The Green Room: Casey Gerald, the Bird House and living without fear

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The Green Room: Casey Gerald

Englert Theater — Monday, Oct. 15 at 7 p.m.

Video still of Casey Gerald delivering a TED Talk in Vancouver, February 2016.

As the final minutes of 1999 ticked away, 12 year-old Casey Gerald expected the world to end. So did the other people gathered in the East Texas church, where his grandfather was the pastor. As the year 2000 got closer, a lot of people were expecting an apocalyptic moment, either religious (the Second Coming) or technological (a Y2K meltdown).

The world didn’t end, of course. But Gerald’s life changed.

“I can trace the whole drama of my life back to that night, in that church, when my savior didn’t come for me — when the thing I believed most certainly turned out to be, if not a lie, then not quite the truth,” he said in 2016.

It was the start of journey that took Gerald from a difficult youth, in which both his parents were absent (his mother left, his father sunk into drug addiction) through an Ivy League education (Yale, then Harvard Business School for an MBA), to working at major companies as well as nonprofits aimed at improving society.

In 2013, during a long, cross-country road trip with friends, Gerald worked with a variety of people starting small businesses. After the trip, he founded MBAs Across America. “It all began with one simple question: What if we used our education not to make a buck, but to make a difference?” the nonprofit’s site explains.

Gerald wrote about the long journey that started when the world didn’t end in his memoir, There Will Be No Miracles Here, which was published this month, and he’ll be the featured speaker for the Green Room at the Englert on Monday night.

This will be the final session of the Green Room for 2018. The free lecture series is actually a class for University of Iowa undergraduates that opened its door to the wider public during its second year in 2017. Since it is a class, each featured speaker creates a voluntary “homework” assignment — a topic to think about. Gerald’s assignment is to ask yourself this question: “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

Each week a nonprofit doing important work in the Iowa City area is highlighted during the Green Room. This week it is the Bird House, which offers hospice care for those in the final stage of their lives.

The community-based nonprofit offers care in a home-like setting. Lois Bird began working to create the Bird House, Johnson County’s first hospice home, in 2011, to honor the memory of her late husband, Gary. The final days of his struggle with cancer had impressed upon her how important it was for the county to have such a facility, one that provides comfort and dignity for patients, and attends to the physical, spiritual and mental needs of both patients and their families.

The five-bed Bird House opened in April 2016. It is the only independent hospice home in Iowa.

The final session of the 2018 Green Room begins at 7 p.m. It is free and open to the public.

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