5pm Friday couldn’t come fast enough. Have you had those days where each minute takes an hour to complete?
5:05 I was out the door and enroute home to throw the last of my bags in the car, wash my lunch dishes (who wants to come home to dirty dishes?), let the dogs out and set the house in condition for a couple days of empty.
5:30pm forward motion toward Brownsville, Tennessee. Woooo hooo!
An 8 hour journey that would be quite long but by 2am when I arrived it was in my rear view mirror as I was greeted by my living, breathing and loving pot of gold.
We had just a matter of hours to explore the corner of the world he was working in. Life has been an adventure of making the best of his work travels when I can visit and we venture out to soak it all in knowing we may never return.
Enroute to Memphis I put a pair of flip flops. I’ve longed professed to many a young friend not to wear flip flops when you drive, but I went against my own instinct and advice figuring it was less than an hour drive then I’d change my shoes for the night of exploring.
Traffic was horrific as we closed in on Memphis. We proceeded at a 10 mile an hour crawl. Up to 15, down to 10. I just wanted this part to be over so we could enjoy this adventure together. I watched people zoom to the side of us exiting the highway before we were to. Then out of the corner of my eye I saw two cars nearly collide. I turn my focus toward the near collision. My stomach turned thinking I was going to witness haste coming to a horrible punctuation point. Then I caught myself in my most grievous error and turned my focus forward quickly to see break lights. I went to move my foot toward the break peddle. It was at the moment one of my nightmares began playing out in real time: my flip flop folded in the groves of the mat and delayed my need to have an immediate stop to our vehicle. In what was only seconds seemed like incredibly painful slow motion. I turned to him telling him I couldn’t get my foot free and then everything came to a horrible stop.
A very painful stop.
My jeep rode into the back end of her BMW forcing it into the full size pick up ahead of both of us. And then, and only the did we stop.
I sat in shock.
This could not be live time, this has to be the dream I kept waking up from in a sweat. I could not have made this horrible error that seemed to stop every action on that day in this moment in an immediate freeze frame.
But I did.
Traffic began quickly maneuvering around the three vehicles looking with disgust that I would disrupt their travel by being so irresponsible and careless.
All I wanted was to have those split seconds back for a do-over.
After hours of waiting, processing, and a painful prolonged look out of my windshield at the crunched car ahead of me we were able to continue on. I didn’t want to ever drive again, but the man whom God created to only strengthen me, encouraged me and consoled me as I cautiously but defeatedly proceeded forward.
The next three nights I woke up out of a deep sleep from the very real nightmare that had now become reality. I laid there just feeling so humiliated that I ignored so many of my own warnings. Each night for the next 3 nights when I awoke I opened up my mind, heart and wounded spirit to prayer asking “why”?
It has come to me that what happened mirrors so much our journey in life. How often have we had our focus forward, as it should be, on where we need to be and feeling confident in our motion? And then we see someone on a collision path and we become distracted turning our focus from our personal journey, curious and nosey watching what will surely be their self destruction.
We can’t turn away.
We become gapers and it takes our focus off of what we should be channeled into: our own personal journey.
Then WE crash.
What??? How can you allow that God? We were on the right path! We were moving forward in the direction you laid out for us. All we did was turn our eyes for a brief moment in time!
It was the flip flop God! It wasn’t my fault. It was the desire to know what he/she was doing, the desire to be better, earn more, score a quick bonus, flitter with one who was distracting to our eyes and our path, it was for just a brief moment Lord it was not a big deal!!!
But it is. It was. And it always will be.
My focus was distracted. My ability to stop the collision was hindered by something I choose to put on. I made the choice to not head my instincts. I made the choice not to stay focused. It was no body’s fault but my own and I didn’t just take myself down I took so many down with me.
My love had taken off a day of work to adventure with me. I ruined that. The lady whose car was crunched between mine and the pick up I shoved her into was enroute to visit her mother, ruined. The men in the pick up just finished a hard day’s outdoor work in high 90 degree temperature and had plans to enjoy the holiday with family on a well deserved rare two days off. But I took every one of their plans and caused chaos because I was selfish. I ignored my gut, I ignored my teaching, and I did what I did with a great repercussion to my pride, my body and my material being.
The first knee jerk response: “It was an accident. Everyone has accidents.”
My struggle: it was preventable and I knew better.
My hope: someone reads my words and stops! Turn your eyes away from that distraction.
Put on the footwear that will properly allow you to proceed forward without hindrance.
So many blame God for our collisions.
“Why did God let this happen?”
How often is it that we had a roll of the dice and God was in our ear, our heart and our mind telling us don’t do that, yet we forge forward feeling invincible.
I had to drive again.
I had to move forward.
I had to drive the 8 hours home and believe me I was alert more than I ever have been before.
My body hurt.
My rigid body was rocked physically, mentally and emotionally. I felt the punishment was well worth it.
I can only hope that I will not repeat this error and will speak openly about what I learned, hoping to prevent even just one more from making the same error.
As I lay awake each night and think of this I realize how similar this is to my faith life. I tend to relax a bit too much and get a bit too complacent in what I should constantly be alert and attentive to. Last night when I awoke and struggled I just asked God for peace. Peace in my heart and body so I could continue forward focused once again and with proper footwear on to continue my journey. Within minutes I fell asleep for the first time since the accident.
He doesn’t want us to crash but he surely is there with us then and with us after to help us understand that He is not dwelling on how many times our focus turns from our journey but how devoted we are to returning to the path He has called us to so we can continue from the place of our collision and commit ourselves to moving forward.
Wishing you peace and a safe journey,
Hope and Friendship Foundation
721 Hickory St, Lemont, IL 60439
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
Proverbs 31: 8-9
I am a woman and can verify that not all women are a flip switch from crazy.
I am a mother and can validate that not all mothers count the minutes until those busy sports, school events and homework nights will end.
I am a wife and can confirm that not all wives celebrate when their husbands are away on road trips.
I am a Catholic, went to Catholic school, have worked and dedicated much time to the Church, and can affirm that not all priests are criminal; in fact some of my best friends and truest and most trusted confidants have been priests.
I am proud to be Lemont’s Police Chaplain, and have been for 9 years last month, and I tell you I have never met a police officer to be as what is being communicated to our view.
I can uphold with all I have to offer that police, our police officers, their police officers, police around the world are here to protect and serve their communities not harm them. I have met, worked, studied, socialized, broke bread with, prayed and befriended police from across the United States, and at many trainings sat alongside of police from countries I will never set foot in. I have seen the stress; the weight of responsibility; the broken hearts from seeing such evil; the ache of missing kid’s sports, school and activities yet always putting the needs of their commitment to their community, department, fellow officers over all; the dedication of protecting by being present in conflict, in danger, in anger, in grief, in prejudice, in disrespect and sometimes in gratitude.
To know that these men and women are being judged, threatened, persecuted, disrespected, put in danger, shot at, killed because of what has been determined by the “knowledgeable” public as a justified reaction to actions that have been presented one dimensionally on the screens of our phones, computers and tv’s leaves me broken today.
“There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you–who are you to judge your neighbor?” ~ James 4:12
I affirm with all of my heart, soul and spirit that I would lay down my life for any one of my brothers and sisters in blue to protect them, to attempt to even try to show the dedication, appreciation, respect and love I have for them and their decision to do that for me, and all of those they have sworn on their heart and God’s word to serve and protect.
My heart breaks for those I cannot offer that to now that they have lost their lives because of some.
My heart aches for the wives, the children and their coworkers who will continue on but with a void in their lives and hearts.
A judgment cannot be made, a sentence cannot be served, a mindset cannot be set on all for the action of some.
There are more who represent to the fullest expectation then let down.
There is more good in the world than evil.
There is more good than evil.
We have to keep repeating that because what we see right now is showing us that there is so very much evil.
Then we have those men and women who will rise and put on their uniforms today, kiss their families goodbye, dedicated not only to them but to the communities they serve, stand face to face to the evil protecting the all of us to the best of their ability, risking their lives, letting the world know that there are some in every facet in life that will let us down.
Wishing you and our world peace and love, and more peace and more love.
I’m sitting watching the birds. I just filled the feeders AGAIN and now I’m watching a vast variety of feathered friends soar and flutter from feeder to feeder, then zoom overhead at the speed of light toward an unknown destination and back again. On a night that I’m doing my best to simply sit and be (those who know me know how hard this is) these beak billed friends are exhibiting what I, and so many of us, must look like most every day.
They are landing, lifting off, fleeting and hurrying about at a pace with purpose, intention and with reckless disregard for those in their presence who would like for them to be a bit more accommodating to the desire to observe their beauty.
It is just about sunset and they appear to feel they are behind schedule, trying to catch up racing before dusk blankets their day. They zoom past not even noticing my presence or that I supplied their source that fueled this fury. Not investing one iota of appreciation my way to assure that I will continue to fill their feeders. As I watched them I felt the urge to communicate “slow down”, “take a minute with me”, there will be more food and more daylight tomorrow. Then I realized the irony of this moment. How many people comment to me regarding my speed of walk, of work, of accomplishing much within the parameters of a day, my over packed schedule and my lack of attempts or acceptance of offerings to “sit a spell and visit”? I often feel guilt and a bit of sadness to hear “I know you’re busy and I hate to bother you, but…” I want to be one who sits, visits, listens, notices who is around me, seizes the opportunity, then meets a need in that moment.
Why do I/we, move at this break neck speed? Scurrying from place to place, errand to errand, busy moment to busier moment missing the opportunities to notice those nearby who might need a moment of our time, our attention, our ear. Why do we move as if there will be no tomorrow lacking to build the relationships that will only deepen the value of our time here and validate our purpose?
We are a busy people. We must be productive to survive. Sitting on a porch swing will not pay the bills. However, we are missing the opportunity to invest in the “real treasure”.
Many persons who have progressed through our age and on have a valuable perspective of observing, savoring and appreciating each sunrise, sunset, each moment in between and the gift of the ability to move through another gifted day.
Our friends in their “golden years” often offer advice that we frequently toss aside not acknowledging the years spent in the “school of life” they logged to become so learned. They speak frequently and passionately of the value of slowing down our pace and filling up our lives with memories not things, knowing now it is the memories that comfort and accompany them through their days, not the things the busyness acquired in the past days of being too extended, too tired and too busy to appreciate the moment.
And now it is they who are sitting on the porch swing watching us hurry by hoping we will notice them, take time to sit a spell and share some lessons learned.
As the sun set on this day my feathered friends slowly all disappeared to their resting places to await the arrival of another sunset. I head into the house knowing that I will not have time to sit and watch them tomorrow. Then I laughed at how fast the lesson of the day had faded from my focus. If I’m given tomorrow I hope I will do it a bit differently. I know I will continue to move fast and fill the day, because that is just how I am wired. However I commit to engaging my peripheral vision and firing up my most alert senses that I have to notice more and be approachable to those who might need a moment. May I invite another to “sit a spell” and invest in the priceless gift of relationships, knowing it is the only treasure I will count in my final days. I know I will be richer and filled up from slowed down moments.
This I wish for you too my friend. May we meet in a moment and invest in each other, filling each other up and then sending each other on our way feeling richer for the moments of our day that were not lost but rather well invested.
I wish you peace, love and many treasured moments that you accompany you forever.
“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” ~ Matthew 6:26
Last week this floral arrangement caught the eye of everyone who entered the lobby. Today it was sitting next to my desk ready to be tossed. Just days ago the “eye catcher” drawing attention from all who entered, now deemed unsuitable for “lobby” status.
I make it a habit to ask how one is when I cross paths, yet I purposely avoid tossing out the cliché “Have a great day!”
If I had that power to gift “a great day” I would will that “great day” to everyone, everyday. I’d be more popular than that man who delivers that Publisher Clearing House check! (he does exist, right??)
The range in responses to my inquisition never ceases to amaze me.
Bad days range from: late for work; button fell off of my pants; gas prices are higher; broke a nail; fight with kids/spouse; car needs repair; we received our 5 day notice today; I still haven’t received the child support check; the doctor called, it’s malignant.
For most of my life I have purposely and intentionally set forth to try and better the day for myself and those I cross paths with, whether it is the person handing me my tea, the mailman, those I encounter and serve at work, the person that cleans the office, or my family.
Shortly after Terry and I met and realized we were being united with our God created soul mate I tried to forewarn him by opening my backpack of faults and putting all of them that I could out on the table.
“I try too hard.”
To that he replied, “How would that be a fault?”
More than 5 years later (sooner than 5 months I’d say if I was a betting woman), he understood why. I want to fix everything RIGHT NOW. I want everybody happy, especially those I care deeply about.
I have learned to repeat, breathe and live the Serenity Prayer.
No one took the banished bouquet when the work day was over. It was sitting by my desk wilted and wounded. I had much to carry and would have to manipulate my cargo to make room for one more thing. When I put it on top of the pile I had to carry I caught a whiff of this most amazing fragrance that was still so very much alive in what to some appeared dead. To me, that was a “thank you”.
What makes a bad day for some is simply a gnat in a tornado for others. We have to, no we NEED to remember that we are blessed to be given each and every day no matter if we have a crater to cross or a crack in the sidewalk.
I say that understanding craters and sidewalk cracks.
I have been blessed to walk alongside of those who are right now trudging through craters.
Those beautiful, courageous and determined to make it to the other side spirits inspire my heart, faith and passion. I just want to hug all of you and pour every ounce into being a conduit of your tenacity and grit to those who so desperately need that injection of life, purpose, appreciation and strength and in turn channel assistance to your walk, climb, crawl.
There are times we can be the fuel for the spark that lights their fire to fight, we can be the shoulder they lean on when their body is tired, we can be the back they climb on when they are too weak to continue through the crater, we can be the friend that celebrates life with them when they emerge on the other side. And we should be because we are called to be through the crater, through the valley or the sidewalk crack with them.
The ceramic container made it home unbroken. Then the task began. I opened the compost container and sorted carefully through the spray of amazing flowers that I couldn’t even attempt to tell you the names of. I christened to the container those that would go forth and mulch, and to those that still had fight in them I brought in the house, trimmed, assembled and gave fresh water. The bouquet of those that hadn’t given up seemed to grow stronger and healthier with intense appreciation of being given even just one more day. At this point I feel they and I are better off from them showing me how to display better side when things look grim: I have the most beautiful bouquet because of them, they have another day because of me.
We need to be the conduit of whatever is needed, whatever it takes, whatever can be rallied to help. We don’t need to be family, close friends, next door neighbors, we don’t even need to have ever met them the fact that they are right here right now in your arm’s reach makes them a part of your life, of your day, right here, right now.
To those of you who have allowed me to be apart of this chapter of your life, allowed me to share your story, blessed me by calling me friend, I want to thank you for teaching me by your journey and your strength that every day a great day no matter the journey. I know we grow stronger from our challenges, but sometimes we grow stronger from walking alongside others through their challenges. May we be the ones that remain and make bouquets expressing fragrance and beauty to lift the spirits of all of those who see and know us.
Wishing you peace, love, strength and beauty in your every day,
Have you ever just wanted Christmas to just go away?
Do the songs, the lights, the parties, the countless times of hearing the phrase “Merry Christmas” level an expectation and weight on your shoulders that make it near impossible to even get out of bed?
I struggled every day that week with the fact that I didn’t want to drag out the decorations. I couldn’t justify the cost of a tree so I had decided we would do without that, which didn’t break me up at all. As “mom” I knew I had to pull myself through this darkness, this funk, and bring on Christmas as best as I could, but my gosh was it an everyday struggle.
A $10 coupon came in the mail for the tree sales in town, then my kids were talking with anticipation of what night we would go get our tree. Pull your bootstraps up woman! Put on that smile and know it’s not about you, it’s about them.
It was the first year into Hope and Friendship. I had established a reputation of wanting to be told of persons in the community who could use an act of kindness in the simplest form. Brownies, flowers, a pan of pasta, a card stating, “You’re in the thoughts, heart and prayers of a friend.”
I was told of a grandmother who was raising her grandson. They now lived alone. Just a month prior the young boy had found his mother dead of an overdose in her bed. This grandmother had suffered so much loss: her daughter, her son killed by a stray bullet in Chicago, her husband from cancer and her mother whom had held her head up when she couldn’t bear to do it on her own. I learned so much about her and from her as I sat with her often for tea. I didn’t have much in my wallet but gave her whatever I could whenever I could. She needed a hand every once in awhile and her grandson needed someone else to hear his voice and his stories. As Hope and Friendship grew in numbers of hands and feet, we visited her home so many times lending her help, fellowship, and hope.
We decided to go pick out the tree after dinner that night. As I walked through the “forest” in the Chipain’s parking lot I fought back tears. I just couldn’t pull myself out of this darkness. It had been such a difficult and painful three years with battles, heartache, trials and life changes beyond what some experience in their lifetime. My heart was broken, my spirit, somehow still alive, was weakening. My mind and heart was constantly on my mom and how I could help her through her first holiday season as a grieving widow. These trees were only a reminder of what was, and who and what has now become the past.
They were one of the very first families that I was blessed to be of help to. Such poverty caused by incredible misfortune. An accident when he was 17 left him with Hepatitis B from a bad pint of blood during the transfusion that ironically saved his life. The years had been so cruel to both of them, liver failure, life and death constantly battling outside of his door, him being unable to work and her not being able to keep a job for long due to being his only transportation to and from doctors and hospital visits. They didn’t have more than a dollar to their name but they would be the first to tell you they had enough to get by. I was just taken by her spirit and her faith. I loved talking to her. She had a magic about her that made you forget that their situation was as dismal as it was. The light within her simply glowed through her smile and her eyes and her contagious passion. I couldn’t help but smile when I was with her. I truly considered her my friend, as she did me. After a failed transplant, and a second transplant putting him in even worse health, the strain was too much on my friend. I was busy with work and hadn’t spoken to her in a week or more. I called her as I was driving to check in. She sounded so tired, I knew she never slept but she never seemed to wear down until now. She told me she was ok. I asked if there was anything I could do, if they needed anything. She said she was embarrassed to ask but did I have a gift certificate to the thrift store because they were in such need of socks and underwear. I told her I would get her a Target gift card and she could go get new socks and underwear for her daughter, her husband and herself. I told her I’d get there within the next day or so and catch up with her. I told her to hang in there and get some rest and know she was loved. She told me she loved me and was so grateful for me and all I had done for them. I never was able to give her the certificate because she died from heart failure that next day. The strain of a life of poverty and stress had worn her heart out. Her father gave me her Bibles, one is in my office, one is under my car seat. Over the four years we were friends, with help of many here in the community, I was blessed to be a conduit of much help to her and her family. I know she would tell me that I gave her help, unconditional love and hope but I know the truth, she gave me more. She taught me that in the darkest of storms there is still this incredible light that can shine through our smile and our eyes when we allow it. No matter how dark it seems. Let it shine for as long as it is able to.
I cut the strings from the tree that was tied to the top of our car and wrestled it through the door, up the steps and into the tree stand, after many a failed attempt. I cut the netting that held the branches up and let them fall into place. When I opened the box of decorations it seemed as if all of the memories were trapped inside that box rushed to escape and fill the room. I felt guilty knowing I should’ve been feeling this rush of happiness spending this moment making memories with my two beautiful blessings but I was struggling. I said a prayer. I asked God to help make me stronger, help me be a better support to my mother, and a better mother to my two children. I needed to focus on the beauty of the season, not the pain within it.
They lived just around the corner. The mom was the most amazingly strong woman I have ever met. In her past was abuse, loss, pain, struggles, and set back after set back. She laughed. I loved the way she laughed at all of it. It was as if she was saying “Bring it on Life! I can handle what you are about to shovel on me.” She was a young widow with mouths to feed. She was the definition of pulling up your bootstraps and not taking time to feel sorry for yourself. I learned much from her. She wanted to give her kids more but was forced to teach them priorities and hard cut values. She worked two jobs and had hopes of enrolling in school. She told me that her eldest, her daughter wanted this Gap coat that was $100. She told her that was not possible. Someday maybe she would be able to afford that but not this day. I received a call that someone had bags of clothing to donate. I thanked them and told them of the thrift store in downtown Lemont. I was told they would not be able to do that because they were “quite busy”, I could go pick the bags up from their porch. I stewed on this. My hot-headed self said “no way”! I eat, sleep and live busy and I don’t have time! My “wanting to help the world” self said just go do it. I put the bags in my car and decided to go by their house first, telling mom go through what is in here and whatever fits keep and I’ll take the rest to the thrift store. Keeping up with the growth of the kids and the cost of clothes is a struggle of its own for so many households. She called me that night.
“You’re not going to believe this.”
“Try me”, I said.
“The coat was in one of the bags.”
“The Gap coat just like the one she wanted.” I could hear her laughing through the receiver.
I was reminded that I need to listen to the latter voice more and quiet the former one.
I knew from this and so many other encounters with His hands at work right here, right now that I am where I am supposed to be and only here because He finds me worthy to be apart of this amazing gift of this unconditional love and grace to His sparrows.
Each time my father was hospitalized, to endure his week of chemo treatment, the nurses would ask him to tell them what he was going to enjoy doing when he got home. One particularly bad day the nurse asked him what he was looking forward to doing and he didn’t hesitate one minute, he struggled with the strength to talk but clearly and assuredly told her he was going to sit on his back deck and enjoy “his” birds. He had feeders and a bird bath and loved becoming part of their presence when he became lost in their activity and beauty.
I had the job that would start this tree decorating process, my task to make sure the tree was aglow with strings of light before we could move to the next step of hanging the ornaments. After I finished the tree simply glowed with beauty. I love seeing Christmas lights. They cast such a beautiful glow when the room is dark. We each carefully took ornaments from the box and hung them throughout the tree. As I was putting an ornament on the tree something caught my eye deep in the heart of the tree. I couldn’t believe what I saw and blinked my eyes feeling it must be foggy vision. I moved my hand toward it expecting it to vanish and just be my odd imagination, but it didn’t and it wasn’t.
It was a feather.
A feather unlike any I have seen. I pulled it out and showed my kids. You could’ve painted a picture of that moment because we were frozen in that very presence of a reminder that Christmas is the season for hope. I needed to feel hope, they needed that reminder that Papa was with us just as I did.
I prayed for strength and you gave me a feather.
I responded to that offering of strength and hope by giving in to the voice that had been reverberating in my head for two weeks. I had now, begrudgingly become aware of loneliness and pain during a season that I had only seen as joyful in the past. My eyes were opened to the fact that there were many others who dreaded the arrival of Christmas. I would go on to host a Christmas dinner, in a church in our community, cooked by donations from any who were able, and shared at a table with anyone who wanted to join me and my mom. All who might be in financial, physical or emotional need of this gift of grace and compassion offered by friends for friends were welcome.
The first Hope and Friendship Christmas Dinner, Dec 25th 2005, was fueled by a feather and the realization that when I focus on being a conduit of light for others I will walk through my own dark times and emerge better for it.
That moment is completely etched in my memory and will never leave. In fact it came to me while singing a Christmas song at church this past Sunday. I have been struggling with some heaviness once again and with the task of forcing myself to decorate and to listen to Christmas music, just as I had been during that Christmas. The image of the feather came to me. With that image came the faces of so many that I have met from that first Christmas Dinner to today. So many that I would not have met, would not have reached out to, would not have been blessed to be a conduit of assistance to had I not had to walk through the darkness of that most difficult Christmas season.
It is okay to be sad. It is okay to shed tears and to have moments that you just plead to be lifted from.
Just know you need to keep moving through those moments. Let them touch you but not envelope you. Let them strengthen you not break you. And most of all my hope for you is that you let those moments inspire you to allow even that smallest of glimmer of light within you (there IS light within every one of you) shine and cast a glow enabling you to see your way to walk through the darkness.
Wishing you peace, love and strength through this Christmas Season and through the New Year,
“You are worried about seeing him spend his early years in doing nothing. What! Is it nothing to be happy? Nothing to skip, play, and run around all day long? Never in his life will he be so busy again.” ~Jean-Jacques Rousseau
That quote defines the reason I created YEAH Day lunches because of the fact that we have kids within our arm’s reach that can love on kids within our arm’s reach who need that love, attention and a lunch.
I have been working countless hours this summer and this has kept me from many of my responsibilities and my desires (no clean laundry to be found and please do not stop by and expect a clean house!!!) but thanks to friends who stepped in to make sure my kids do not miss anything due to my work hours YEAH Days has expanded from 3 Mondays to 5 Mondays this summer and the group of teens that have helped make this an outreach of utmost size and meaning has made me watch the clock on the computer every YEAH Day between 12:30-2:30pm knowing some amazing love and laughter is happening less than a mile to my right and awaiting the photo texts of that outreach from my amazing walking angels. I hope you can get a chance to stop by and witness this, if not be apart of it! I loved experiencing every single YEAH Day and went home feeling like I had shaved 40 years. No guarantees you’ll feel that if you jump in on the kickball, basketball, or field games!!!
So many of us have the opportunity to hit the road over the summer months and visit family, experience thrills, and make memories. It is hard to fathom sometimes how restricting a financially strapped home lives compared to yours. There are so many kids right here within our arm’s reach that are restricted to living within a stone’s throw of their front door. Since 2006 I have tried to expand the outreach toward these young friends and to involve the amazing network of teens that we have here in our community that would be mentors, leaders, and lovers to our youth who so very much need this. The attention and love started with the very first “UnBirthday Party” (you have one birthday and 364 unbirthdays- we celebrate our kids on THAT day in July. This year July 21st @ and with the help of Calvary Church 5:30-7:30pm). Then the Summer Field Trip to see a sports game. Then the pool party with tie dye shirts & school supplies. Then the Emergency Vehicle/Ice Cream Night was added. Then YEAH Days. Then EPIC Night. Then Back to School collection and fundraising Night.
After those events, and only then, my beautiful and valuable young friends begin school having comparable memories and stories of summer fun to share with their peers having made more friends from the outreaches you helped make happen.
We are half way through the summer events but ramping up for the big ones that need your help.
Two more YEAH Day lunches that we want to make the biggest and best ever. Come by and play. Donate to the Hope and Friendship PayPal toward the lunch portion (hoping to do pizza and hot dogs for the last two). Or help us by doing the “please don’t rain dance” so that we can continue the two year run of a YEAH Day NEVER being rained out.
Those that depend on the Free/Reduced Lunches to provide food for their children are without that amazing assistance through the whole summer. Last year we gifted bags of Kid Friendly and Preparable food to many of our most struggling homes. Collection will continue through July for kid friendly and preparable food (cans of pasta (Chef Boyardee), Nutella, PB&J, snack/breakfast bars, Oatmeal, Name Brand Cereal, microwave ready meals, etc). Please drop these off through the month of July to the bins located at Lemont Police Dept Lobby, Lemont Township Lobby, Starbucks, US Bank, Pawz & Klawz Pet Salon or to my house. We will be sorting and delivering these bags at the July 18th Mission Stay Saturday and the August 8th Mission Stay Saturday.
UnBirthday Party is Tuesday July 21st from 5:30-7:30pm @ Calvary Church. Set up begins at 4:15. All teens are invited to help make this night the biggest and best party EVER! Donations needed: personal care products for kids/teens; journals; pens; special gifts; pillow cases; socks; snacks. Donations will be accepted at all of the bins that I use for food pantry collections (Lemont Police Dept, Lemont Township, US Bank, Starbucks, Pawz & Klawz Pet Salon or to my house). I started a “Kid Shop” two years ago that allows each of the UnBirthday Party participants to choose items for the “goodie bag”. The first year of this shop I was driving a car full home and one of my 10 year old boys had secured himself a can of AXE Cologne and couldn’t be more excited. He said to me he was going to make this can last forever so he could smell and be like a man. Oh the innocence of a child. A man is not made by his smell and I will remind our young boys of this until I have no breath. It is in living, loving and reaching out to those around you and these kids do this right now. They have so much less than so many. They have homes that struggle so horribly financially, physically or emotionally. Their summer memories are made because you care to join me in making them.
For the Summer Pool Party August 4th I would love to give all of those in attendance beach towels and school supplies. Donations will be accepted at all of the bins that I use for food pantry collections (Lemont Police Dept, Lemont Township, US Bank, Starbucks, Pawz & Klawz Pet Salon or to my house). We also tie dye shirts on this night. To see my kids walking around with their tie dye shirt just warms my heart to the n’th degree. If you want to offer white tee shirts in any size you can drop them off at the bins as well (Kid’s large, XLarge, and Adult Med and Large)
On Monday August 24th Gelsosomo’s will offer 50% of the price of all food purchased to help me offer gift cards to gift new back to athletic shoes. Donations of gently used kid’s shoes and boots will be accepted at the same aforementioned bins through August. Please mark your calendar for Monday August 24th to dine in or order out from Gelsosomo’s from 5pm to close to offer your donations.
Special thanks to two of our restaurant owning friends who also support our youth outreaches and put good food in the bellies of our beautiful children (Don of Nick’s Tavern & Jim of Jimbo’s Pizza). I cannot express enough thanks to those who see my mission as their own and join me in this journey. I am blessed to be blessed by you!
“Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.” ~Neil Postman
I believe this with all of my heart and will spend my every living breath investing time, effort, love, and channeling donations toward the gifts from Heaven that have not chosen their path but find themselves walking it. Why would we not walk alongside of them and offer what we can, when we can and as we are able?
On that note of offering hands and feet we are down to 4 more Mission Stay Saturdays. This is our 4th year of this outreach simply allowing us to gift hands, feet, compassion, yard work and small home repairs. We need “weed warriors”, tree/bush trimmers, talented handymen, and those who have done none of the above but want to bless a neighbor. Our last Mission Stay Saturday we visited a home of a family during the funeral for the father/husband who was overtaken by his battle with cancer but overcame this world with his love, grace and compassion; we visited a home of a person who was currently in their battle with cancer and left the yard looking radiant like only a team of walking angels can do; the whole team left feeling filled with compassion, gratitude, and grace looking forward to the next Mission Stay Saturday which is this coming Saturday (July 18th). We need hands, feet, bring your yard tools, gloves, yard bags, tree/bush trimmers and willingness to do what you can to help a friend in need of your mission work and love. July 18th we will also be creating the “kid friendly food bags”. August 15th we will be creating care boxes with baked goods and uplifting notes for our Fire, Police and Homebound friends. Baked goods & notes can be dropped off to my home or the morning of August 15th.
I cannot express in words the importance and imperativeness of the needs right here and right now. Every single time Hope and Friendship Foundation is able to meet a need (whether it be food assistance, yard work, clothes/shoes for a kids, a car repair, a utility bill or rent paid) I inform the recipient that it is NOT I who has assisted them it is a community of caring friends hoping to help a friend, I am simply the blessed conduit of this outreach of compassion. During the Summer when I drive towards my home and stop to talk to my kids and hear of how much they have loved the events I am filled with gratitude for every single person that has offered funds, donations, and prayers. Without even one of those offerings these amazing ripples would not happen.
Thank you. Thank you times a gazillion. I lay my head down at night and thank God for you. I wake up in the morning and thank Him again and ask him to allow me to hear and reach all of the voices that He hears in prayer within our corner of the world. May you be fully blessed for you completely bless so many.
Wishing you peace,
Hope and Friendship Foundation
721 Hickory St, Lemont, IL 60439
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
Proverbs 31: 8-9
After 9 1/2 years you would think I would just become numb to the magic that unfolds before my eyes…but just as the eyes of a child are filled with wonder as they watch the seeds of a dandelion travel out from a mere breath, you have allowed me that same thrill. You let me speak of the needs, you hear, you respond and meet those needs creating ripples that travel with just as much ease as those little white seeds in a gust of wind.
And I get to sit and watch them with wonder, gratitude, amazement and love.
You donated more than 100 bikes and set smiles in place on young and not so young. Many children received a “new” bike, some their very first bike (like our 10 year old friend who was anxious to finally learn how to ride!), and you put wheels under 8 adults who will use your donation to transport them to their local places of employment.
You have helped to raise, donate, and offer funds to provide some very needed gas cards, food assistance, car repairs, and meet the cost of a few difficult situations, providing hope in what appeared to be hopeless situations.
You have offered furniture that has filled a void.
You have offered to move the furniture, assist with local hands on Mission Work, and stepped forward to help be the change that our corner of the world needs.
What levels me and cements this silly smile on my face are the needs that are met that seem so small in the large scheme of things, but so very pressing to those who need.
One that has just simply been knocked to the mat so many times has yet had the wind knocked from him once again.
Mom left a couple years ago. He pulled it together knowing the kids needed him.
Hard adjustment for the two children she left behind but I honestly will tell you the kids are truly no worse for wear, in fact the older child has been showing such amazing growth and development I can see how this situation appears to be the better situation for a emotionally healthier home, except for the financial struggles.
Single dad with two young mouths to feed, plus his own.
Thankfully Grandpa lives with them so that Dad can work, though it is what some would view as a very menial position here in our community, he holds this position, walks to and from work and is a reliable employee.
Dad has been battling a hernia for over a year now but simply gutting through it until his body refused to ignore it any longer.
Dad had surgery last week. Released from hospital with an 8″ wound. State insurance denied to fill the prescription for pain medicine. His doctor called the insurance company and was furious at their decision stating that an 8″ wound and hernia surgery should be “reason enough”. They granted the prescription to be filled but Dad couldn’t afford the $80 price tag. Ibuprofen would have to do.
He saw the doctor yesterday and was told it would be at least 6 more weeks before he could release him to return to work.
There is no sick time for him.
No financial assistance.
Just riding this wave out as he has done so many times in the past.
Yet today when we talked, he smiled. I couldn’t help but be impressed. I know of others who have had setbacks less detrimental and they are seeing the sky as falling.
He knew this was temporary.
For this family some times the needs have been so many that I often feel my own wind knocked from me.
Today after talking with Dad the needs are basic: food, gas for the car (to get to the doctor), and diapers for the 3 year old. I looked at my young friend and said “Diapers?” He shyly looked back and smiled. I’ve known this little one since the day he entered this most difficult life that he would learn to accept as “the norm”.
Dad said he has done very well during the day but needs them at night still. So I asked the size; size 5.
Grandpa said they would just need enough to get through a week or two until his check came in.
Grandpa’s social security was not meant to cover the costs for a family of 4.
I told him I wouldn’t have time today to go but would go get some tomorrow and stop by tomorrow night to visit.
Then within an hour after that conversation I was asked to pick up a donation, on my lunch break, of items that someone didn’t need anymore and wanted to know if I could find a home for.
I have to confess sometimes I get tired of the picking up and moving items around. But this was just one of those lessons for me as well. God is constantly molding me and sitting back and awaiting for me to release my gladiator grip on the pen that He is using to etch out the chapters in my book of life.
God says to allow yourself to be a conduit of His work and to do so with a willing heart.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus” ~ Philippians 2:3-5
Sometimes my heart is willing but my attitude, to be blunt, stinks.
I pulled up, hurried in and started loading my Jeep with what was being so generously offered from one who can to one who needs.
Then I got to the bottom of the box.
Guess what one of the items was?
A pack of Huggies Diapers Size 5.
If only you could’ve seen my reaction.
Picture the face of a 4 year old who just blew into the Dandelion seeds and sees them float off like wishes in the wind.
The woman what was near me was the unsuspecting victim of my excitement.
She wasn’t even the one that left the items for me but she was in my path!
I looked at her with such a look of incredible excitement I knew she knew my secret (as my husband knows very well)….I’m a few pieces short of a full pack of gum.
I told her the story of the “simple yet imperative” request then I asked her to guess what was in the box of donations.
She was probably thinking “What can I say that will make her go away????”
Then I told her “I needed size 5 diapers and they are in here!!”
I skipped away (ok in my head I was skipping) and said loudly (probably disturbingly loudly):
“I just love when that happens. God is good. My friends are wonderful.”
I heard her say “Yes He is”, and knew she was relieved to have the door close and me clear of her perimeter surely thanking God that I was not allowed to carry a firearm.
So tonight I’m working on putting the finishing touches on the Hope and Friendship Summer 2015 Events flyer full of events that we will engage in together to make great things happen and acts of compassion become outreaches of love, hope and friendship: Mission Stay Saturdays, YEAH Day Lunches, Kid’s trips, UnBirthday Party #9, Family Pool Party, Food, personal care, school supply collections and distributions. All of these offerings of assistance to those who need within our arm’s reach would not be offered without those who care to meet those needs. Not one person makes this happen. For this family I just told you of is just one of so very many friends who needs even just the surplus, extras, smallest of acts of kindness to help pull them off of the mat.
Not one event, outreach, act of compassion meets all needs. It is many parts, many offerings, many hands and feet that have created these amazing ripples that have only gained strength in 9 ½ years and I only see us banding together to make them reach further, impact greater, and lift more friends up off the mat to a self sufficient upright position where they can and will return the outstretched hand.
I know this to be true because it is and has already happened over and over and over.
I am the luckiest person in the entire world because I get to be the conduit. I have the best friends, the greatest role, the most amazing view, and have the wonder of a child and gratitude to my Father, both of them. My father that, though he left this earth in 2005, set this fire in me to continue to carry out what I saw him doing: offering what he could, as he was able, at every single opportunity presented to him. And the Father who has put me on this path, to this mission, in this corner of the world to allow Him to move people, to lift the spirits, hearts, and bodies of those who have been knocked to the mat and breath in them a glimmer of hope, and unconditional love of un-judging friendship.
The seeds of compassion have once again taken flight and are in the air tonight.
May you be completely blessed, my friend, for you have continually and repeatedly blessed those you don’t even ask to know, but whom I want you to know do appreciate you, and who hope to one day repay you for your kindness and compassion.
I am so very thankful for you.
Know I tell Him that every single day.