John Janzen started life as a lonely farm boy, but these days he works as the Community Education Coordinator for Siloam Mission and  speaks all over the province to thousands of students, and works with schools, universities, and community groups spreading the message that the answer to homelessness is stronger communities – characterized by people who understand that the world starts to change when we connect our lives to people who are not like us. At TEDxWinnipeg on June 13 John will speak to us about “two types of poverty” and how we can use personal connections and empathy to solve it.

We asked John seven questions to get to know him a bit better before the day, take a look and make sure to day “hi!” to him when you see him at the event:

1. What’s your connection to Winnipeg, or Manitoba?

I grew up on the farm in southwestern Manitoba, but I have been in Winnipeg since I was 18. Well, other than a 12 year gap when i was in Japan. So let’s see – most of my adult life. Over half of my adult life. But I’ve been a Jets fan since birth – even when all my cousins cheered for the Oilers in those dark Gretzky years – so that has to count for something.

2. What is your idea worth spreading?

Basically that we need the people that we go to “help” as much as they need us. We need each other. People are like gardens. Plants make other plants healthier.

3. Which living person do you most admire?

I am impressed with people who attempt to do the hard work of living lives that are closely connected to people who are not like them. That’s not something that makes you particularly famous though, so if I mention names I’m not sure they will be known. I have a friend in the Philippines named Kring Sumalinab who works as an activist for Indigenous people groups there with an organization called the Assisi Foundation. I admire her quite a lot.

4. Would you rather live 100 years in the past or 100 years in the future?

Probably 100 years in the future, because 100 years ago things were getting pretty rough. Wait, in this hypothetical situation am I able to have an effect on the future? Then maybe 100 years ago…

5. What is one of your favourite quotes?

“Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains … an unuprooted small corner of evil. – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

6. What do you most value in your friends?

Honesty.

7. What TED Talk do you think everyone should see?

Dan Pallotta’s “The Way We Think About Charity is Dead Wrong.”