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Social Impact Authors: How & Why Pastor and Life Coach Douglas K Fletcher Is Helping To Change Our World

An Interview With Edward Sylvan

As part of my series about “authors who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Douglas K Fletcher.

Born and reared in Iowa, Douglas Fletcher received a B.A. from Drake University and M.Div. and Ph.D. degrees from Princeton Theological Seminary. He served Presbyterian churches in Colorado; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Austin, Texas; and Hilton Head Island, South Carolina and has taught in the field of biblical studies at universities in Oklahoma, Texas, and Zambia. He is also a trained life coach and is involved in children’s education on the board of Neighborhood Outreach Connection, serves on the board of the Lowcountry Community Foundation, and recently helped organize an interfaith dialogue in his community.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I was born just outside Des Moines, Iowa in a little community once called Swedesville. My grandparents lived next door, on the very edge of Swedesville, probably because my Swedish grandmother had married an English coal miner. My uncle’s family also lived beside us and my great-grandparents, the Johnsons, and other Johnson relatives lived down the road. Garrison Keillor could have written the story.

When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life?

I read a lot of stories of adventures at sea, a landlocked childhood with dreams of oceans. Reading Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn was important. The Mississippi River is the eastern border of Iowa and seemed to represent both adventure and a step into a bigger world. It was also my introduction to the story of American slavery.

Can you share a story about that?

When I was a boy, Nikita Khrushchev, the premier of the Soviet Union, came to Des Moines, Iowa. He had just made a speech at the United Nations where he took off his shoe, pounded it on the podium and declared “we will bury you.” It was at the height of the cold war. Then he flew to Iowa to visit a farmer who had been to the Soviet Union and was interested in agriculture. My mother took us to the parade downtown. “This is history,” she said, and we shouldn’t miss it. Khrushchev was in an open convertible, and I was right above him standing on the edge of the second floor of a new parking garage. It was a weird parade because while he waved, there were no bands and no cheers. People simply held up little American flags. That bigger world came into the place I lived.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

I have hung onto some things too long. I once was out working underneath our car when my wife drove up with a car she was test driving. I got the hint.

Can you describe how you aim to make a significant social impact with your book?

I think we need to learn to talk to one another, especially across political, social, and religious divides. We need to practice listening to and respecting the perspectives of others. And we need to recover aspirational models of humanity and not simply live from personal ambitions.

Can you share with us the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

I visited a family who had come to the United States as refugees from northern Africa. One Sunday morning, they came to my church. When I went to the apartment where they were living to hear their story, I asked how I might help them. They asked me if I would perform a Christian marriage for them since they had only been married in a tribal ceremony. Guests came from across the country. It was a wonderful occasion.

What was the “aha moment” or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?

I believe that there is a spirituality missing in our world that can help us aspire and dream, that can sustain our hopes. When I studied the Lord’s prayer, I found that it pushes us to live in conversations with God and that it pushes us to live a more noble and aspirational life, our best life. And then, I realized that the topics of the conversations we need to have with God are also the most important conversations for us to have with others. They can help reach across divisions and break down walls. And so I wrote a book about it.

Without sharing specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

I don’t think I can honestly draw a direct line between my influence and another person’s action. Instead, I think we can have an impact simply by doing our part, or we may have the privilege to be the person who is there at the right moment to inspire or encourage another person. I hope I can serve as a good model.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

We need to model having meaningful and respectful conversations about important things. We seldom hear real conversations or debates about issues. We each need to do our part in making a better world. And we need to connect to the aspirational dimension of spiritual teachings.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership is the response to a higher calling that aspires and can inspire. Consider Jesus.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why.

When I was 17, I spent a little time in a bullfighting ring in Toledo, Spain. The experience of having a bull charging left me with a lot of lessons to think about throughout my life.

  1. Don’t “grab the bull by the horns.” I don’t know where that saying came from!
  2. Use the cape — You are not as strong as a bull, and you need to get the bull tired.
  3. Keep focused — Your life may depend on it.
  4. Thank God for the clowns.
  5. Winning can simply be walking away.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?

Life is an adventure and a gift.

Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I have always sought to see and experience more, new things and new places. Life is bigger and more wondrous than I could have imagined. To think about life as an adventure and a gift also helps when one gets discouraged.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)

I would like to share a meal with Bill Gates to hear him talk about moving from a life of success to a life of significance.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

I have a website www.douglaskfletcher.com for my book, The Only Prayer You’ll Ever Need: Unleashing Your Best Life.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success.

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Edward Sylvan, CEO of Sycamore Entertainment Group

Specializing in acquiring, producing and distributing films about equality, diversity and other thought provoking subjects