Dear RKWL Readers,
I am beginning what I hope will be an occasional series highlighting how Christ-following creatives and creative leaders are creating culture. I have one post about the www.fiftythousandshirts.com campaign (go here), but you will be further inspired to hear how any of us can make a difference. Here is an interview with a Steve Paterson, a creative professional who is a culture creator.
[RKWL] Tell my readers about what you do for a living?
[STEVE] I’m a husband and father… better make that a NEW father, my daughter Avery is just over 2 months old. So when I’m not busy changing diapers or trying to catch up on sleep, I’m a Designer/Creative Director/Co-owner of Clear.
[RKWL] This is quite a big vision with the www.fiftythousandshirts.com campaign. How did this all get started? What was the Genesis of it?
[STEVE] It started on Monday, May 19th, one week after the earthquake. I was up early with my daughter and, like always, was browsing the internet. I stumbled on a poster that a guy named Herman had designed. The poster contained a quote, "The best way out is always through." The quote really hit me, but what also hit me was that this guy was selling the posters and donating all of the profits to the Canadian Red Cross to go towards the victims of the quake. I felt like I too should be doing something with the talents God gave me. I thought of the idea for the t-shirt while driving to work—the individual tally marks for each of the lives lost, and selling only that number of shirts as a connection between the life that had passed, and the life that had committed to help rebuild. The actual scope of the project became much bigger when I got to work and realized that the death toll estimates had increased to 50,000. The loss of lives, and the number of people affected is much greater now, but I feel the spirit of the project remains the same.
[RKWL] Creating culture is far different than Christian’s creating a separate culture. I think what you are doing is amazing for this fact. Any person on the street can understand exactly what and why you are doing what you are doing. What do you think of this idea of “creating culture”?
[STEVE] First, I’m glad that this idea didn’t come as a purposeful attempt at "creating culture." God put something on my heart, and I felt like I needed to act on it. Now that the idea is out there, I pray that it catches on. I mean, let’s be real, if it doesn’t catch on in a big way, we won’t meet our goal. If through this whole process, I’ve managed to create culture, then I’ll humbly accept that role. Overall, I think our world is in need of more "positive culture creators." It’s not a role I would raise my hand and volunteer for, but if it’s how God chooses to use me, then who am I to argue with that?
[RKWL] How does your creativity and work, even other than the shirt campaign, get lived out differently because you are a Christian?
[STEVE] Clear isn’t a Christian company, but it is a company run by two guys who love God. We do a lot of work for non-profits and Christian organizations, but we also spend a lot of time doing work in the entertainment industry and with corporate clients. We strive to be relevant in each market we serve, and we work hard to put our best foot forward in everything we do.
I think we hold ourselves to a higher standard because of our faith. And now, especially with projects such as Fifty Thousand Shirts, my name is out there… attached to this thing… there’s a lot of pressure to make sure I live a life that’s worthy of me asking people to buy into something like this. I don’t always live up to that standard, but I’m hoping that people see something "good" in me.
[RKWL] I am so grateful for artistic entrepreneurs like you who are passionate about compassion. What advice can you give to the local church to encourage this kind of thing?
[STEVE] I think the best way to encourage it is to… encourage it! I go to Cornerstone Community Church, and you, obviously, are the Worship Pastor at Sunridge… both of those churches (or any church for that matter) had two options when they heard what I was doing. They could either do nothing, or they could help. It was a great feeling this last Sunday when I went into church and had one of my pastors come up to me and share that he’d sent an email to every one of his 140 contacts. I’ve also seen many names go up on the wall that attend Cornerstone!
You chose to write about the story in your blog, and I know there are several people from Sunridge that have helped support the idea by buying shirts and spreading the word. A gentleman from Westwinds Church (and I don’t even know Westwinds Church!) reserved 10 shirts. There are already many examples of church bodies supporting, encouraging, and equipping me in this idea.
Sadly, I’ve also heard/seen/read my fair share of negative comments. I would love to see more churches supporting my idea, but I’d also love to hear stories of how they supported someone else’s dreams.
[RKWL] So, you have seen some negative feedback. How do you see past that?
[STEVE] I wish I could say it’s easy, but it’s not. The bigger the idea gets, the more control I lose on what’s been said, and how the vision is being communicated and interpreted. It’s a blessing and a curse. I’ve had hundreds of emails with positive comments, and then I read this on Sunday morning, "$25 x 50,000 = $1,250,000. Nice way to clear a quarter-million on the deaths of others…" That was hard to see. Obviously, the person is referring to the fact that we’re hoping to donate $20/shirt to China, and it seems they assumed we’re pocketing the rest. The reality is that our expenses will exceed $5/shirt, and it’s only through donations of time and money and services that we believe we might be able to reach our goal.
My first instinct is to defend myself (and this project) when stuff like this comes up. And believe me, I could go off on this comment for awhile. I have to keep reminding myself that I don’t need to defend what I’m doing. That person that made that comment? I’m not doing this for him. I’m not doing this for me. I’m doing it for those who have suffered such a terrible loss, and because God placed it on my heart as the right thing to do… as something I’m supposed to do. And I don’t need to defend that to anyone.