Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Melissa Clark, an amazing woman who organized an initiative called Project Love around the holidays. Driving through the valley in which she lives, Melissa spotted a campfire from a homeless enclave. Seeing folks struggling to stay warm on such a cold winter day moved Melissa in a very personal way. You see, not too long ago, Melissa herself was homeless and struggling with substance abuse.
I connected with Melissa through her current home, Acres of Diamonds , in Duvall, Washington, USA. AOD is a faith-based non-profit that provides housing, life coaching, and a variety of support services to homeless women and their children affected by domestic abuse, substance abuse, and mental health problems. AOD provides more than just temporary shelter. The residents at AOD join a program to break the cycles that keep them from self-sufficiency.
The goal for the residents is to achieve complete independence via graduating out of the residence and supporting themselves and their children on their own while making meaningful contributions to society.
At the time of our talk, Melissa had been at AOD and sober for 9 months. Her 7-year-old son was living with her, and she found employment at a local pizza shop. Melissa shared that she finally feels safe, secure, and loved. When she saw that homeless person’s campfire on her drive home, though, she remembered a different time in her life. The cold, the helplessness, and the spiritual battles all came to mind, and she felt God spoke to her heart in that moment to take action. But before she put plans in motion, she thought it best to honor the individuals she was trying to help by figuring out just what they needed. She and a friend visited some of the homeless folks in the community, invited them to lunch at McDonald’s, and asked them directly what they could use.
From there, the two friends put together a PowerPoint presentation for their church and pitched the idea to create care packages to deliver to the local homeless population. These efforts, titled Project Love, in partnership with an event at a local gym, resulted in huge numbers of clothing, toiletries, coats, sleeping bags, and other essentials getting directly into the hands of those forgotten members of the community.
Furthermore, Melissa, along with her son and an escort for safety, delivered packages to the homeless on Christmas Eve. Since then, she has also secured a standing gift card at the local bike shop for any homeless persons who come in needing repairs and provided a pair of insulated boots to a homeless veteran, who thanked her with tears in his eyes. She hopes to organize donation drives at least twice per year.
Melissa feels it is her ministry to show love and understanding without judgement to the homeless. Her goal is to let these people know that she sees their humanity by taking the time to listen to their stories and helping them get what they need to make it through the seasons. She views it as her duty to share the love and security she has received with others still struggling to break the cycle of homelessness. Whether she gets a person a warm meal or gifts them new gloves, she plans to keep taking steps to lift up those around her.
Talking with Melissa inspired me. I admire her ability to celebrate her own milestones while not placing value judgements on those still farther back on the path.
I admire the example she is setting for her son on overcoming obstacles to build a better future for oneself while still showing compassion for others. And I admire her willingness to look another human being in the eye and ask, “Are you ok? What can I do to help?” We live in such contentious times right now in America. People are struggling to find common ground, and they are lashing out at each other daily. Hearing Melissa’s story reminded me how simple gestures towards those around us make a huge impact and prompted me to consider what more I can be doing to help people in my community.
Melissa’s journey to sobriety and self-sufficiency is a testament to her strength, but her generosity shows her outstanding character. It’s not about how much you have, but how much you are willing to give to help those around you. And sometimes paying it forward doesn’t have to cost a thing. After all, love is free.
Who inspires you in your community?
This has been an original post for World Moms Network by Tara B. Picture used with the permission of Melissa Clark.
I see you.
On the surface, you look like everyone else. You blend in. Your appearance and persona is nothing unusual. Not for you. No one would ever know your story because you keep it to yourself. It is none of their business, after all, and they wouldn’t understand anyway.
But there is pain underneath that appearance. Discomfort. Uncertainty. Just enough of the emotion seeps through that I can see it. I see it in your eyes. I see it in the way you hold your body. Something is not right.
I’ve been there.
I hear you.
You reach out privately because you know there will be an ear. You hope there will be understanding. A light in the sea of darkness. A glimmer of clarity where there seems to be a never-ending swirl of confusion.
Though it is hard, I listen. I listen because others did when I needed an ear. I recognize the pain, the denial, the uncertainty and fear.
I’ve been there.
I feel you.
Your words penetrate me. I feel them in every bone of my body. My chest hurts, and my eyes burn. I re-live my own past experiences. I feel angry and sad. I know. And I can’t do a thing about it but listen and absorb.
I share my experience and though our stories are different, we are the same at that very moment. We are one. I may be farther along, but don’t let that fool you. It is easy to fall back into that hole.
I’ve been there.
We’ve all been there. As mothers, as daughters, as wives, as women. The drive to make good and keep peace can be our downfall.
But keeping the peace isn’t always the answer. It can numb us when we really need to feel. If we wait too long our hurt hits us like a ton of bricks. We become angry. And that is when change needs to occur.
The problem is that change is hard and scary and there is no guarantee what the future will hold. So you must let go and trust that you are strong enough to make the change and heal the pain.
It’s a process. One that is unique to everyone who is brave enough to go through it. Like a roller coaster ride, it is fraught with emotion. There are dips and turns and periods of anxiety and fear of what is coming next. The exhilaration and satisfaction at the end, however, is worth the ride.
We owe it to ourselves, to our children, to make that change. Whatever it is.
I see you.
You are not alone.
Does this post resonate with you?
This is an original post written by Jennifer Iacovelli for World Moms Blog.
I write this in response to the recent terrorist attacks in Belgium on March 22th.
When I came home from work on Tuesday, I turned on the news and watched chaos and destruction. I am not particularly partial to watching the news, but this hit really close to home. I watched in shock and horror, not completely able to grasp exactly what I was watching.
Privileged as I have been most of my life, this kind of violence and terrorism are things that I watch on television or read about in the newspapers.
As my kids walked in, I felt a strong need to give them some sort of explanation or assurance that they were safe. I couldn’t. I was at a loss for words at that moment.
“Terrorists fight a war against unarmed women, children and elders,” I said. “They fight innocent people instead of playing by the rules and fighting against soldiers. That is what’s so wrong about terrorism. These victims had nothing to do with any war whatsoever. There were just living their lives.”
The news reporter switched to his colleagues in Beirut.
“What are the responses there?” he asked.
“People are shocked and appalled,” the reporter answered. “Although there are some who are happy that ISIS has been able to strike one of their enemies.”
I for one couldn’t understand why that was being reported hours after the attack. I can only imagine what it would feel like to lose a loved one to terrorism and to hear that people are cheering about it.
It was another hate seed being planted.
But sometimes my heart is flooded with fear and my mind worries about the future. It is not the terrorist attacks that scare me the most. What scares me the most is the growing intolerance against Muslims, refugees, and foreigners in Europe.
I see that hatred is growing, and bitter seeds of hate are being planted, watered, and rooted. My response is to double my efforts in teaching my children compassion, kindness and tolerance toward others. I realize that my reactions, my responses to these violent acts, will teach them how to respond to hate. So I refuse to be overwhelmed by fear or hatred. I grab onto hope and hold it tight.
On Friday, it was reported that in Brussels, people were writing messages of love and solidarity on the streets. The simple gesture of people writing with colored chalk warmed my heart.
Because if we are able turn to love instead of hatred, the terrorists haven’t won.
My heart goes out to the people affected by this tragedy.
“Hope is being able to see that there is light in spite of all the darkness.”
– Desmond Tutu –
How do you hold onto hope in the wake of terrorism? How do you talk to your children about it?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Mirjam of the Netherlands. Picture credit: Christine Organ.
As parents, we desire to raise successful kids. But often the measurement of success can be so vastly different depending on our backgrounds, experiences and expectations. In Singapore, academic success is one of the top measures. Parents will sign up their kids for every enrichment and tuition centre in a heart beat, if it promises to improve their child’s grade.
For some, it could be developing their kids’ full potential in the area of music, art, or sports, and sending them to take every class to discover their talents from a young age. For others, it might be simply equipping their kids with the life skills to get them through whatever life throws at them, the kind of smart I prefer, “street smarts.”
Over the years, Singapore’s education system is slowly steering it’s direction from just developing book smart students to being more holistic, realising that there is more than one way to recognise our kids’ abilities.
I’m really glad about these changes as my daughter will enter formal education next year, and to be honest I wasn’t an ace student. Many times I felt that I was judged by how well I scored on my exams and if I disappointed my parents and myself when I didn’t achieve fantastic results. But over the years, I discovered that I have other talents and gifts that are just not related to how book smart I am.
Though I think my daughter’s pretty smart (okay, I’m a biased mom ), I know these changes to the education system gives me greater assurance that she will thrive when she starts school. But as a parent, I also have an responsibility in shaping who she is and my role is to give her roots and wings.
Roots and Wings
Just like a tree, in order for it to reach it’s fullest potential and stand strong to withstand the different elements, its’ roots must go deep and be firmly planted. These are the qualities I wish most for and I try to instill in her:
1. To be rooted in her identity
I want my daughter to be deeply rooted in the knowledge of her own identity. I want her to love herself for who she is and not strive to be someone else. I want her to recognize that she’s uniquely her, complete with her vivacious and vibrant personality, her sense of humour, and heart of gold.
2. To be rooted in character and values
Peer pressure will be a very real issue in school and that’s when our kids’ character and values are put to the test. As a parent, we have to ingrain values of honesty, compassion, integrity, kindness, responsibility, perseverance, and the list goes on. The best way to teach these to our kids? To model them ourselves.
3. To soar on wings of exploration
Besides having deep roots, I hope that my girl will develop wings to seek out the world. To be filled with curiosity and awe with a hunger to know more. I want to be the parent that says, ” That’s an interesting question, let’s find the answer.” and never to stop her from asking questions.
4. To have wings of independence
Our kids will grow up no matter how much we wish for them to remain cute and small. And the key is to ensure that they are equipped with life skills to see them through their days. As a young toddler, I’ve roped my girl to help around the house from picking up after herself, clearing her plate when she’s finished her meals, or loading the laundry.
As she gets older, she knows she has to be responsible for her belongings and pack her own bags. We’ve taught her what to do if she ever gets lost, and now she’s learning how to count money, an essential skill needed at the school canteen soon.
I also intend to teach how to manage her time wisely, budget and save, and maybe even cook. We can start from frying an egg!
As parents, it won’t be easy for us to let go of our kids when they eventually grow up, have their own ideas, friends and all. But when that day comes, we’ll be glad that our children are ready to soar high with their wings, knowing we’ve provided them with the skills to navigate the skies!
How do you help your child(ren) develop roots of responsibility and wings of independence?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by contributor, Susan Koh from A Juggling Mom in Singapore.
Miss M’s #Strengthie pose supporting the Poverty is Sexist campaign for ONE
I grew up living a pretty selfish life, if I’m honest. We weren’t a terrible family – we would help those we knew if they needed help, and I recall collecting my spare change for charity boxes and joining in with sponsored events, but that was about the sum of my giving to others. I’m pretty sure this is because my parents both grew up in poverty. They understood what it meant to have an empty tummy and to wear clothes that had been mended so many times they were falling off. So we focused on our tight family unit of four and my parents worked like Trojans, across four jobs, to ensure that they could pay the mortgage and offer my brother and I some of the little luxuries they had never had as children.
In my adult life, through becoming a Christian and learning more about the world around me, I developed a strong sense of compassion and a desire to help those who were not living the kind of life I feel we all deserve. As I’ve grown older (and perhaps wiser, some might say) I’ve wanted my children to understand and to ensure that they are engaging with the fight to help our world become a fairer place. I figure if they learn this as a child, they will get involved and start to help at a younger age, and not wait until they are in their thirties like I was.
Of course, as a parent it is my job to help them and to expose them to age-appropriate content and subjects. My twin girls are nearly eight which means we can discuss sensitive issues, but I’m still refraining from talking about sexual matters as I don’t need to smash their innocence at this age. My son is nearly twelve, and we can talk about almost all topics as he has more of an understanding of how the world works.
I’d really love to hear how other parents are educating and engaging their children within this area, and of course that is one of the reasons Jen set up World Moms Blog: to find out how Moms (Mums/Mams) the world over were tackling the same issues but in different culturally appropriate ways.
I thought it might be useful to share the approaches I have been taking so we can all learn from each other –
Child Sponsorship – In 2004 we started to sponsor our first child through Compassion. He was five at the time and over the last eleven years we have watched Carl-Henri grow into a caring young man. It has been a real privilege to pray for him, encourage the children to write to or draw pictures for him and to be able to financially support his place within a Christian project in Haiti. When the earthquake struck Haiti in 2010 we held our breath and prayed for all the people of the nation but of course our soft-spot was for Carl Henri and his family. Thankfully they were all physically well, but they were thrown into the situation of rebuilding their home and lives, which our supported project was able to help with.
Pray with them – I love to pray with my children. There is nothing more beautiful than hearing them expressing the desires of their hearts and offloading the small worries they carry. We have a daily devotional that sits on our dining table and on the nights when we are all together and have some time we read a verse and explore what it means for us and others.
Watch the news together and have open discussions – I probably don’t do this as often as I should but there is so much going on in the world and only so much that a young child can take in. There are some great TV programs nowadays that show the children what it is like for children living elsewhere. In the UK Blue Peter is very good, as is Extreme School and My Life.
Encourage them to raise money for charity – The children have mostly been involved in fundraising for overseas projects through their church groups, and Miss M particularly is keen to make sure she takes some of her pocket-money each week to put in the kids collection. We are signed up to run in the Race for Life soon, which raises money for Cancer Research UK and the girls alone have rustled up £65 in sponsorship. This has certainly made me aware that I need to get them fundraising with me more often.
Involve them in my blog and my plight to fight for a better world – I have been so privileged to travel with ONE and Samaritans Purse to see how donations from the UK and USA are being used in developing countries, and it has been an absolute pleasure to share this with all my children. They have all been very interested and proud as I have shared in Church, schools and within local groups. I also try to involve them in my blogging work and when I am working on a big advocacy campaign they are right there with me sharing the information and championing the cause.
Send them off to offer practical help – Whether in my home country or abroad, I am passionate that young adults should offer practical help to projects that are in need. It might be building skills, playing with children, reading to someone, clearing rubbish, cleaning dishes or something else entirely but so much is learnt when we stretch ourselves and move out of our comfort zone and do something for which we have nothing to gain. My children are all still a little young to have been involved in any kind of mission work as yet but it won’t be long before JJ is old enough and he is already volunteering within our own community.
So that is where our family is at the moment and I really would love to hear from you: what else can we do? What has worked for your family? What do we need to steer clear of?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Michelle Pannell of the United Kingdom. Photo credit to the author.