hold dear. Our children will learn that what we tell them to be true is true… But that “true” and “false” are sometimes oversimplifications.


Instead of responding with fear, I wish the classmate’s mother had responded differently. I wish she knew she was raising an incredible child, who wasn’t afraid to ask questions and open difficult conversations. I wish she wasn’t afraid to share with him that not everyone holds the beliefs she holds, instead of dismissing a challenger to those beliefs so callously.


There is empowerment in empathy and kindness. There is empowerment in curiosity.


We learn quickly that our children are their own people, that what we say and do holds tremendous weight, but that it will be up to them to evolve into the people they will become.


My father shares a story from my days as a toddler. Apparently, I loved moving a blue chair wherever I needed it to be. He would leave the living room and return to stumble into the chair I had left out. He would search for it exactly where he left it, only to discover I had moved it.


Our kids are their own people. They will manipulate their world, they will change it for the better, and they’ll learn to think of others—not leaving a chair in a pathway—as their brains develop in that direction.


But we have to help them get there. Not with fear, but instead with confidence in our own parenting abilities. We are incredible parents. It’s okay if our kids know the world is full of incredible parents who all only want the best for their kids. Even if other people’s version of “the best” differs from our own. Even if the world’s version of “the best” differs from our own.


It’s a good thing to raise a toddler who isn’t afraid to take action, even if that action is slightly inconvenient. It’s a good thing to raise a kindergartener who asks questions when he encounters something that doesn’t align with what he has been told. That’s a great thing. Let’s not diminish that greatness by letting our own fears squelch someone else’s curiosity.


I can’t help but wonder if things would be different if any of the shooters in any of these horrible tragedies were more curious and less afraid. If they were confident enough in themselves to not feel the need to eliminate anyone who disagreed with them. If they embraced the differences in our country and our world. If they understood that is exactly these differences that make our country great, rather than believing those differences take away from its greatness. If they were unable to access military-grade weaponry. If it took a little more time and a lot more effort to arm oneself.


If their parents had said, “Not everyone has to agree” instead of “I don’t like her.”



GiveBackHack 2016

2016-02-22_GiveBackHack1Last night GiveBackHack hosted the Sunday Night Presentations at CCAD. Nearly 200 members from the community joined us for 12 incredible presentations from teams who had researched, tested, iterated, and built sustainable ideas to improve the world during the 72 hours leading up to the event.


Did you catch that? Twelve validated ideas to address pressing issues in Columbus, Ohio (and beyond) with sustainable business models to back them up were built in seventy-two hours.


It is indeed as amazing as it sounds.


I had the great privilege of welcoming the community to the event, and I wanted to share my remarks–as well as the event’s recap–with you today.


Welcoming Remarks

I walked through the MindMarket this afternoon and it was absolutely alive, thriving with energy.  The walls were covered with brainstorming notes, the groups were furiously practicing their pitches, and there were at least as many cups of coffee as there were laptops in sight.


It was exactly the way it is supposed to be.



Opening remarks at GiveBackHack

My name is Elaine Grogan Luttrull and I am the Department Head for Business & Entrepreneurship here at CCAD. On behalf of our interim president and provost, Kevin Conlon, our deans, Julie Taggart and Tom Gattis, and my incredible fellow faculty members, it is my pleasure to welcome you to campus.


While you’re here I hope you’ll visit our Beeler Gallery just off the lobby in this space, where “Another World” by Denny Griffith is still on display. We also have work by our alumni in the lobby, in a show curated by Tim Ritenbach, a long-time professor in fine arts.


My department is on track to serve 331 students this academic year, which represents just under 30% of our overall student population (27.5%). We’ve grown about 460% in the two years that we’ve been a real department.  (That’s a serious growth number, fully appreciated by the entrepreneurs in the room.)


The growth is due in part to some great classes and definitely due to the enthusiasm of our students.  But it’s also due to support from partners in the community. And that’s what this weekend is all about. Community.


From Create Columbus to the Center for Social Enterprise Development to community leaders, like John Rush and Kenny Sipes, and funders like Tony Wells and Rev1 Ventures, the state of social enterprise in Columbus is thriving.


We absolutely love partnering with GiveBackHack for this event that really underscores the importance of social enterprise in our community. I congratulate the team on their efforts for yet another successful weekend, and I can’t wait to see what these presentations will bring.


Event Recap

The theme of community carried throughout the event, particularly at the end, when an incredibly supportive member of our community–IGS Energy–increased the prize pool by $5,000. There were simply too many good ideas.


Did you catch that? IGS Energy, the presenting sponsor, contributed $15,000 on the spot instead of $10,000 to support the energy of social enterprise in Columbus. Wow.


Instead of awarding $10,000 in prizes to three groups (first, second, and third place winners), GiveBackHack awarded $15,000 to five groups.

  • 1st Place: OmniBus ($5,000)
  • 2nd Place: Round It ($3,000)
  • 2nd Place: Volundate ($3,000)
  • 3rd Place: KindQuest ($2,000)
  • 3rd Place: Project Hygeia ($2,000)

OmniBus created a working app during the weekend to track COTA buses and increase ridership. Round It built a prototype of an app to round up everyday purchases in support of a charitable cause. Volundate marries the benefits of Tinder with local volunteer opportunities (and they successfully tested it on Sunday!), KindQuest gamifies kindness using existing social platforms, and Project Hygeia collects, cleans, and recycles partially used toiletries from hotels in support of the homeless population.


The People’s Choice winner for the evening was This Is Your Bathroom, a group who created a plan to transform a COTA bus into shower stalls for the homeless.


And how did we vote for the People’s Choice? We used a platform designed by last year’s winner of GiveBackHack, Billions Effect. We also heard updates from Abe’s Kitchen and CarryMeForward, the second and third place winners from 2015. Abe’s Kitchen has served 600 meals since winning endorsement from last year’s event, and CarryMeForward continues to make bags (in partnership with Seagull Bags) designed for homeless and foster youth.


I have goosebumps just summarizing the event. It really is that incredible.



Coffee fuels creativity.

One of the participants came to me during the break and introduced himself, thanking CCAD for use of the space. In talking about how amazing GiveBackHack is, he said, gesturing to the stage in reference to the presentations, “It’s not about this.”  Instead, he said, “it’s about this,” gesturing to the crowd, which was brimming with the same energy I observed in the MindMarket earlier that day.


He is exactly right.


GiveBackHack is all about the community of supporters, the community of attendees, the community of participants. The ideas were wonderful (which, by the way, is one reason GiveBackHack is very different from a more traditional start-up weekend). But the community was even more wonderful.


No go change the world. (Oh, and sign up for GiveBackHack 2017.)