Toward the end of my favorite movie, “Almost Famous,” you see William Miller in his room, looking through Polaroids and trying to figure out how he is going to put everything he experienced into words for Rolling Stone magazine.
Much like that, I find myself looking through my own photos, exhausted and trying to contemplate the unbelievable experience I just had attending the HATCH Heartland Summit in Nebraska City, Nebraska.
I was skeptical of my invitation to HATCH. I don’t get invited to a lot of conferences with the mission to “Hatch a better world” and certainly not randomly through a contact I had never met in person. The ambition alone made me think I was getting pranked by someone.
The location also made me wonder. This summit has been at castles in Switzerland, the mountains of Montana, and all over the globe, and they were going to host at the Arbor Day Farms in Nebraska? “Sure,” I thought. “Deep in the heart of Nebraska is where we will figure out how to make the world better.”
On top of that, I looked through years of summit attendees and only recognized one face: Ed O’Malley, the former director of the Kansas Leadership Center in Wichita. Not a lot of Kansans on the list.
I seriously considered turning down the invitation after two hours of research and not much information on the group.
I am glad I didn’t. I can thank my always smart wife for convincing me that this was worth a week of my time. Thank you, Lindsey.
Coming back from HATCH, I understand why people struggle to put the experience into words for those you return home to. It’s a full week experience full of smart people, creatives, music and poetry, and deep conversations about difficult topics.
I went to HATCH with only one goal: improve the prospects for my business and meet people who can help me grow Kansas Publishing Ventures and Earn Your Press Pass. That was it.
To me, it was a business conference with a very selfish personal reason to invest the time in attending. There were a lot of smart and well-connected people who were going to be there, and I figured if I came away with some connections and opportunities to learn how to accomplish my goals, it would be worth it.
HATCH delivered, but it delivered so many more things I wasn’t expecting. The biggest one was hope. As a publisher of small community newspapers in Kansas, I haven’t been afforded much of that in the last several years.
We have experienced a pandemic, watched friends and loved ones die, and witnessed our communities become more and more divided, despite our best efforts at the newspaper. We try to deliver messages of hope in the paper every week, but it’s hard to write about and observe the hate and bitterness we have seen over the last several years and feel good every day.
On top of all of that, we are dealing with a financial crisis again. This will be my second economic disaster I have ushered the company through in my short life in journalism. Our costs are up 47 percent in our top three expenses—people, printing and postage—since 2021, with no real end to increases on the horizon.
My hope meter was getting pretty low going into HATCH.
So, going from skeptical and not sure if I even wanted to attend to feeling genuine hope for the future is not a small task.
HATCH is like attending a week-long dinner party that has been curated perfectly. There are no empty conversations about the weather at HATCH. People keep their promises, they listen with intention, and they engage. HATCH makes sure of it, prepping folks early on in the summit for how to best participate.
The whole time I was there, I knew I wanted to write about what I was feeling, but I wasn’t sure how to do so. Much like in “Almost Famous,” I have experienced too much for me to fully relate in one short column. That is the beauty of HATCH. It’s incredible, and trying to describe it is difficult without experiencing it for yourself.
If anyone stumbles upon this column who is like me, a skeptic about HATCH, my message to you would be to say yes to the invite. Go with an open heart and mind and prepare to have an experience and make friends. As many people reminded me while I was there (I was having a bit of imposter syndrome at times), if you get an invite to be there, you should be there. They want your full presence, and you will come away with something you won’t forget if you offer it.
I can’t thank those who gave me the opportunity to go to this summit enough. I have many challenges on my plate for me to work through. This experience has helped me sort through those problems with intention and thoughtfulness that I am not sure I would have had prior.
HATCH is helping to change the world. It is doing it person-by-person who then goes back to their community and tries to be the change they want to see within it. If we can slowly make our communities better, we can make the world better.
So, if after a concert Penny Lane asks you to go to Morocco for a year, just say yes. If someone from the HATCH team asks if you want to go to a summit, just say yes.
It’s all happening. It’s all happening.