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Be a conduit of good.

August 16, 2013

The goal for this particular morning: to read the email out loud and clear without my emotions overtaking me. It was a fierce battle for me to rise above one of my weaknesses.  When I see, hear, witness  “friends” experiencing trials, being judged, suffering injustice I find it nearly impossible to contain the feelings that well up inside.  I am unable to hide my emotions and find myself moved to do something. The lump in my throat builds, my eyes begin to “sweat” and my voice cracks like that of a 13 going on 14 year old boy’s.    I hide my feelings as well as a cat hides under the sofa exposing their entire back end and tail to those in the room: Epic fail. 


I continued to read to the group standing before me the words that had just days prior broke my heart, then I looked up into the concerned and sad faces of the most generous and compassionate group of friends who had selflessly gathered to follow me on a morning of yard work to assist friends in need.  I saw them moved and saddened, immediately my eyes went from “sweating” to unnecessarily watering my cheeks.  It was at that moment that I knew I was not alone in feeling pity for those who walk these most difficult roads and find themselves more susceptible to being judged than assisted. 


Since creating Mission Stay Saturdays last summer I have eagerly jumped out of bed at 6am.  Headed off to my State Street “Office”, posted a Facebook reminder, organized my notes and treated myself to my favorite beverage and breakfast sandwich, then head off to the Lemont Police Dept parking lot to meet whomever has chosen to join me.  I love Mission Stay Saturdays.   The concept was born of a personal passion to meet people in a storm.  To not just stand by feeling sorry for someone but to go to them, push one’s sleeves up and offer hands and feet to help complete tasks that that person is unable to do on their own.  I have been blessed to travel to a few crisis response situations (Blessed is the correct wording, for when you offer yourself to do whatever you can to help a complete stranger walk through a literal, physical and emotional storm you grow in a way that cannot be replicated in any other situation.  You establish strength in your foundation that will allow you to have a deeper footing when the storms of your life come, and appreciate what you may not have before).  I knew there were those here in our corner of the world that had the need to be assisted and those who had the desire to assist.  Giving when you can.


So I get up every Mission Stay Saturday and look forward to seeing what group of “friends” with giving hands and feet will gather with me and follow me to meet those needs.  We have so often been greeted with tears when we arrive, but tears of gratitude when they see this group of workers arrive with no expectations, no cost, no judgments, unconditionally offering time and effort, at what for many is one of their darkest and most challenging chapters in life. 


Heal my heart and make it clean
Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like You have loved me
Break my heart for what breaks yours…..”  ~ “Hosanna” by Hillsong United


All of that being said, you can understand the ache that had to be present on this particular Mission Stay Saturday last month when I did not want to get up and begin the day, I had three jobs on the schedule and all three “friends” had been under fire from neighbors.  Neighbors who have tried and sentenced those that are not as they feel they should be.  One “job” would be a follow up visit in response to “the” email I had received earlier that week. 


Have you ever had that “lay your head down on the table” feeling where you feel like you just simply give up?   You have put out every effort, every passion, everything within your being to someone/something in your life.  Maybe it’s your spouse, you job, your family, a friend.  You’ve gone at it 110% and now you have hit the wall at that same speed.  How, or will you be able to get back up?  Who will unconditionally step in and be the one to pick you up, brush you off, and put you back on track?   


I had to look back down at the email to compose myself enough to continue to read. I had seen that my Mission Stay Saturday team was also saddened at these words.  Here in our community we are trying to make great ripples of love and kindness that spread far beyond what we will ever see and we commit to work within our arm’s reach attempting to engage in this selfless act of kindness.  It’s really not hard work, it just requires a commitment of a valuable asset:  time.  Anyone can do it, and to my sincere delight, more and more have stepped forward to help.  How hard is it to mow a lawn and trim some trees and bushes? However the effort is not in the work it is in the sacrifice of time.  Giving what you can.


This email acknowledged that we came out to help someone, but wanted to make me aware that “the neighbors” have concluded that this family was not worthy of help.  The garbage company had not picked up the branches that we trimmed from the trees, the prior week, so we needed to come back “because they knew this family would not take care of it”.  “The neighbors” had concluded that this family was “clearly” involved in drugs.   The neighbors proof that this was a drug house:   the physical appearance of the man; they only saw young people there; and the anchor of “knowledge” that solidified their theory- cars would pull into the driveway every night, sometimes during the day, shut off the lights and a young person would come out stand at the drivers door for a bit then go back in the house and then the car would leave. 


I read this email and put my head down on my desk.  I’m done.  Almost 8 years I’ve spoken of needs here in our community.  Rallied donations and channeled them to those that are struggling.  It may only be 3% of our population that lives at a financial crisis level (poverty level) that is about 600 persons and many of those 600 are youth and seniors. But there are more!  There are those that are emotionally/physically in need:  living with physical disabilities, severe health issues, living through the loss of a spouse/loved one, our elderly.   All I’m asking is for what you can give:  time, some man/woman hours, surplus from your clothes, furniture you don’t want anymore, and if possible a few dollars that you may be able to spare. 



Why didn’t these neighbors go out and help their neighbors out, or help me out so I didn’t have to revisit when we had so many homes that could use this act of kindness?  Because they had concluded this family was not worth the effort.  The last line of the email “We (the neighborhood) wouldn’t mind if this family would just move away.”    I only answered the second email (the one thanking me for removing the branches and asking me not to be angry at the first email) by simply saying “I have not been able to put into words my feelings regarding your first email and therefore I will not send a formal response until I can, however I will tell you that you are wrong in your assessment of this family and I hope no one will judge you as you have judged them.” 



Is the father on drugs?  Yes.  He has had two liver transplants.  He was given a bad blood transfusion at the age of 19.  The pint of blood was contaminated with Hepatitis.  Seven years later his life became spiraling into a constant battle to survive.  Four years ago his wife, mother to their daughter, died.  He has since met a woman whom he lives with, she works two jobs.  Both have teenagers.  The father’s daughter lives with him.  I absolutely love and admire her grandfather and have known him for 7 years.  He and I talk often and he let me know that his granddaughter’s father was once again in intensive care and asked if we might have time to tend to their yard.  Her grandfather visits her every day, at least once a day, always at night but sometimes during the afternoon as well.  He brings her meals from Burger King, McDonalds, Subway, Panda Express.  I have joked with him for years that he is creating a fast food junkie but may God bless him because he is doing what he can, how he can, and as often as he can.  He has had knee surgery and getting in and out of the car is a struggle.  He has a couple cars.  One was his deceased daughter’s.  He comes to the house, pulls in the drive, his granddaughter comes out, greets him at the car, talks for a bit and runs inside to eat her meal that her grandfather had delivered.   At least once a week he picks her up and they go out to dinner together.   


Oh the conclusions we can make based on the appearance of the book before we even crack the spine. 



The team for this particular Saturday was amazing.  They all are!  But on this day I was dragging and needed what happened to lift my spirits.  We attacked with vigor a house that needed much TLC.  Within the home lay a man on a ventilator and his mother who was tapped out.  He had been sent home from the nursing home 3 years ago due to maxed out insurance.  Caregiving is exhausting and never ending.  How the outside of the house looked didn’t really get to the top of the priority list, their concern was what was inside, and the funds to pay someone to regularly keep up the appearance simply are not there.  A neighbor had filed multiple complaints.  The inspector felt pity for her and told her to call Hope and Friendship to see if there was ability to help her by getting on the Mission Stay list.  We tore apart a deck that was not in suitable condition, two friends visited prior to our Saturday and sprayed weeds, wire brushed and power washed the deck, we then rebuilt and repaired the part that was in good condition, weeded, trimmed, mowed, spruced and moved on to two more jobs:  the branch pick up, and another home for a senior who couldn’t keep up on the bushes.  Pastor Stephen and his friend Mike visited the house the following week and gave the deck the paint job it desperately needed.  Every cost was taken from the Hope and Friendship bank account that is comprised 100% of donations from those who believe that we arean effective conduit of assistance.  I never know what I will receive but to date have always been supplied with what is needed.  It took $150 to help a senior repair his storm-damaged roof.  I told no one of the cost.   Later that week two checks arrived, one for $100 and one for $50.  To me this supports my belief that what I have put in motion is not to benefit to myself, or those whom partner with me, but rather those that have a true and sincere need within our arm’s reach and who have hit the wall.



I was ready to give up the day I received that email.  I laid in bed that night and whined to God “Why put me in this role? And for how much longer?  I’m tired and older.  Not as tolerant anymore.”  I created Hope and Friendship in November of 2005 in response to a voice would not leave my head.  The same questions kept me up at night and stuck with me through the days:  “What if the richest person in Lemont was the loneliest person on Christmas Day?”  “Whom do those that have no one else talk to when they have lost all hope?”  “What can be offered to someone is doing everything they can to make ends meet and it’s not enough?”  “There is surplus in this corner of the world, perfectly good furniture left out by the curb, bags of clothes left at door steps leaving this community when those within it could use that simple offering.  What are you going to do about it?”   Be a conduit.  Now.



I’ve committed myself to that mission.  You have come along and met the needs I have humbly presented.  We have been pretty awesome together, if you ask me.  Now I ask you to do one more thing:  unless you have all of the facts, and have walked in those shoes, do not condemn your neighbor to be unworthy of at the very least your smile and your tolerance.  They very well may have made bad decisions.  They might have not worked as hard as you have.  Maybe they should not have had kids until they could afford to meet their needs.  But who can truly judge what path one has taken unless they have walked alongside of them every step of the way?  I’m not asking for anyone to mortgage a house, or offer up a car.  What I am asking is that if you have the time to spare and the unconditional compassion to offer then do what you can, when you can, and with what you have to offer.  If you have surplus and can offer it, offer it (kids shoes-Now-August/September, winter clothing collection-October, Turkey give away- November, Christmas Dinner/Care Boxes- December, Prom Dresses-February, furniture/appliances you no longer need- email year round,  etc.).  Be an unconditional, unjudging, conduit with what you have to offer to those that can use your surplus and assistance.  If you can do more, great!  Call me and I’ll help you do more!  I have had two people offer homes that are just sitting unlived in to those who might need a better place to stay.  Wow!  The offer is amazing and breathtaking.  The fact that what one can offer can be incredibly drastic in difference to another doesn’t matter.  Every offer might be that answer to a prayer for another that has hit the wall is different in every instance:  shoes for the kids, a car or home repair, a certificate to buy food, a prescription or bill paid for, school supplies, four hours on a Saturday to help mow the lawn, trim the bushes/trees, and pull some weeds. 


You don’t have to give until it hurts, but by all means don’t cause more hurt.  Humbly offer what, where, when you can.  It costs nothing to smile, to hold your tongue and tolerate something that doesn’t make sense to you.  Hopefully, sometimes it means you jump in on one of our projects and offer time, un-needed items, or donations.


Be an unconditional unjudging conduit with whatever you can offer.  Spread ripples of kindness and tolerance that will carry further than you will ever see.



“Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?”    ~ James 2:1-5





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