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What if you looked down and saw you were wearing their shoes?

June 18, 2014

What crosses your mind when you drive by a homeless person holding fast to their sign on the corner? Have you ever questioned if it was a scam or not? What about when you see a line outside of the Chicago or Joliet Missions? Or happen by one of our two Lemont Food Pantries on a busy day with a line out the door? Have you been there when someone has expressed: “if only they would get a “real job”, “stop living off of the government”, or “bet you their wasting their money on smoking, gambling, drinking, or drugs”.

Have you spoken to a person in need?

Have you listened to their story?

Have you put on their shoes?

Is your life disaster prone? If you were served a life-threatening sentence of an illness for yourself, or your child, could you continue living as you are now? If your spouse up and left would your checkbook know the difference?

The death of a child, spouse, parent.

The loss of a job.

Immediately needed unexpected car or home repairs that exceeds 4 digits.

A life blow that takes the wind from your lungs and breaks your spirit is an unscheduled, non-discriminatory instantaneous knock to the mat.

Are you immune from that sobering and crippling setback?

No one is. We are all on equal playing ground for the dice to roll against us.

In the formalization years of Hope and Friendship and during the evolution of the many acts of kindness events and actions that channeled most generous assistance in form of food, furniture donations, baby or youth needs, crisis financial assistance, etc., I would deliver or facilitate the action or event on my own with only the help of my trusted right and left arms, my daughter and son. I felt protective of those that confided their life-blows to me; those that called on me to simply listen, sharing a conversation that would most often launch my attempt to rally aide of emotional, financial, or physical aide. I never wanted to expose those that were most vulnerable and susceptible to being judged and whose needs would possibly evoke incorrect conclusions. I spent much time in prayer and reflection on this knowing that I could only do so much, and to involve others would not only strengthen the mission but allow me to reach more who are in need and more who can meet the need. Before this happened I had to ask those who entrusted their play-by-play “leveled to the mat story” if I could share their story to not only seek possible assistance for them, but also to help others who might be walking the same path and feel they are alone on this arduous journey. People do not want to be in need, it is in the darkness of need and despair that the decision is made to rise above the waves, succumb to the undertow, or simply let the merciless waves overtake you, simply hoping to wash up on the beach and have breath put back into you.

Those that have are a degree of separation from those that need. Thus the importance of a conduit of assistance being that assistance may, has and hopefully will continue to flow in either direction. Hope and Friendship Foundation has been and will continue to be (for as long as I am here and hopefully much longer than I am at the helm) a local conduit of assistance from those who have the ability, resources, and means to those that need emotional, physical or financial assistance.

I have sat next to many a friend in their darkest hour of the storm, at their most hopeless moment, a parent mourning the loss of a child, a spouse, a job, a recent life/death diagnosis, more times than I’d like to count and every single time I envision their shoes on my feet and my heart completely and empathically breaks with them. Hope and Friendship was formed as an outlet of grief at a time when I was mourning two voids in my life following my father’s death, losing his battle with cancer which began shortly after my husband of 16 years chose a different life path and partner. I needed to help others or I would not have been able to get up off of the mat had I not been blessed with embarking on this mission with you.   I will never say “I understand what you’re going through” but I can say I do understand pain, fear, and loss.

Two years ago friends of mine were helping with the Christmas Dinners and Care Box Delivery. My friends sheepishly but honestly approached me and asked how a family living in such a “nice home” could need a Christmas meal and care items? If I had a dollar for every time I was asked that I could buy you many, many Starbucks’ green teas and we could sit down and talk about how fast the pendulum can swing from comfort to chaos. That particular family was living in a home that required two healthy incomes, dad had been laid off and despite his every effort, even taking a minimum wage job to just “do something” they were not making it and a full Christmas meal would come from finances that should very well be spent elsewhere. They now are back on their feet and dad has repeatedly helped out at many Hope and Friendship events of giving. When I shared this, my friends admitted they never considered that setback. They hadn’t been able to see those shoes on their own feet, until then.

Most times I ask simply of your surplus: gently used clothing, shoes, furniture, appliances, kitchen items, bikes, prom dresses, your possible ability to buy just a bit extra of food to make meals, personal care and cleaning products, lunch making items, school supplies, etc. We live in a community that tips the scale to the “have” side making the “need” side very easy to overlook. I strongly believed in December of 2005 that this community had “enough” to meet the basic needs of those who are trying desperately to stand back up and support themselves, their families, and than feel more impassioned to help others who find themselves stuck in the same chapter of life. I believe that even more 9 ½ years later because I’ve been enlightened to just how many amazing walking angels are here with me that can make this possible.

This past Hope and Friendship Tag Days weekend was a clear and blatant example of that desire to give back lived out in colorful form. I tried to meet every shift and every person who helped and though I didn’t get to all shifts of those I did visit and personally thank so very many were friends who had been impacted by the love and friendship bequeathed to them during one of their darkest hours. We, together, were the slightest hint of light that helped them know they were not alone in their struggles, and if they could offer nothing more than a couple hours of collecting donations and speaking first hand of how friends had helped friends, they were going to do that with as much truth and heart as they could. My eyes were wet, my arms were hugging, and my heart was full that entire weekend.

I recently sat with a new friend who had heard of Hope and Friendship and had many questions. He had very pointed and direct questions that I answer as I always do: with complete transparency. “How do you know they are in need?” First we must define need.

Need: to require (something) because it is essential or very important. Circumstances in which something is necessary, or that require some course of action; necessity.

If we have a surplus of what might be “needed” in another home that is deprived of that due to extenuating circumstances then it becomes our choice to offer it or to hold onto it.   I find my example of this in a book that was written years before I meditated on this concept of meeting needs with surplus.  

Luke 3:11 “John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”

In the past 9 ½ years I have somehow developed a reputation of being a set of ears who will listen. I am invited into homes. I meet with friends for tea, lunch, in passing and I am privileged and humbled to be trusted with the role of receiving the gift of their story of the storm they are in. I am considered a trusted friend, confident, and in many circumstances treated and labeled as “family”. If loving people in their darkest hour gifts that, than may we all strive to be so blessed. I have seen those who could try harder, two times over the past years I have had a face to face with those who were trying to “play the system” (and corrected their actions by sharing with them that we are a close-knit generous, but far from naïve, community and as my dad said “I have eyes and ears everywhere” J ), I have departed after having heard needs that I know in a 100 years I could not meet, and I have run away from having received the weight of a story so that I can immediately get to work on trying to meet a need that I know with 100% effort I can find the means to meet.

I will vogue for any need I put before you because I have not read of the need, nor have I heard 2nd or 3rd hand of the need, I have personally sat with the one I am asking you to help and have felt it was true and worthy of coming to anyone that will listen, groveling to help them in any way I can.

The whole equation of being apart of this incredible magical enactment of the story of the “Good Samaritan” is that YOU are in the middle of it. Our friends in need are at one end of it, I am at the other and YOU are in the middle providing the sustenance. When I turn down Short Street to head home I see kids riding bikes they wouldn’t have had without you. When I visit our friends who just buried their 6 week old baby I know I can continue to provide the simple needs of this home (staples like paper plates for all of the visitors, paper towels, books for their toddler, water, etc.) because you have put the funds in the bank for me to do so. When I meet the kids on the very first “YEAH Day” (Youth eating lunch and having fun day) on Monday I know you will be the reason we will provide them with a PB&J sack lunch and be joined by any friends who will help me provide much need love and attention those young friends who show up. When I get an email asking for a bed for a child, or a refrigerator for one whose broke I know the only way that need is going to be met is because you found Hope and Friendship worthy of your donation of your gently used furniture or appliance at just the right time. There are so very many other examples of how YOU have walked with me on this journey and made the rocky most difficult path not so impassible for friends within our arm’s reach. I truly love and appreciate the community groups, the school staffs, my pastor friends and our churches here in Lemont who challenge their members & congregations to meet the needs within their community with the same empathy as they donate to the needs in areas they will never visit. There is and will be need everywhere for as long as we walk this earth, but I bend your ear, I continue to be annoying and write hundreds of words trying to paint a picture of the need here without exposing those in need allowing them to hopefully soon walk alongside of us as we meet the needs of others spreading ripples further than we will ever see or feel.

Saturday launches our first Mission Stay. There will be 6 this summer and 1 in the fall: June 21, 28, July 19,26, and August 9, and 16. Meet us at 8am in the Lemont Police Station Parking lot. Join us as we travel to homes here in our community who could use the gift of a lawn mowing, tree and bush trimming, weed pulling, small home repairs, etc. Homebound, seniors, physically ill, alone, those who are leveled with the loss of a loved one, those who are struggling financially, all who may need the love that is exhibited by a group of friends showing up on their lawn on a Saturday morning to complete a task and offer them hugs, support and the reiteration that they are not alone. Bring your lawn tools, your gloves, your open heart and mind so that this experience can fill both with complete and true unconditional love.

If you can’t make Mission Stay Saturdays but want to “do something” keep an eye on the website www.hopeandfriendshipfoundation.com and on the Facebook Page “Hope and Friendship Ministries” for updates, so often needs just pop up. Last week I texted a friend about a single mom who was just struggling with a broken lawn mower, he was at the house in 10 minutes, fixed the mower and mowed her front lawn. She texted me back with utter disbelief and gratitude. He offered what he could, when he could, with all of the heart, commitment and compassion that he could and a need was met and a heart was wholly touched. Friends helping friends.

I ask that if you have the time, resources, items, or simply prayers to keep us reaching and meeting needs to offer those, as you are able to jump in and help continuing to make these major ripples!

I wish you peace and love my friends, and immense and sincere gratitude. xoxox

Wishing you Peace,​ Terri

Terri O’Neill-Borders
Email- terri@hopeandfriendshipfoundation.com
Website- www.hopeandfriendshipfoundation.com
WordPress- https://hopeandfriendshipfoundation.wordpress.com/

Hope and Friendship Foundation
721 Hickory St, Lemont, IL  60439
630-816-4972

“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

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