I was lucky enough to attend a conference last week, where I heard one of my new favorite people speak. Bob Goff is kind of who I want to be when I grow up--or maybe more accurately, he’s who I want to be, so I don’t grow up.
Bob told a lot of stories and gave us a free copy of his book, Love Does, which was released the same day I heard him speak containing 20+ more stories that will make you happy to be alive.
One of the first stories we heard about Bob was actually told by the conference headliner and organizer, Donald Miller. Don told us a story about when Bob’s kids were younger. The family was lazing around on New Year’s Day--you know, the way we all do. The excitement of New Year’s Eve was over. Everyone had taken their naps after staying up late, and the kids announced that they were bored. Bob is not a boring guy. He clearly doesn’t want his family to be boring either.
So, together, their family organized a parade in their neighborhood. They put on costumes, made some signs, blew up some balloons, and headed out to invite all their neighbors. After instructing all their neighbors to come up with costumes and decorations of their own, the plan was to meet in the cul-de-sac where the Goff family lives. Over time, their neighborhood parade has grown. A lot.
A few years back, they started picking a grand master of the parade. One year, the grand master was the neighborhood mailman. Another year, it was a little boy from Uganda who had come for a visit (that’s another story that everyone needs to hear). The point is--they picked people who had significance to their lives--someone they wanted to make feel special.
Another person they added somewhere along the way was a parade queen. Every year, they pick a lady from a local nursing home to wear a sash and crown. It’s full of honor and ceremony and hullaballoo because again, they want the queen to feel special. All of the “veteran” queens march together in the parade, laughing and waving together in their royal glee.
But here is the most important part of the parade: no one is allowed to watch.
Everyone must participate.
He showed us some pictures and a short video of what the parade has become--dozens of people from the neighborhood walking down the street with no one lining the streets. If passersby see the parade, they invite them to join.
No one is allowed to stand on the sidelines.
Everyone is in the parade.
Coincidentally (or maybe not so), three days before I heard Bob Goff speak, our family attended a parade here in Olympia called the “Procession of the Species.” The original parade was organized in 1995 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Earth Day. Each year, members of the community gather to celebrate during the Spring Arts Walk in downtown Olympia.
Months before the event, a community art studio is set up where an all volunteer force comes to create and organize. The result is a 2,000-3,000 person parade of people who are just celebrating life. There is no public funding, and all the materials are used with the mantra of “reduce, reuse, recycle.” The only rules are that there can be no live animals, no motorized vehicles, and no written words.
As we watched with somewhere around 30,000 other spectators, three days before I knew who Bob Goff was, I kept having the same thought over and over again: I can’t wait to do this next year with the kids!
I want to be in the parade.
I don’t want to watch.
What a tremendous way to view life--a perspective that is woven into the fiber of my being. In watching the procession and in hearing Bob tell me about both his literal and figurative parades, I received a much-needed reminder.
And now, for your viewing pleasure, a few of my favorites from this year’s procession of the species:
This one was a group of parents and kids with a giant sun parachute--the kind you use in P. E. I never get tired of hearing kids giggle from under the parachute and scream when their parents lift it back up:
No hippie event is complete without at least one unicorn:
I love that this Daddy polar bear is wearing a fanny pack:
These baboons were hilarious--and great dancers, too. Please note their rear ends:
This was a MASSIVE group of animals from the African savannah. It's like a huge hippie safari:
Make sure you don't miss the guy who doesn't belong in this murder of crows:
Probably our collective favorite:
My personal favorite:
Stilts! Who doesn't love stilts?
The ants go marching...
The award for most creative kid goes to (two pictures for the full effect):
This guy HOPPED through the entire parade. Seriously!
This is some sort of sea life. A hippiefish, maybe?
This whole scene was pretty awesome. Dolphins swimming through a gauzy ocean, complete with a whale with a working blowhole. I love the ocean!
I forget what these things are called in real life, but I know you're all thinking the same thing I'm thinking:
Rainbow trout! I love the rivers, too!
Look at the mechanics that went into this one:
Every ray should have a full brass band:
Bees on bikes:
I have no idea what this guy is supposed to be, but when you are that confident, you deserve recognition.
And the finale was hundreds of monarch butterflies. So great!
That's it! Join the parade, friends!