Connecting with Community

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Questions and Water

For those of you that don’t know, I live on a farm. That bit of information may answer many questions for a lot of you. Last night my honey comes in and begins to explain, “the well has stop working." I reply "ok honey".
When I don’t understand what my honey is talking about I reply with "ok honey".
His statement didn’t mean much to me, until I got in the shower this morning.

Just a few drops trickle out of the nozzle, as I stand fully soaped.
The shower head, struggles to spit out the last bit of water. I begin to consider asking more questions when I encounter something I don’t understand.

I survive the water less shower and head to town. I am scheduled to meet a new neighbor. I really love this part of my life. I love seeing the new faces and learning their story. I arrive at the school and park, before I go in I decide to look in the mirror. I glance at my hair and decide it doesn’t look too bad, considering I didn't have enough water to rinse out the shampoo.

As I enter the school, I begin looking for the check in desk. I am greeted by a counselor. She extends her hand and I express how happy I am to meet her. She leads me to the room I am looking for, and I respond with “thank you”. As I walk in I see a small frail stature. It is a young lady, she slowly lifts her head. No eye contact is made and that tells me one thing, I must ask the right questions.  As she looks my way all I can mutter is, "Wow you sure are pretty". She looks at me and smiles.

I begin by talking of my morning shower and ask if they would like a hug. I can see that this puts her at ease. We talk basics as I fill out a form. Our facilitator is called out of the room and it gives me some time to ask the more questions. First I ask of her little one and her eyes sparkle as she responds. I ask if she is married or single and she begins to speak of her life.

We get to the question when I ask what the last grade completed is. I see shame and she quickly blurts, "I was being touched by my mother’s boyfriend". She continues, "I didn’t have a choice, I had to leave". Then she tells me she finished the 8th grade and my heart weakens.

I ask where she works and she looks like she is going to cry but she replies anyway, "I am a dancer”. I tell her, if I looked like you I would probably dance too". She smiles. I begin to tell her my friend Donna's story and I notice her posture is changing. I tell her we will start with whatever she feels comfortable with and she nods in agreement.

She has signed up to work on her GED but she tells me she struggles with reading and would really like to start there. I tell her that would be great. We talk more and she says "maybe I can learn how to use a computer". I tell her of course she will, well because all nurses need to learn how to work a computer. She smiles again and my heart is warmed once more.

My day continues as I sit in my office. It is now 4:00 and I am just eating my lunch. Through the wall I can hear a baby. It doesn't take long before I abandon my food to get up and go ask some questions. It is a mommy and 14th month old baby that sit in my lobby. I make my way and sit in a chair next to them.

They became homeless after her husband lost his job and nothing has been quite the same since. I tell her I will sit with her for a while. I pick up the baby and notice that this baby hasn’t been bathed. I glance at the momma and decide her hair looks somewhat like mine. The struggle of no water.

Todd enters the room with milk and diapers in hand. My pain is obvious without words being uttered. He comes near, sits on the floor and calls this little one over. I watch as his gold locks settle in Todd's arms. With big beautiful blue eyes the baby looks towards his mom, as if to ask for permission to play. Still no words and yet the burden is understood. He hands the child a small white bear, the child reaches for it and embraces with strength. No child should have this struggle. This baby has been doing without milk, only because the right questions hadn't been asked.
Our hearts are heavy, it is five and we get to go home.

May you always have many questions and plenty of water.
Elia Moreno

Monday, September 24, 2012

How to Listen by Glenda Moore

Dear Elia,

I have often listened to and judged others who seemed to be in the mode of "helping". I have recently learned that I seem to have the same flaw that I judge others for. I say too much and listen too little. I don't see them. I see me.

This morning we went to church and like any other Sunday we went to the same class that we normally do. As we entered we noticed that the tables had been rearranged. This made me uncomfortable. I was pushed out of my comfort zone as I tried to figure out where we would "normally" sit.

I saw a familiar face and said, "Hello, how are you?"
The reply put me in that "uncomfortable" zone. He said he wasn't good. He said, "I lost my job three weeks ago". He had two seats right next to him. That wasn't where we had ever sat before.

I told him I would be praying for him and went to sit at a table. It didn't feel right. That pesky thing was poking me with a sharp needle at the back of my brain and heart.

Finally I turned and looked at my husband and said, "Let's go sit next to Jack". We sat and I started over. "What kind of work are you looking for, Jack?" Jack quickly replied that he was willing to work fast food or anywhere. The job he'd just lost was because he couldn't lift heavy things any longer. His diabetes is worsening. His health is dwindling.

We paused for a bit of silence and he talked about his mother and his brothers.

The class teacher began delivering his message and my heart and ears were opened. I wondered if Jack was listening to the teacher or if his heart was so torn up that he couldn't concentrate. I wondered what to do next. I prayed that God would show me.

As class wrapped up I asked Jack for his address and phone number. He said his phone was not working but gave me his address. I gave him your number, Elia. I told him you might be able to help him. I asked him if he had food. He said no. I said that Cody and I would bring him some today.

As church came to a close, a woman I hadn't ever seen before approached me. She said, "Did I hear you ask that man if he had groceries?" I nodded in surprise. "Here. I want to contribute." She handed me $20. "Thank you for listening to him. God bless you."

Jack seemed surprised to see us at his door. His beautiful smile penetrated my heart and fed my soul.

I am thankful today for new eyesight and new ears. Elia, yesterday, hearing you ask Ashley her hopes and dreams not only trained me but renewed me. So very many times I say the wrong things. I forget how to listen, how to see. Thank you for your eyes, thank you for your ears.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


Anguish: noun. 1. excruciating or acute distress, suffering, pain

How do we make this a better place to live in? A place where we withhold judgment, a place where children are safe and valued, a place where all people matter.

This morning as I drop my child off at school. I watch as the cross guard comes over to help him. I notice a car headed in his direction but no concern. After all my son is with a crossing guard on a cross walk. Well the mother driving was so concerned, with making sure her child made it in the building, that she was not paying attention to my child, who was in front of her car. 
Are we so concerned with what is ours that we pay no mind to others?

I think back to yesterday, it was a full day, many calls and everyone stating “it’s an emergency”.  A young mother that escaped domestic violence is in need. She stayed in a shelter but fell through the cracks and was not assigned a case worker. She finally found a place to live and also found a job. She now lives in a trailer with no windows, no heat, no air and no gas. This home with a roof that is about to collapse, shelters her and her four boys. 
Is the land lord so concerned about taking care of his own that others don't matter?

My 12:00 o'clock emergency is having lunch with my husband, the birthday boy.  I have to run across town to have lunch but I figure you only turn 21 once. Well my honey has actually turned 21 about 23 times.  I get to the restaurant and wait for him to arrive.
My phone rings and it is a father on the other end. With anguish, he tells me his 14 year old son was caught with drugs at school. He is calling to ask for help. He needs help figuring out the consequences his son will face. He has many questions. What will his son be charged with? Will his son serve time? Will his son be able to go back to school? Will there be fees? Will he need an attorney?  
With anguish in my voice, I respond, "I don't know". The father is distraught as he does not know what to do. He so desperately wants to help his son but he doesn’t know how. I so desperately want to help his son but I too, don’t know how.
 We exchange many phone calls throughout the day.  I call the school and rally support.  On our final conversation of the day, the father asks me more questions. This time there is tenderness and love seeps through his failing voice. He wants to know where he has gone wrong. He wants to know how he has failed. He wants to know what he can do different.
 He wants to help his son but he doesn’t seem to wear the right clothes or drive the right car. He doesn’t have the right job and he doesn’t know middle class language. He doesn’t have a title or an education.   So does this mean his son should be forgotten?
 Where have we gone wrong? Where have we failed? What can we do different? I imagine the child sitting in his cell, knowing his parents do not have the knowledge to help him. Will the system take over and count him as lost?
What if it was one of our own children, what would we do then?
I am reminded that I can’t help everyone! It’s a good thing I don’t follow instruction well.
This morning, I went to court with the family. As I entered the building, the family sees me. The mother rises and goes out to greet me. I tell her I am here for support because that is all I know to do. We all sit quietly outside the court room. We wait, what seems like hours. A group of people begin to enter the court room and we all follow. As we walk in they tell us they will call in one family at a time. I ask the attorney, if I will be able to go in with the family? He asks who I am. I tell him "My name is Elia Moreno. I am the Community Engagement Coordinator for Cal Farley's Boys Ranch". The atmosphere changes as I am acknowledge because I have a title, he replies with a polite "yes ma'am". 
 It is our turn and we walk in, I follow the young boy as he goes to sit in front of the judge. The attorney is requesting that this child be detained for two weeks. I see the childs face and hope quickly departs. I see defeat in his posture and in his eyes I can see his spirit is crushed.
The Judge asks some questions and then he allows the father to speak. I ask for permission to stand as I translate.I am allowed, The father tells me to tell the judge that he will do all that he can to get help for his child. He pleads on his childs behalf. He ask that he please spare his child.
I stand to speak on his behalf but it is my heart that is audible and my passion that is heard. The attorney changes his mind and decides maybe detaining him would not be best. The Judge agrees and sets him free. This is life changing for this family, they will succeed because they now feel as if maybe they do matter.
 We travel to the detention center where they will release the child.  After a process we walk out of the building. Once outside I am certain my emotions will take over. We stand in a circle and I am allowed to pray with the family. I open my mouth but I can not speak.
 We stand in sweet silence.

 “Love your Neighbor as yourself”
James 2:8

Thursday, September 13, 2012

My Educator

So yesterday on my way home, I begin thinking of all that waits for me at home dinner, laundry, dishes. 
I quickly become overwhelmed. I glance over at my day’s unfinished work, as it sits in the passenger seat beside me.
How will I fit it all in? Why am I so behind? What has caused my day to fly by?  I quickly remember an MRI this morning.
My runner has an injured knee and instead of being a Lifechanger this morning, I spent time being a mommy.

In my thoughts my list continues to grow. I see the turn off ahead and take it knowing Wal-Mart will soon be in sight.
I park and hurry inside. I grab a crooked cart and head to gather items, for an event I am attending tomorrow morning.
I have picked up speed and I am now shopping like they are giving away the stuff I throw in my basket.

I look at the time and my heart stops. It is 6:02 and I remember I have a speaking engagement at 6:00.
I rush like a mad woman and head towards the register. I want to leave the basket and rush out the door but I don’t
want to cause the employees more work. I decide I will pay for what I have in the basket and then return for the rest.

I pick up my cell and dial the place where I will be speaking. I instantly notice a missed call from that number.  My hearts sinks.
I dial anyway and as I hear a hello, I begin to apologize and assure her of my arrival. Next I call my husband and
explain that I will not be home for dinner. Then I call my daughter and tell her to meet me in town with my material in hand.
My quest for the next 3 minutes is to reach my destination.
My hair looks much like a birds nest and I decide I probably don’t smell too good by this time of the day.
All of the sudden I’m hungry, thirsty and suddenly have to visit the ladies room as well. 
Oh no, I have a family that is awaiting groceries.
The educator, I text her and inform her that I will have to meet her after my speaking is done.
She replies with “no problem”.

I arrive and apologize for my tardiness. I relax when I see that I am merely missing the meal portion of this program.
I sit and regroup while I wait for my turn to speak. I think of my shopping and the family I will be shopping for.
I connected with her earlier and asked that she send me a list of the things she is in need of. I pick up my phone to review her list.  
Her list includes bread, milk, ham and chips. I read it again and decide that isn’t good enough. I have a problem with this humble list.
You see this woman is an educator. She spends her days pouring in to our children and four items, no not good enough.
This family has been doing without because they hit a rough patch and it just isn’t right that they continue to do without.

They give me the floor and I begin to speak. I stand before an audience of individuals that seem quite bewildered by my very presence.
I believe there is concern. Rest assured it is nothing my heart can't fix. I start with “My White Skirt”.
I tell of a battered woman, her abusive husband, her children and their survival. I speak of the children’s brokenness and of
of my own brokenness. I explain that I can not be silent. I tell them that I must speak, for those that can not speak for themselves.
I speak of Hope and I see tears. A cloud begins to fill the room, one of compassion and motivation.

I am no longer a stranger, I now belong. 
I am part of this family. I am accepted and it is no longer I but we.
I finish up, express my thanks and bid my farewell.

I leave to connect with my educator. I ask her to meet me a Wal-Mart. I want her to  pick out what she needs.
We go in the store and she asks like a child if she can have a piece of sausage. My heart aches as I respond “yes”. My humble sweet educator
has reached a point where she has to ask for food. I weaken. We walk a little further and again she asks permission. 
The ache that began in my heart now covers my body.

I am humbled by her kindness and her humility. I am honored to take part in this giving. She assures me that this too shall pass.
I thank her for having the courage to call. I assure her that everything will be held in confidence. I hug her and we head to our homes.

I get in my car and I thank God for all the need I have had in my life. I thank God for empathy and compassion.
I am suddenly thankful for dinner, laundry and dishes.


If we feed everyone we can,  If we clothe with the best that we have
and we give all that we have
but don't do it in love, we've done nothing.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Don't Give Up


I was up most of the night and this morning I wake up exhausted.
So much so, that I did not make it in to work till after lunch. I decide I need some therapy and my therapy is deep cleaning my home.
I find myself standing in the middle of my house and wondering where to start. Again I feel overwhelmed.
So much to clean, I don't even know where to start. I start anyway and it's not long before
I see progress.
I often tell people that I missed my calling. I would of been an amazing maid. I love to clean and not just surface clean but
I love to deep clean, closets, under beds and dresser drawers.
I think what I really like about deep cleaning is the end result. I like to see progress.

This summer I have been deep cleaning, not a home but what I do and how I do it. I have been cleaning up my process.
There are only so many hours in a day and I want to make sure I am using them wisely.
My time is so consumed that I haven't even had a chance to read or write, in a couple of months.
I have been deep in thought for days, trying to figure out what I could do better. How I could create more time?
How I could use my time more efficiently? I've been asking for wisdom.

My husband and I are hard core high school sports fans.
We go to high school sport events even if our kids are not participating.
One day we make plans to travel out of town, to watch a game.
We get dressed and we are ready to go. We head out the door and notice our
barn door open. We get in the car and drive over to the barn. I tell him, 'Honey I'll get it."
He parks in front of the barn door. I get out and walk around the front of the car. He decides to get out to help but forgets to put the car in park.
You probably already have it figured out.
The car moves forward and runs over me. I am under the car yelling, he panics. He quickly gets back in the car, puts the car in reverse and runs over me a second time.
Because he so desperately wanted to help me he reacted without thinking it through. What he did, to try and help, actually hurt me.

Like me this summer, I have been so  eager to help many that I have just been reacting and not thinking it through. The numbers are overwhelming that at times
I have applied band-aids when more was needed.
This morning I was reminded of my life's purpose. I am a servant, placed here to serve. I work under the philosophy that every child and parent have the right to be prepared to go to college. Education is the answer and steering from this truth is not helping, it is hurting the people I serve.
This sleepless night allowed me to see that I must not just serve but I must serve with purpose. 

As I look back on these past three years. I recall the little boy in the library, he taught me the importance of mentorship.
I remember how touched I was when I witnessed him teaching another child a life lesson. He spoke powerful words into a young life. At 10 years old, this little boy was my Lifechanger. He changed my life's course.
It's not easy but when I feel like giving up, I say, "Dig a little deeper, push a little harder."
I am renewing my vows as a Lifechanger and I think I will do this every time I am feeling overwhelmed.
I've borrowed them but here they are. If you find yourself in the same place I have been, I suggest you do the same.
Vow number 1-"I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the community, and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.  I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live."
-George Bernard Shaw

Vow number 2- "Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can,
 In all the places you can, At all the times you can, To all the people you can,
As long as you ever can"
-John Wesley