Eric Stevens

Fitness Speaker, Author & Personality

Eric Stevens is a health and fitness coach, trainer and practitioner. Eric has broadened that body focused fitness with writing, presenting and acting in order to reach people, change lives, and create dialogue.

Filtering by Tag: Societal health

The Middle Children of History

 “We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war…our Great Depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact.”  ― Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club 

By now it’s not news to you that we have an opioid epidemic that kills more Americans each year than died during the entire duration of the Vietnam War. It’s not news that obesity has become a pandemic across our nation killing an estimated 300,000 people annually. It’s not news that depression and suicide are at all time highs in our country with some 45,000 people taking their own lives each year. It’s not news to you that despite living in an age of unprecedented technological advances, we actually have declining life expectancy in our nation. We are increasingly addicted to our food, our phones, our booze and our prescription drugs. We even ‘binge’ watch our television. But none of that is news.

Our collective anxiety, addiction, escapism, and desperation is no longer newsworthy, for the vast majority of us are personally battling these afflictions on some level whether individually or through our circle of loved ones. What is newsworthy is that despite fighting the war on drugs, war on fat, and war on terror, none of these societal conflicts are helping us live longer happier lives. The big news story isn’t the what, but the why.

So just why are we depressed, addicted, overweight and unhappy? After all, we live in the richest nation on earth at the most prosperous time in history. Technology makes our lives so efficient that few of us have to actually labor strenuously to find food, shelter or even entertainment. The answer is simple, and yet complex. We feel separate from each other and live in polarizing times because we are separate from ourselves. We are out of alignment.   

If you watch the news and pay attention to those in power politically and economically, the answers to our dilemmas come in convenient packages with straight forward answers - Obesity will be solved by burning calories, jobs and personal safety will be protected by building walls, drug addiction will be solved by locking up drug dealers and seizing the supply of illegal drugs. But deep down, no matter where you lie on the political and philosophical spectrum, we all know this is a lie. None of these short-sided ‘answers’ really address the why’s behind the what.

The proof is in the pudding. Despite our protectionist tendencies and efforts to save our jobs, both machines and other countries continue to take our jobs at an alarming pace. Despite a decades-long war on drugs focusing on locking up drug dealers and seizing drugs, this fight has had zero impact on drug consumption and addiction. Despite more and more joining gyms fueling the fitness industry’s unprecedented double-digit growth for the past 30-years, the burning calories approach has had no impact on the amount of overweight and obese Americans. These are failed approaches because they don’t address the underlying causes of our ailments.

We need to stop addressing the ‘what’ and start tackling the ‘why’ behind these issues. The reason we are overweight, unhappy and depressed is because many of us lack purpose, meaning and a feeling of true fulfillment in our lives. Great meals, engrossing entertainment and fine wine won’t solve our emptiness. Ironically, our escapism only exacerbates our pain. No matter how fast we run on the treadmill of life, the belt keeps going and at some point we have to get off and face the pain, guilt and shame of our own emptiness.

Facing the why means waging a “spiritual war” as Chuck Palahniuk states. Or as Gandhi famously said, “each one of us has to find his peace from within.” But many aren’t willing to wage that war. We’re too distracted and comfortable to be bothered. We’re too busy complaining about the system being broken that we don’t actually organize and mobilize to find real solutions. It’s much easier to blame the left if you’re on the right (or vice versa), to blame the drug dealers if you’re a drug user and to blame the calories if you’re overweight. These simplistic narratives have proven to be failed approaches and continue to do nothing to advance our cause as a society.

More than 150 years ago, Henry David Thoreau prophesized this dynamic. His haunting quote about despair and its correlation to amusement also contains the remedy (wisdom). “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation…A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.”

The time has come to reject the notions of addiction and corruption and break out of our quiet lives of desperation. As “middle children of history,” our fight isn’t a black and white one like the wars and moral battles of our grandparents and great grandparents. Addiction, depression and even political gridlock aren’t solved with walls, diet plans and simply choosing the lesser of two evils. They are solved in the stillness of our hearts, in selfless community-driven efforts and in relationship with the Divine.

We must wage new wars in fighting the powerful and corrupt while at the same time holding ourselves to the same level of accountability. We must stand up to monopolies of thought and monopolies of commerce and political power. We must fight against systemic injustices like fake food and aggressive marketing campaigns that promote massive consumption and in turn, addiction.

The answers in these seemingly hopeless times will only present themselves if we are first willing to address the why’s behind the what. Waging such a spiritual war is not about choosing sides, but about finding a ‘third’ way and through the process of “kenosis” or self-emptying. It is only when we empty our lives that we can be truly receptive to God’s will. It is only through emptiness that we can find wholeness. It’s only by finding ourselves individually that we can band together and truly forge a path for peace collectively.


The Safety Dance

As a toddler in the 70’s, one thing that was noticeably absent whenever I was riding around in the car with my parents was a car seat. In fact, I didn’t even wear a seatbelt. Instead, I used to sit on the center armrest in the front seat. Apparently, I liked the view up there and the closer proximity to Mom and Dad made for more robust conversation. 

Just imagine the uproar these days of seeing a toddler riding in a car down the street just inches from the windshield without so much as a car seat or even a seat belt providing protection. The ordeal would be national news and the parents would surely be sent to prison! But back in my formative years, no one seemed to give a damn. And it wasn’t just the seat belt either. The 70’s and 80’s were like the Wild West for kids growing up in that era. No seat belts, no scrutiny and no supervision.

Not to throw my parents under the bus, mind you. Loose parenting was without a doubt the norm in my day. Like most kids back then, I learned to ride a bike without a bike helmet. I learned to ski without a helmet as well. Every kid I knew ate peanuts (and gluten, lactose and everything else we could inhale). Most kids were a bit hyper and yet, as far as I knew, none were regularly medicated.

As grade-schoolers, my friends and I walked to the bus stop unaccompanied by parents. We rode our bikes around the neighborhood and all over town. As pre driving teenagers, we regularly took the bus downtown to hangout. All activities were unsupervised and there were no cell phones or other means of direct communication with actual adults. We were simply told to be home by dinner.

Not that there weren’t legitimate dangers to be concerned with. The violent crime rate in the 1980’s was significantly higher than it is now. I knew two kids that died from ski accidents. A family friend lost their son to drunk driving. One kid in my high school was hit by a train and killed. Several kids from a local school were killed in a tragic mountaineering accident. 

Indeed there were good reasons to be at least somewhat fearful back then and yet we were seemingly oblivious to danger. It’s a wonder I survived! All joking aside, society back in the day needed to get its act together where it came to safety, supervision and street smarts. Fortunately, we did.

In the past 30 years, seat belts have saved countless lives. Helmets have prevented many deaths and serious life altering injuries. Prominent media campaigns like MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) helped bring about positive changes in attitudes and legislation to combat impaired driving. Social attitudes have vastly improved as well. For instance, gay kids and other marginalized groups didn’t enjoy the freedom and respect back then that they do now. Thanks to an evolution in thought and action, life has become safer and in many ways, better. 

However, while the 70’s and 80’s were a bit too reckless and nonchalant, the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction. Fear now permeates almost every facet of our culture. Parents don’t let their kids outside unaccompanied because of fearing kidnappers and rapists. We fear immigrants as dangerous criminals and opportunists looking to steal our jobs. We fear terrorism. We fear people using the wrong bathrooms. We even fear peanuts and gluten. Many, if not most of these topical fears have almost no reasonable basis or factual substantiation. We’re obsessed with danger and paralyzed by fear, but the reality is we have never been safer. Consider the following statistics:

We don’t connect the dots of our media-driven, fear-based culture and how it’s making us inept, impotent and frankly, soft. We’re weak where we need to toughen up and we’re distracted or ignorant where it comes to the actual legitimate fears we should be concerned with.

  • Despite a tragic and pronounced epidemic of addiction, no one seems to notice the correlation that many kids (and adults) are more heavily medicated than ever. Furthermore, no one seems to mind the constant bombardment of aggressive advertising touting highly addictive substances from processed sugar to alcohol to prescription drugs.

  • Despite the alarming trend of growing suicide rates, we pay little attention to the compulsive nature of screen time and social media, which are correlated with depression and anxiety.

  • Despite guns killing almost 1300 kids each year and the appalling epidemic of mass shootings and school shootings, we’re too self absorbed and politically polarized to actually get anything done about it.

  • Despite a massive looming threat from the critical state of the environment, many are unwilling to adjust their lifestyle and consumption habits. 

The obvious question we should be asking related to issues of safety is the query “Is It working?” Seat belts undoubtedly work. Without question, bike and ski helmets work. But ‘safe’ zones and ‘helicopter' parenting do nothing but perpetuate a culture of fear and ineptitude. Prescription drug ads do nothing but create a frenzy of drug use and abuse.

False ideologies on both sides of the political spectrum are to blame for our coddled and contemptuous society. Many shamefully fear monger by demonizing those that look, pray and love differently. Others left lack courage in standing up to political correctness run amok. We are now a nation of wimps and whiners thanks in large part to the unintended consequences of overparenting and the ridiculous notion of “safetyism.” 

The fact is we are much safer than we think from the issues that garner the most attention like crime and terrorism. Yet paradoxically, we’re also in much more danger than we’re aware from the issues that lurk beneath the surface of popular thought. While we’re busy fretting over immigrants, terrorists and peanuts, threats of our own psyche (addiction, mental health and suicide) are literally killing us. Because of these threats, for the second year in a row, as a nation we are facing a declining life expectancy.

If we are to succeed personally, culturally and environmentally, we need a balanced approach to fear and safety. I’m not advocating for a return to the careless attitudes of my free-swinging childhood. But it’s time to bring that pendulum back to the center if just a bit. It’s time for us to face the music and stand up to fear instead of promoting and succumbing to it.

"Owner of a lonely heart"

Six years ago I moved from Oregon to Colorado to start a new chapter. I packed up the Volkswagen with my belongings and took to the open road stepping in to the void of uncertainty. As I looked out the windshield through the plains of Idaho and the canyons of Utah, I pondered the future in front of me. On my journey I laughed, I cried, but mostly, I sang along to the music as I always do. Somewhere after crossing the border of Colorado, the classic Yes song, “Owner of a lonely heart” came on the radio.

As I got to thinking about the song, I started laughing, crying and signing at the same time! On a hot summer day with the windows down, I belted out the famous chorus:

Owner of a lonely heart

(much better than a)

Owner of a broken heart

My heart burned as I let the lyrics sink in. Having been divorced some months earlier, my heart was still very fragile, but slowly beginning to mend. I considered the words again and again as the Rocky Mountains loomed in the distance. Is it really better to have a lonely heart than a broken heart? Having just suffered one, I concluded that Yes definitely had it right - It’s better to be bruised than broken.

Anyone who has ever suffered a tragic loss, the death of a loved one or a severed relationship can attest to the utter devastation of a broken heart. That said, as acute and traumatic as broken hearts can be, lonely hearts can silently remain with unbearable pain. The reality is, while they may have different sensations, both broken hearts and lonely hearts can be equally tragic.

The difference is, broken hearts tend to mend with time and perspective, but the subtle, dull pain of a lonely heart can linger for decades if not reconciled. Friends, family, and loved ones tend to rally around a broken heart to help you through the toughest patches…but what about a lonely heart? Who’s there to pick up the pieces when you are suffering through the blues of loneliness for months on end?

While broken hearts are certainly tragic, lonely hearts are pretty devastating in their own right. Earlier this month Cigna released the U.S. Loneliness Survey, which reported that loneliness among Americans has reached "epidemic levels." Of the more than 20,000 Americans polled in the survey, nearly half reported feeling alone or left out much of the time. Nowhere is this modern day problem more pronounced than the societal tragedy of suicide. Suicide levels have risen more than 25% in the past two decades for a myriad of reasons, but none more so than the desperation of loneliness.

Like many Americans, I also struggle with loneliness at times. While I am happily remarried, I’ve spent the majority of my adult life alone (That is, living alone and/or not in a committed long-term partnership). I’m intimately familiar with the anguish of boredom and no stranger to the sharp burning pain of loss. Shortly after moving to Denver in the wake of my divorce, I also lost one of my lifelong best friends who had battled bipolar disease and depression.

Losing a friend, partner, family member or even a job can be particularly daunting because it presents the duality of both a broken and a lonely heart simultaneously. In response to such suffering, I’ve tried every trick in the book - From exercise ‘addiction’ to wasting countless hours on the Internet. In an effort to run as fast as possible from my shadow and escape the pit of lonely despair, my M.O. has been to keep moving and stay distracted.

The great irony of our time is that seemingly we are all continuously ‘connected,’ yet statistically speaking, we’re also bored or lonely. As many ‘friends’ as we may have on social media, many have no real friends. The majority of us live in areas where we are constantly surrounded by thousands of people, yet often we feel alone at the same time. We long for true connection and meaning and yet by seeking false connection, we feel more isolated and anxious than ever.

The vastness of a life without purpose can be a scary place to be. To be alone with our own thoughts can be downright terrifying. For some, it’s much easier to escape loneliness by holding steadfast to the most overrated and overused word of our day – busy. Ask anyone how they are doing these days and next to the obligatory ‘good’ is the standard ‘busy.’ Who isn’t nowadays?

But the modern concept of being overwhelmingly busy is largely a myth. As Steven Pinker points out in his latest book Enlightenment Now, from the perspective of long-term or even recent history, humans are working less and enjoying more leisure time than at any point in history. The global decline of annual work hours is one variable as is the advance in technology (like dishwashers and other appliances). Such advancements have also led to far less ‘work’ in household chores such as washing dishes and laundry. Generally speaking, the fact is many of us actually have an abundance of free time, yet we choose to be ‘busy’ with hobbies, distraction, online entertainment, and trivial amusement.

Ultimately though, none of us can keep running faster and faster and juggling more and more. At some point you’ll run out of time, money or health. There is no escaping the inevitability of being alone or feeling lonely. The key is to stop running and face the boredom, loneliness and emptiness.

The Upside of Loneliness

Read any good books lately? How is that new art project coming along? When is the last time you enrolled in a new class, volunteered, picked up a new hobby or made a new friend? These things take time and time is something many of us claim to not have.

Each of us makes choices of what to do with our own allocation of time. In an effort to fill up every slice of our schedules, many of us are driven to distraction or worse, addiction. Much of our ‘busyness’ is a result of being scared to death of what we might find in the desert of isolation. For some, when we aren’t working or resting, we seek solace in the comfort of company. After all, as the “Lonely Hearts Club Band” once sang, we all can use “a little help from our friends.”

But even time spent with loved ones carries with it the complication of distracting ourselves from our inner work. While very few successes are truly achieved alone, the question of “Who am I?” is a query that can only be wrestled with in the wilderness of solitude. For many, this means facing the prospect of a lonely heart.

The song “Owner of a lonely heart” is known by its catchy chorus, which concludes that a lonely heart is better than a broken one. But behind those famous lyrics are lesser-known, equally poignant words:

Prove yourself
You are the move you make
Take your chances win or loser

Be yourself, give your free will a chance
You've got to work to succeed

Whether you’re battling a broken heart or a lonely one, finding the resolve to “prove yourself,” “make the move” and “give your free will a chance” are perhaps our most important tasks.

Like staying sober, climbing a mountain, or developing a new friendship, you have to “work to succeed.” Facing the tribulation of loneliness is one of life’s most daunting challenges – the work starts with the resolve to confront our inner demons and the willingness to love ourselves unconditionally.



Health is y(our) most valuable possession

In my early twenties, I worked out frequently at a prestigious health club in Portland, Oregon. Working at the club was a man who had been an exercise instructor there for 60 years! In his eighties at that time, Joe was full of vigor, enthusiasm, and a zest for fitness. Like his friend and contemporary Jack Lalanne, Joe was considered a health and exercise guru and somewhat of a pioneer in the fitness movement.

Still fit, lean, and energetic, Joe would always make it a point to check in on me during my workout and provide a health tip or two. He lived by what he called the four D's: desire, determination, dedication and discipline. But of all the interactions and memories I had with Joe, the thing that has stuck with me is a sign that hung in his office. It read simply, “health is your most valuable possession.”

It’s hard to argue the point. Yet in many ways, it seems our collective focus is on anything but health – For weeks on end we debate football players kneeling during the national anthem. We spend months expressing shock and anger over the sexual inappropriateness of Harvey Weinstein, Roy Moore, and Kevin Spacey. We focus on whether we should allow certain people in certain bathrooms or whether the ‘news’ is ‘fake’ or not. When we do actually have legitimate societal and environmental health news stories such as hurricanes and mass shootings, they capture our attention only for a brief moment in time. We come together in unified thought for a day or two until the more important ‘news’ of celebrity gossip, dysfunctional politics, and reality competition shows come back to the front burner.

Instead of focusing on our own health, the health of our environment, and the wellness of our populace, we focus instead on the health of our money, our economy, and mostly our own egos. We are driven by distraction. Honestly, with things as screwed up and backwards as they appear to be, our insatiable appetite for escapism is understandable.

Sure enough, distraction seems to be a top priority for all of us these days. That is, until life hits you across the face and the compromised health of your body, your family, or even your environment becomes bigger than the needs of your ego. If you’ve ever been faced with the prospect of significant loss, you’ll know what I‘m talking about - a health crisis is enough to scare any of us straight.

This past year my wife was faced with some alarming physical symptoms. For months, she went through extensive medical testing, living with the constant fear of the unknown and the severe discomfort of her illness. Fortunately, she received excellent care and her team of physicians were able to determine that her issues were environmental, epigenetic, and ultimately treatable. After changing her environment, hear health issues subsided.

I’m happy to report that she is much better and continuing to improve in gaining back her strength and vitality. Perhaps more importantly, the episode changed both of us immensely and also refocused our priorities. After years of living comfortably and enjoying the fruits of our labor by traveling frequently, socializing, and playing hard on the weekends, we reprioritized our focus to God, each other, and actualizing the authentic lifestyle we wanted.

Both my wife and I have dedicated our professional lives to health and wellness. We exercise, eat right, and Patience has even convinced me in recent years that I should floss my teeth regularly! But it still took the proverbial wake up call for us to realize that Joe was right - health is indeed your most valuable possession.

The perspective gained when health is jeopardized is the great equalizer that brings your priorities immediately front and center. You can have all the money in the world, but frequently money can’t solve the problem of health. As a case in point, look no further than the wellness of our country - as a nation, we do have all the money in the world, and frankly, we do a piss poor job where it comes to the care and well-being of our populace. Consider the following:

·      Health related issues and subsequent medical debt is the number one cause of personal bankruptcy in our country.

·      For many of our citizens, the rights to healthcare access and quality of care is appalling.

·      By almost any measure, the collective mental health of our populace is getting worse and increasingly dependent on drugs.

·      According to the governments of every nation on earth (except ours) the health of our ecology and environment is failing miserably at least in part by factors related to human consumption.

·      The health of our relationships, communities, and civic organizations are in peril. Loneliness and depression are at epidemic proportions, churches and community organizations are at low points in their membership bases, and philosophically and politically, we are in a sheer state of gridlock.

By any standard, societal wellness is in a state of crisis. In the face of such a fact, every effort and focus must be put on communal health. It is only in looking beyond ourselves that we will find true health and wholeness and the manifestation of our true most valuable possession. The origin of the word health comes from the Old English word haelen which means “to heal.” Indeed, we are in desperate need of healing. To be made whole, well, and sound we must realize that human kind and our planet shares the same innate qualities – we are all one.

Whatever you are doing, watching, reading or working on – if it’s not in some way related to health (yours, someone else’s, of our society, or of our planet) put it with your other possessions where it belongs – on the back burner.

As mentioned, my fitness mentor Joe used to talk about the four D’s relating to health. While I am no Joe, I would like to suggest that there are also four F’s where it comes to fixing our ailing society. Faith, forgiveness, fortitude, and fairness.

We must find a way to look after the needs of others in addition to our own. We must stop pointing fingers,find the resilience to fix a broken and lopsided system, and start finding creative solutions. More than anything, in a crisis of health, the glue that brings us all together is faith - faith in humanity, faith in goodness, and faith in God.


Moral Courage

"Our lives no longer belong to us alone; they belong to all those who need us desperately."  - Elie Wiesel

My mom used to read to me at night…until I was in high school! She read children’s books to me when I was little, sports books when I was in grade school, and as I matured, she read biographies and history. One theme was consistent in the books she chose – moral courage. Moral courage is defined as the courage to take action for moral reasons despite the risk of adverse consequences.

I’m not sure if it was Mom’s intention to instill the virtues of being some sort of moral crusader, but those books made a big impression on me. My main take away from those readings on the likenesses of individuals like Anne Frank, Malcolm X, or Jackie Robinson is that the true mark of success isn’t defined by what assets you have, your resume, or even how long you live, but by your willingness to stand for what you believe in.

How many of us are willing to take such stands? How many of us are willing to truly stand up - to our employer, our church, our government and risk persecution, our job, and even our freedom? To many, the comforts of modern life, validation on social media, and the distractions of technology hold sway over urgent and pressing systemic problems. We are too busy being distracted and seeking comfort to be burdened by life’s inconvenient truths.

Moral courage is seemingly in short supply these days although there are glimmers of hope if you look closely enough. Ishrad Manji is the founder of the ‘Moral Courage Project’’ at the University of Southern California where she teaches students to “do the right thing in the face of four years.” Manji is a Muslim who has openly stood up for the rights of women and minorities calling for reform in her faith in her bestselling book, The Trouble with Islam Today.

A recent example of moral courage is also former NFL player Ed Cunningham quitting his lucrative job as a television football analyst because he believes that football has negative long-term health ramifications. He felt could “no longer be in that cheerleader’s spot” in promoting a game he believes in hazardous to your health. In announcing his decision Cunningham added “I just don’t think the game is safe for the brain. To me, it’s unacceptable.”

The point isn’t whether people like Manji and Cunningham are right. Personally, I like football and though the studies on football appear to be fairly damning, I have no idea if the science is absolute or conclusive with regard to long-term brain damage and its correlation to football. The point is that Ed Cunningham quit one of the top jobs in sports broadcasting because of his convictions. The point is that Manji stood up to her faith at the risk of being ostracized or worse and has dedicated her life’s work to furthering the movement of moral courage.

The point is also that such stands of courage are notable because they are a rarity in our times. Moral courage tends to be the exception to the rule of the day – ‘me first.’ The mantra of me first is at the root of almost every major problem we face today – disparity of income & wealth inequality, dysfunctional government run by lifelong politicians, the epidemics of addiction, crumbling infrastructure and the failing environment. And it’s not just ego and selfishness that drives these problems, but they are compounded by a modern culture of apathy, indifference, and contempt.

Said Noel Prize winner and Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel: “The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference.” Wiesel goes on to say that “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”

Elie Wiesel wrote about perhaps the most glaring example of such neglect which occurred in the 1930’s & 40’s in Nazi Germany. Many protected their own self-interest - Their families, their jobs, their possessions. In doing so they contributed to one of the biggest crimes against humanity, not to mention their own countries demise and destruction. Indeed, when we put only our needs first, we neglect the moral necessities of our time.

These days there are also many who want to put their family, country or company first. While in some ways it’s natural and understandable to put you and yours first, frankly the sentiment is misguided and ultimately wrong. 'Me first' presents a self-absorbed narrative that puts blinders on the many extremely important issues of the day – poverty, failing societal health, the environment, education – things that affect us all in one way shape or form.

To right this ship, the single most important question we can ask ourselves is ‘what do you love in life more than you love yourself?’ Said another way, ‘what are you willing to die for?’ It’s a strong question, but one we all need to ask in our daily lives if we have a shot at correcting the sentiments of indifference, selfishness, and greed. Rather than responding to the issues of today with apathy, we have an ethical responsibility to stand up and ask, ‘what is going on here?’

We live in important and tumultuous times where a desperate need exists for leadership and the willingness to take stands. Even at the cost of a job, relationship, or personal gain we must put our conscious and community first. In a world of limited resources, interconnected economies, and common problems, the notion of me or even America first is archaic. As Thomas Paine said, “My country is the world. My religion is to do good.” Our ultimate task is to put the collective needs of the community first and as Paine rightly stated, “to do good.”