Connecting with Community

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Who is listening when you speak?

I am sitting in my office when my phone alarm goes off, it is reminding me of a lunch appointment. I type one last email and start searching for my keys. I empty my book bag and move my stacks of files from my desk. Then it hits me "what if I locked them in my car." "No it can't be". I run out to my car and peek in my passenger window, I want to see if my keys are dangling from my ignition.
"Yes yes they are", I run back inside to text my appointment. I inform her that I will not be able to meet her. I explain my dilemma. She asks if she can come get me, I agree. As soon as I type in yes and hit send,  I remember where my purse is. I text her back and tell my friend that she will have to buy my lunch.  She agrees.
No panicking needed my next appointment is coming to my office. I go through the day thinking that I will soon have to go through the yellow pages and find someone to retrieve my keys.
I decide I will not worry about it till the end of the day. I call my daughter to let her know about my mishap.
With  in minutes my phone begins to ring. I answer and while I am speaking I notice another caller is trying to get through. These are phone calls  from people I haven't spoken to in years. Friends asking if they can help.
I am reminded that I have spoken kindness and hope in peoples life's along the way.
Then I shutter as I think of all of those I have not spoken hope and kindness to. To those I have given grief instead of kindness and to those I have shown judgement instead of hope. I think of all the people I have offended.
I  try and focus on something else. As I sit in my office waiting to be rescued, I hop on Facebook. I am looking for what my daughter has posted. I want to see how these friends know that I am stranded. This is the first thing I see when I log in, another reminder of the language we should speak.

This is why I am an educator. One of our sweet kids gave me a Chicken Soup for the Soul book today. This was not a student I knew...and she only knew me from listening to announcements. I am often asked how many languages are spoken at our school because we are a diverse campus. Today I say we speak one language...the language of hope.

I am consumed with heart felt emotion as my friend Dr. West shares her heart. This has reminded me "My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry," because you never know who may be listening.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Failure or Success

I wake to a dreary and cold day. The day begins with many phone calls, each call includes needs.
I turn on the computer only to discover more need. I click on an email, it is from a super duper Navigator.
She begins by telling me about May, a young mother of two that has been abandoned by her husband. He has chosen to seek a life of drugs and everything it has to offer. Her first step is to take May to receive local resources, while they are there,her purse is stolen. In her purse is her green card. It isn't long before they are in to get a replacement for her green card.
It is impossible to work with out one.

We are now a couple of months in to this dilemma.May finds herself a month behind on a house they bought just last year. She is distraught not understanding where it all went wrong. Just last year they worked hard to save for a down payment to buy this home.She was working with hope to attend college this year.
That is until her husband left her for a life of drugs.
Success no longer in sight, her light and water have been shut off. She can no
longer stay in this house with her young children. She is now staying with family.
It only takes a month before May's family decides she can no longer stay with them.
They decide two families with children,is to much chaos for one small house. She is forced to return to her cold home.
This is where Life Changers are called in. I send out an alert for help.
She is down to her last 4 ounces of milk,when these Life Changers answer the call for help.
We secure a months mortgage and other necessary items.
She comes to my office and I get to meet this lovely family, face to face.
May walks towards me and I sense her broken spirit. She does not look up, I can only imagine the defeat her eyes display.

We chat for a while and then it is time for her to leave. I tell her all will be well.
Her Navigator and I help her get her necessity's to the car.
I tell her she is doing a great job. I tell her I am proud of her. She reaches for a hug. I hug her small frame just like I would hug my
own child. She falls apart and all I can say is all will be well. May was helped by strangers
and that shows her that we believe in her. May is given hope.

Another month goes by and she is desperate to work and provide for her family.
Her children are 1 and 3, they don't understand why they are in need.
There is still no green card. We've done all we can and still no results.
An update from her Navigator reveals no green card, no work, no resources.
She has left to find her husband because she can no longer survive.

So I ask you did we fail or did we succeed?

"Failure can not succeed when there is Hope"
Elia Moreno

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Climb

It was Sunday night. I leave Channel 10's toy giveaway with plans to stop by a  Life Changers home. 
Earlier that day, I received a call from this Life Changer. She kindly asked that I stop by to pick up some donated items.
At the close of this event, I walk out to get in my car. I can feel the weather changing. By the time I reach her home, it is drastically colder and windy. Regardless the harsh weather, I know it isn't going to be a barrier for these Life Changers. I arrive and we begin to load my SUV with goods for our Neighbors.

Monday morning I park my loaded SUV, in front of my office, with the intentions of running in
for a short while. I get out of my SUV and skate to the front door, ever so elegantly.

Once in the front door I shake the cold off. I smile at our gate keeper and she returns the smile.
I reach my desk and it doesn't take long before the first call comes in. It is a young mother of
9. She tells me she is currently living in a shelter, with no hopes of getting a place
of her own. Her monthly income is only $600 a month. I ask how she got our number and she said
another Neighbor shared it with her. 
More calls come in and before I know it, plenty of time has passed. It is 2:00 and my stomach is
telling me it is time for lunch. I dread that it is cold outside and I am not looking forward to waiting in my SUV,
while it warms up. I don't think it is a good idea to leave my SUV running while I wait inside. I convince myself to sit in my SUV and wait patiently while it thaws... it thaws ever so slowly.
I am finally off to my adventure for the day.
My first stop is delivering a tree and ornaments. I feel like Santa.
I arrive and get into the back seat, to arrange the items I will be unloading.
I finish arranging  and as I try to exit I notice my child locks are in place.
I am now trapped in the back seat of my SUV.

A few minutes go by and I spot a truck pulling up beside me, I jester for help.
He merely waves and I do the only thing I can do, I wave back.
My SUV is still on and well at least it's warm. I have moved everything out to the front so it will be easier to unload. I sit and wonder how I will get out of this one.
I begin to clear a path to the front seat. I finally reach the front handle and decide the only way out is to push the door open. I begin to shove
the Christmas tree towards the door. I mange to push it open and the tree is maneuvered out the front door. This will allow enough room for me to escape.
I guess I can now say I was held captive by my SUV, a tree and some ornaments.
I realize how heavy it is when I try to lift it so I can carry it to the front door. No other option but to drag the tree to the door. At this point I am treating it as if it were to
blame for my misshape. By the time it reachs the door it is full of snow and I happily begin to kick it.  I
kick and I kick and I kick, to get the snow off of course.  
I laugh as I write this, the mere thought of me kicking this poor tree.
A man passes by as I am kicking this tree, he doesn't even say hello. Hmm I wonder why?!
If you find yourself frustrated or stressed I recommend the
kicking of a tree. (No tree was injured by this event)
I guess I missed that "How to be a Santa" class. I am certainly not as graceful as what a Santa should probably be. 
I make several trips unloading all of the ornaments and experience some slipping and sliding in the process.
If you are interested in skating, I think I found the perfect parking lot for that.
Finally the tree is out of my hands and no longer in danger of being harmed. I turn it over to recipients and
they are pleased. I bid my farewell as my hunger continues to grow.
Hungry enough to chew my arm off, a clear indication to find the nearest Chick-fil-A.
I have my food in hand, park my SUV and I decide to sit in their parking lot as I eat. Satisfied and thankful, I take in the soft melodies of 
Christmas music as I watch the snow fall ever so gracefully.
Lunch is complete, now it is time to continue my life as a Santa.
I head to deliver the rest of my donated goods.
I arrive at my destination and there is no chimney in sight. I park in front of the house
instead of the roof. As I get out of my SUV I notice a hill, between me and my recipients doorway.
It looks much like a black diamond.
I do not ski so I am now wondering how I will survive this. For all those wondering, I am wearing heels. They are boots but heels none the less.
I make my first trip with no casualties until I reach the front door. I begin to fumble the TV and just then the
8 month pregnant recipient steps out to rescue me.
As I fall into her home I notice how tidy it is. I also notice the small contraption she is using for heat.
I notice cold floors with no rugs. No relief for her cold feet.
As I am headed back out, I happen to glance at the not so fortunate victim whom is trying to make the same climb. She is not so lucky she does not get far up this black diamond before she rolls back down to the bottom. She has no one helping her.
That day, I made several trips up that hill. Each trip was more difficult than the one before.
Each time I would make it close to the door our Neighbor would step out to rescue me.
My journey up that hill is over I got to drive off and head to my nice warm house.
This Neighbor isn't so lucky, she makes that journey up that hill daily.

Thank you Life Changers for making her daily climb easier.
Thank you for stepping out to always help me as I climb. We have a goal and that is to remove barriers that prohibit our Neighbors from attaining
an education.
She dreams of her children graduating.
She dreams of them attending college someday.
She dreams of returning to school herself.
She has hope, that someday her climb won't be as difficult.

After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.
Nelson Mandela

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Bruce Springsteen

I had the best week. I was invited by a friend to participate in a presentation at
SXSWedu. I gratefully accepted. For weeks I anxiously anticipated this trip with my friend.
I didn't think twice about speaking. I love to share my heart and be the voice for those that don't have one.

Well that is until I got off the plane in Austin.
As we walk into the airport, I begin to notice signs everywhere I turn.
Signs hanging from the ceiling with the phrase "Welcome SXSW".
It is a bit intimidating. I begin to lose focus.

We stop and have lunch at a local eatery. As we look for a place to park I notice a movie theatres
kiosk reads "Welcome SXSW".  My stomach feels anxious.
We arrive at the hotel and register for the conference.
As I flip through my registration handbook I notice La Var Burton and Arne Duncan,
the U.S. Secretary of Education were just a couple of the Keynote Speakers.
In the following days music, interactive and film are scheduled
to make their appearance. Bruce Springsteen is scheduled as a keynote speaker for those sessions.
At that point I wanted to hop on a plane and go back  home, where life is much simpler.
I ask my self several times, "why am I doing this".

With much prayer I get through the presentation. I don't know that I contributed much but it is a presentation I am certain I will never forget.
I am introduced to many interesting people. We even had the honor of attending
a reception sponsored by The New York Times.
Thursday we complete our task and head to the airport. As we land in Dallas
I noticed a soldier walking towards us. As I am about to thank him for his service, the gentleman behind
me sticks out his hand to shake this soldiers hand. He pleasantly thanks him for his service.
My heart was warmed.

Finally home on a windy and chilly day. I am chauffeured to my office and almost as soon as I
walk in, my phone rings. I answer and it is Jane. Jane is desperately seeking employment. Her
rent is due and she has no place to earn $200 to pay her rent. She was recently released from
prison and that  has affected her employment or lack there of.
She wants to work on her GED but her priority is paying her rent.

I am trying to leave when the phone rings again. It is another young Neighbor.
Kim is a homeless young woman with a 3 year old child.
When she discovered her sister was pregnant and using drugs. Kim  decided she would
take custody of this  baby girl when she was born.
It has been  three years since this adventure began for Kim and this little blue eyed curly haired baby girl.
Kim is looking for work and a place for her and this precious baby girl.

I hang up and sit quietly in my chair. I am gently reminded "why I do this".
We are her voice. If we don't speak on her behalf who will.
I will speak in front of any crowd.
I will speak any where.
I will speak whenever I am asked.
I will speak even when I am not asked.
I will speak and not be intimated, not even by Bruce Springsteen.

"Speaking on behalf of others is love made visible"
Elia Moreno