It happens in almost every office. That Eureka! moment when employees learn what their colleagues enjoy outside the workplace. MAC is no different. Two employees—Wendell Johnson and Michael Goldsmith—share their personal interests.
There’s Gospel in the Air
Inspiring others is the satisfaction Wendell Johnson derives from his music.
As one of MAC’s computer technicians, Wendell R. Johnson is immersed in technology—hardware, software, gigahertz, terabytes, internet slowdowns—solving the challenges of the campus computer network. Recently employees were surprised to learn their technology-oriented associate is also an award-winning musician.
Outside work, music is one of Wendell’s passions. When he was 6 or 7 years old, his parents and grandparents encouraged him to sing in the local church they attended. “Although I had little interest, I did sing occasionally,” he says. “I have always known I could sing. It’s a gift I inherited from my parents.”
“I don’t like to think of singing as a career or a hobby, but more of a passion,” explains Wendell, MAC’s Classified Staff president. “Music has taken me to some interesting places and put me in some situations I could otherwise only dream about. Throughout the years, I have met lots of interesting people and made many lifelong friends.”
In 2002, while performing with a group of musicians at Silver Dollar City jam session, Wendell’s work caught the attention of the Country Gospel Music Association’s (CGMA) executive vice-president who was in the audience. “Mr. Marsh extended an invitation for me to join the association,” says Wendell. “Since, I have received 18 CGMA awards ranging from Recruiter of the Year to Male Vocalist to Male Entertainer and an award of recognition for work as the CGMA National Chapter Director.”
“In 1992 I was lead singer for a Branson trio and we did a mix of country and gospel,” adds the vocal artist. “On occasion, I’ve travelled to Nashville to sing for someone in the music industry. The music business is very tough to get into and even tougher to stay in. Good singers and musicians are everywhere. For me, I was never quite in the right place at the right time. So, a long time ago, I just decided take advantage of the opportunities that were presented and enjoy the whole experience. For over 30 years, I have travelled the nation as a soloist doing gospel music. I do between 40 and 60 dates a year and perform every genre from bluegrass to contemporary in churches and festivals to CGMA conventions, funerals and weddings . . . and even an occasional invitation to sing in a Branson theater.”
Wendell explains, “Being in gospel music gives me the satisfaction of knowing I can do more with my talents than just entertain. This gives me the chance to encourage and inspire others. That, for me, is very rewarding. I consider it to be a pretty good trade-off for fame and fortune.”
“Back in the Day” Dialogue
The Creative Thinking Project cultivates discussion and stirs emotions among participants.
The Creative Thinking Project, CTP for short, is a place for gathering and sharing ideas. What does it look like? No one is quite sure, it merely evolves. The concept began with an idea exchange and lively debates on the challenges we face every day.
“It all began last spring with a group of MAC students and several community members,” recalls Michael Goldsmith, the group’s organizer and MAC music instructor. “I noticed my students hotly debating relevant issues on Facebook. I remembered ‘back in the day’ when we gathered in the court square to engage in compelling conversations and debated the topics of the day. I was inspired and thought why not get together in person like we used to do? Sit down one-on-one and develop relationships to bounce ideas back and forth. You never know how we could change the world from there. As a result, CTP was born.”
He adds, “I like discussions about ideas that can change things. Students are smart, creative . . . and very in tune to the world. I think down deep, people want to create change but aren’t sure where to start. CTP gives them a forum and opportunity to talk about it."
CTP welcomes the community to join lively debates at Bauhaus Kaffee in Farmington. The initial project’s success germinated a second CTP location at the Terrazza Grill in Arnold. Michael’s invitation is “Bring your ideas. Let’s challenge our brains. We’ll set the ground rules . . . you bring the heat!” So far, topics of crime and punishment, education, and our current political system are generating volumes of discussion and dialogue in a friendly atmosphere.
Other topics—social justice, poverty, orphans and society—produce many questions with complex discussions. In sessions, Michael shares statistics and information. He poses questions such as: Is it our responsibility to care for one another or should the government have the responsibility to care for its citizens? Is social justice important to you? Does the death penalty really reduce crime and protect our society? What’s the cost to taxpayers to keep a person in prison?
On the subject of poverty, one person states, "So many people just give up because they feel stuck and don't want to better themselves." Another says, “Poverty is different today. For my parents, where you grew up is where you stayed and got a job. Today, our 20 to 35 generation is actually going back to our parents because we aren’t making it and they let us come back. You begin to wonder why go to college, get in lots of debt, get a degree, and then can’t find a good job? You go back to the laziness thing. It's a different way of thinking."
A third surmises, “Without realizing it, parents are a contributing factor. They work very hard so their kids don’t have to do much. Guess what, they don't! My parents’ generation never had mentors, but they got out, worked all the time, and didn't ask for a handout. They came back from the war with the attitude of ‘go get it yourself, go do it yourself.’ Today, I think laziness escalates and work ethic spirals downhill because people are always looking for a handout and have never really had to do work to get things they wanted."
On the death penalty, a community member asserts, “How can anyone call the death penalty fair? Seems like it depends where you commit the crime or if you can afford a good attorney. That certainly doesn’t make a level playing field when laws differ from state to state.”
Participants leave with their minds whirling with ideas and concepts that resurface throughout the week. For Michael, CTP is achieving exactly what he had in mind. For more information and list of upcoming events, visit the CTP website: www.creativethinkingproject.com or email email@example.com.