Behind the Scenes at Formula One

FanfestCraig was volunteering one warm Saturday morning at MLF. He was working alongside Jon Pattillo on an outdoor kitchen space. Jon is a local Austinite and owns a creative building business called AVEC Mode doing custom design and building for events, including SXSW, The X Games and Fanfest/Formula One. He appreciated Craig’s building skills and invited him to join his team for the upcoming Fanfest/Formula One event. His job would be at Fanfest, which was held downtown and featured live music, F1 venders, food, and drink. Craig would be the “Sign” team leader and responsible for making sure that all of the vender signs were distributed and hung pre-festival, and then during the festival work on little details that the venders requested, and finally post festival, the tear everything down.

In the meantime, Graciana and I were looking for little odd jobs via Craigslist that we could do together and found an ad for “merch” girls at the Formula One held here in Austin. Knowing that Craig was going to be working that weekend at the same event, we though it might be fun to experience it as well. So we applied and went in for a mother/daughter interview with Taryn at A+ Staffing.

What a fun experience to interview together, Taryn was welcoming, explaining the job and hired us on the spot. We referred my cousin and her boyfriend who just moved to town and they got the job as well. And so, the four of us became a team. Our thirteen year old even got in on the action, by being the dog sitter for my cousin, as well as, helping Craig down at Fanfest one of the days.

Circuit of the AmericasDay one included a 7am meet up on the north side of town to check in and get our assignments and passes for the weekend. Then we drove about 40 mins southwest of the city, to the Circuit of the Americas race trace where we met our clients, V12 Distribution International. Marc Amezanie, the owner, along with his staff, Patricia, and Josia welcomed us. They were in hustle mode and gave us a crash course on who they were and how to sell merchandise for them. Minutes later, customers arrived and we jumped right in. The actual mechanical process of sales was pretty cut and dry but the learning curve for understanding the Formula one language and who’s who was more challenging. However, a few hours in and we were pronouncing drivers names correctly and starting to understand our main brands, Ferrari, Red Bull, and Mercedes.

After we got the swing of things I was able to get down to the real business of doing what we do best, bringing merrymaking, light and encouragement to those around us. But, how do you swim upstream in an environment were preconceived notions suggest that there is no common bond between the classes? How do you connect with another human being when the interaction is commerce driven and the bottom line is crucial? You see it’s easy for us to get caught up in preaching love and restoration when we are in environments where people are broken, open and coming to us for that purpose. But, when we are just regular Joes who need to get a job done, in a fast paced setting where greed and lust for status are core values, that is where our heart condition is really tested. And, you know me, I love a challenge.

Here’s how swimming upstream breaks down in these types of situations; temptation can come in the form of victim-stance and inflated thinking. Pride tries to convince us that we are entitled and there is a little whisper in the soul that suggest it’s OK to lie and work our angle in order to get what we think we deserve. In fact, it’s expected.

I liken the temptation to an undertow in the ocean on a windy day, pulling and tugging, trying to take you under, trying to drown you. But, if we can acknowledge and respect that it’s there, we are able to get back to the business at hand, free to sit on the sand and enjoy the sun or free to ride the waves. It’s a remembering who we are and why we are here that leads to the remembrance that we are all made of the same mud, we are all one and status or not, people are longing for real human connectivity and for healing.

Restoration work means that we have to be restored in our own souls first, before offering it to others. We have to be willing to look in the mirror and see our own junk, own it and release it to the God of mercy and grace. It’s worth it friends, no matter what situation you are working in. If you are open to the renewing of your mind, you will find that you are able to be used in situations where you would not otherwise have been, you will find the Living God showing up and giving you opportunities to delight.

V12 Distribution International For instance, one interaction I had on day two was with a modest looking couple, probably in their 60’s. It was a very cold morning and they came to get a jacket for the wife. The interaction was longer than most because she was so indecisive. I could tell that the $250 a jacket was a big-ticket item to them and they wanted to make a good decision. We shared about 45 min with each other, trying on jackets, discussing the pro’s and con’s of these jackets but the real interaction was the dance of kindness and patience that was happening between the three of us. The Husband was setting the tone by gently caring for his wife through kind words of affirmation, his spirit was strong but gentle. They debated but there was no pride or impatience in their conversation. I was encouraged watching them be ‘married’ and I told them so. They were taken by my words and maybe a little embarrassed but they were thrilled that I had noticed their love for one another.

Then, during quiet times on the grounds, there were little moments of connectivity between the staff. I learned about one of the young ladies desire to study nutritional therapy. We talked about my cancer journey and what real healing is. There were moments where the V12 owner and I were able to share story about he and his brothers journey starting the company 26 years ago, about the french family he grew up in and the good values his parents instilled in him and his longing to pass those things on to his own children.

Graciana had her own observations and awakenings during the weekend, having experienced for the first time droves and droves of grown men who could hardly contain themselves when they saw her. She had men flaunt their wealth in front of her, offering her opportunities to come live with them to their countries of Italy, Mexico, Germany, and the US. And, I have to admit, as her mom, watching close by, it was very hard not to rush in and roar like a Mother Bear.

IMG_0618We had great conversations after day one, on our drive home. She admitted that at first she really enjoyed the attention, that it made her feel powerful and responded in kind. But, by the end of the day she was drained dry rather than rejuvenated. She said it was like a sugar high, and afterwards she felt sick to her stomach. We talked about what it means to guard her heart and how she could approach the next day. The bottom line was that her biggest temptation was to believe the lie that their words and attention defined her worth and that she was nothing more than a physical object. I suggested that she be in prayerful through every interaction the next day, finding her worth as a precious child of God and asking God to give her a stance of purity and a presence of dignity. They came just as hard and heavy on day two and three but she was able to deflect their poison, still offering a genuine kindness and smile to them. I was proud of her and thankful for her openness to talk with me about it.

Craig also had his own experience in growth with a vender that was never happy, no matter what he did to try to please them. Here he was working for a fantastic company with a like-minded boss, working diligently, creating, caring and setting a tone that was righteous. And yet, Craig was challenged to stay true to his convictions of grace by offer it to those who surely didn’t deserve it. And, he did.

Formula OneAll in all, we really enjoyed the Formula One on every level and the experience that it offered our whole family. We got to see powerful and flashy cars, hear the rumble of their engines. We got to meet people from all over the globe, who are passionate about their teams and drivers, and had an opportunity to learn about something new and fascinating. Craig really enjoyed learning more about Jon and his company, finding out that all of the materials used during Fanfest were to be recycled and allocated to people and ministries around Austin. I loved the opportunities to work alongside my daughter and cousin, as well as, the other staff in our booth, sharing story and caring for one another. Graciana got to go home with a sweet Ferrari shirt. And, Banjo got a case of Monster drink from Fanfest and got to have a dog for the weekend, which was a huge delight for our little dog whispers.

In the end, this was another fantastic opportunity to grow and practice the discipline of our faith, to encourage and be merrymakers in this ol’ world of ours.


A New American Dream; Community First Village

In 2005, Patrick O’Gilfoil Healy wrote an article for the New York Times about Alan Graham and his vision to offer unconditional love and hospitality to the chronically homeless. Healy wrote;

“ON the eastern fringe of town, beside the airport and clogged freeway entrance ramps, there sits a bargain-rack version of the American dream.

Five formerly homeless men are now living in recreational vehicles that were given to them by a homeless outreach group. The men, who are trying to recover from decades of drug abuse, alcoholism and jail time, pay $260 a month each to rent a lot at an existing trailer park. They spend their days working, attending rehab and getting accustomed to electric bills, locking doors at night and the quiet of sleeping inside.

The notion of a trailer park dedicated to homeless people is striking new ground, homeless advocates say.

Alan Graham, a former real estate developer who devised the project, said he is buying more trailers and hopes to set up a recreational vehicle park exclusively for homeless men, women and families. A group he helped found, Mobile Loaves and Fishes, would buy vacant land or cheaply lease a parcel from the city, county or state, he said.

Rudy Garza, an assistant city manager of Austin, said the project is the only one he has ever heard of that takes this approach. “The only thing that would come close to it is Habitat for Humanity,” he said….

Fast forward nine years and this vision, Graham’s fortitude and a community effort are seeing this exciting ideal come to fruition.

community_first_logo_3_24_2011We were honored to visit the MLF Community First Village and Genesis Gardens over two Saturday afternoons. Although, we didn’t meet Alan Graham himself, we did meet the folks on the ground. Steven Hebbard, the Good Soil Developer, invited us to come out and share some music during their volunteer lunch hour. We jumped at the chance to meet these kinfolk and hear their story, first person.

Mike, who has lived on the property for three years, was our unofficial tour guide and told us the history of MLF, as well as, how his own story intertwined with the community. Mike was formerly homeless and his excitement for the community and farm were quite evident. He was kind and very articulate, well versed in agriculture and surprisingly, had a real knowledge of folk music and venues. It was a delight to met him and hear how MLF’s vision gave him a sense of purpose and dignity.

In an article written by Jan Buchholz for the Austin Biz Journal in Feb of this year, Graham states that in the late nineties, he spent about 150 nights sleeping on the streets trying to understand what it is about the homeless lives that had them in this predicament.

It’s not drug problems or mental health problems that precipitated a downward spiral, he said. “It was a profound, catastrophic loss of family.”

That situation could happen to anyone, he added. The most important question became, “How can I bring relief into their life?”

“This was not their dream in life to be homeless. They have the same dreams as you and I,” Graham said.

screen-shot-2014-03-19-at-1-45-09-pmOn our visit we saw the vision coming into focus for The Community First Village with the Genesis Garden producing, Chicken Coop functioning, main kitchen in working order. There was also a creative spirit about the grounds with art displays and splashes color through out the village.

The over all plan will include 60 or so repurposed recreational vehicles as well as a neighborhood of microhomes, which will provide a place for the homeless to regain their bearings. Each will pay rent, depending upon the income they can reasonably produce. There’s a community garden, an arts facility, a medical center and an income-producing community outreach center for showing movies and providing lodging for visitors. The community is gated, so it’s a safe retreat.

If you have a chance to visit Austin, TX be sure to take a Wednesday or Saturday morning to roll over to the Community First Village and Genesis Gardens and lend a helping hand. And, if you are not in the vicinity you can always help with the $7million dollar project by heading over to to make a financial donation.

Seems like a large amount but considering Grahams tenacity along with his fellow workers, I don’t doubt that need will be met before they know it.

We’ll be back in Austin Sept-Dec and we can’t wait to reconnect with these kinfolk and get our hand in the dirt!