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When my nieces and nephews ask me to “Read them a story.” and then hand me a book that they’ve heard a thousand times, I like to make up a new one based on the general premise of the book. It’s usually met with delight. 

Storytelling was used for centuries to pass along history before paper, pens, typewriters and MacBookPros were invented. Even with all of these modern devices I’m continually amazed how many credit union people I come across that don’t know the story of how their financial co-op came to be. 

Now more than ever we need to tell our story. And not in the sing-songy-heard-it-a-million-times “We’re a not for profit financial institution owned and operated by our members…..”

Tell it a new way. How about starting with this phrase…..“After the great depression……”

Story telling is different than a slogan or a tag line. Brent Dixon had a great post recently that talked about the ingredients of a great story. 

This morning I took this photo. I’m staying at the Residence Inn near the Portland Airport. When I went downstairs to get my morning coffee at 6:00 am I saw this pile of stuff outside the door of Room 217. There’s a story here…..Go!

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Thanks to Sarah Canepa Bang for coordinating this amazing event. The oldest dancer was 74!!! I’m the dancer in the third row, on the left with the fringe pants and super zombie face!

Happy Halloween y’all!

04_full_colour_on_black_taglineAt 5:30 pm (Pacific time) on October 24th, 2009 A.D. people from all over the world will be dancing Michael Jackson’s Thriller. I will be one of those people. Why? Because folks dig a common bond. 

(Just two days back in the Northwest and I’m talking like a hippie again) 

Anyway – my crazy friend Sarah Bang is always looking for events to bring people together. She gets the power of common bond. In June of this year I flew from New York to Portland to see her march in the Rose Festival Starlight parade as the Lacamas Shores Umbrella Drill Team. 

And now she’s convinced a dozen of her friends to practice, practice, practice so we can be a part of history. 

This morning Mark and I walked through our new neighborhood in Camas, Washington. The entire city is home to only 16, 700 people. That would be a small credit union population. In just three miles I walked through three different neighborhoods. I know this because there were signs posted at the entrance to each unique section. We will be living in the East Prune Hill neighborhood in case you were wondering. It’s quite lovely. 

This got me thinking about the most basic human need – a sense of belonging. 

It starts with your family, of course. But sometimes that isn’t enough. And so throughout life we create micro families. Whether it’s taking up the clarinet to march in the band or painting your body orange and black and cheering on the OSU Beavers, or congregating on Sunday at All Saints Church. We thrive on common bond. I’ve kept my account at Point West CU for 8 years and three out-of-state moves. Why? First, I love the CEO and my MSR Randy, but secondly, my VISA Debit Card has a photo of Portland, Oregon (my home town). Every time I use that card I’m reminded that I belong to some place.  

30448 USA WA Camas JP Brooks 0 (111)I’m so excited to be moving “back home” and honored to celebrate a common bond with a dozen middle aged professionals by dressing up as a zombie.

For no mere mortal can resist the evil of the Thriller….

Mwaahh Haaaahhh Haaaahhhh Haaaahhhh……

Remember when Halloween was about carving pumpkins, roasting the seeds, making your costume and trick or treating with a pillow case instead of some store bought thing? 

I remember when Thanksgiving was two full days of kitchen chaos that culminated in a meal of relatively simple culinary delights. But because we only experienced it once a year it was special. The turkey, the stuffing, the cranberry sauce, the sweet potato bake with marshmallows. Yum.

Remember when you wouldn’t see or even hear a Christmas anything until the day after Thanksgiving?  The stores would explode with Christmas lights and decorations and music and Santa and manger scenes. And for a few weeks you reveled in the excitement and anticipation? It was magic.

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Today, when you walk into any mall, drugstore, grocer or  Wal Mart, you are bombarded with candy, candles, santas, pumpkins, skeletons, orange, black, red, green (which, btw, do NOT go together).  Spooky noises and Christmas carols compete for air space. It’s no wonder more and more people keep their lights up on the house year-round. It’s disturbing.

Scarcity and exclusivity are incredible marketing tools that we rarely use these days. 

Consider the asparagus. I was a middle child and always seeking attention – imagine that – and needing to be individual, it became my vegetable.  It came into season always around my birthday. As if it appeared just to celebrate with me. Fresh, slender, tender stalks, lovingly cut on an angle and stir fried with sliced mushrooms and water chestnuts in a butter sauce.  Thanks mom for that memory.

Today I can get asparagus year round. Forced to grow in an unnatural environment.  Consequently the stalks you get out of season are big and thick and tough and durable and lack the earthy flavor.  

Now anyone can join a credit union. Does that make it less special? 

If there was a club, that everyone could join, and everyone did, is it still a club?

Nope. And that’s a problem. 

Our field of membership was our differentiator. As many expanded to a live, work, worship description, the temptation to be all things to all people was too great. 

Now we can have whatever we want, whenever we want, from whomever we want. 

Is this the American dream? 

As we celebrate International Credit Union week, we need to remember that common bond, a common purpose, is the glue that holds us together. It’s not our free checking or convenient car loans – those are commodities. It’s about a sense of belonging – feeling special – something you cannot get just anywhere. 

I’m going to Hinckley Minnesota on Sunday. 

I tried to book my hotel room online but apparently their reservation system hates MACs. So I called their 800 number. 

It went down like this:

Gertrude: Reservations.

Me: I’d like to make a reservation for the evening of October 11th.

G: You gotta coupon?

Me: No ma’am.

G: Why not?

Me: I’m just there for one night, to speak for a credit union.

G: Oh. You smoke?

Me: Nope.

G: One or two beds?

Me: One please.

G: You bringin’ anybody with you?

Me: No ma’am.

G: Didn’t think so. You gonna be here by 6:00?

Me: Um, no actually I won’t be in till after 10pm. Is that okay?

G: Chuckles. We’re a casino, someone will be up. That’s for sure. But I need a credit card if you’re not gonna be here by 6:00.

Me: 3739 609 *** ***** (for security reasons)

G: When you get here, park your car and go to customer service and get yourself a coupon. It’s free and it’ll save you 5 bucks on your room. Right now the rate is $54.00 a night, but we can get you in for $49.00 with that coupon. Okay?

Me: Yes ma’am. I’ll see you on Sunday.

G: Chuckles again. Good bye.

I have no idea if this casino is trying to build a sales and service culture. But G nailed it. She genuinely cared, albeit in an abrupt way. She was authentic. I loved it. 

You can’t teach caring. You either do or you don’t.

Time of death. 5:04 pm on September 30, 2009.

127049-gm-to-close-saturn-as-sale-collapses-410x230The life support systems are slowly removed. There’s an eerie silence in the room after the monitors are shut down. Heads are bowed. I can only imagine that was the scene in the board room in Detroit yesterday when Saturn breathed its last breath.

I was there when Saturn was born. A shiny baby sedan screaming into the world. Who couldn’t love this little car? It was the perfect child of GM. Right out of the womb it proved itself to be low maintenance, reliable and a personality to boot! 

There were some troubles during the teenage years and that’s when big bad daddy GM stepped in and sent Saturn to military school. Our baby changed. The spirit beat out of it. It had to conform. 

And so it began to act out. Started running with the wrong crowd. And eventually, died too young. 

Even though my last words were harsh and riddled with disappointment, I hope that Saturn knows all the joy it brought me. From my first SC1 Toonces, to Buttercup the SL2, my gorgeous Daisy VUE, Ruby the ION and now Sunkist the leaky windshield VUE. 

We’ve had some good times. You will be remembered.

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