“I’m Helping the World”{my daughter’s 7 Billion Ones story}

For the past year or so, I’ve been involved in a movement born from the vision of a local professional photographer, Randy Bacon.  The movement, “7 Billion Ones” is fondly referred to as the “YOU Matter” movement.  Randy Bacon is the visionary behind it.

7 Billion Ones captures the stories of life and is accompanied by breathtaking portraits of the storytellers.  I shared my own life story for the project and found that not only is Randy an amazing photographer, he is also just an all-around awesome human being who values each and every person he comes in contact with.  I strongly encourage you to check out the 7 Billion Ones website.  It is powerful, humbling, and completely confirms that we are more alike than different.

The week before Christmas, my 8-yr-old daughter came up with one of the most endearing and uplifting ideas she has ever had.  I was moved by it but not completely surprised.  She has always had a generous spirit and a soft spot for homeless people.  I shared her idea with Randy and out of it, came a day that she and I will not forget.

 

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Photo Credit:  Randy Bacon (www.7billionones.org)

 

Here is the link to her story:  I’m Helping the World  Please take a moment to read it.  I’m sure you will be blessed.  I know I was.  Spending the time with my daughter on that special day was simply incredible.

Children have a way of frustrating us at times, but they also have a way of amazing us.  Her act of generosity did just that, and for that, I know full well what a blessing she is in my life and the lives of others.

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” – Charles Dickens

The Blessing Jar {Part #3}

In January of 2013, our family started our so-called “Blessing Jar”.  The idea came from a conversation I had with my son after picking him up from school.  To read about it, click here.

Blessing Jar3

Throughout the year, we intentionally added our spare change to the jar.  We never pressured our kids to put money in it, but were pleasantly surprised when they eagerly added money they found in parking lots, and money given to them as gifts.  Thanksgiving weekend of 2013, we cashed out the jar and talked to the kids about where they wanted the money to go.  After discussing the various options, they decided upon a local group called “The Gathering Tree”.  They feed homeless and impoverished people in our community, and rely almost solely on the kind acts of donations of money, food, and man-power.  You can read about the first time we delivered our Blessing Jar money by clicking here.

As we approached Thanksgiving this year, we decided that it was time to share the collection of change in our Blessing Jar.  I asked the kids, “Who do you want the money to go to?”  I listed several options in our community, and even included organizations that help animals (we are pet-lovers).

To my pleasure, our two oldest children suggested the money should go back to “The Gathering Tree”, and they wanted to make sure it was used to help feed people who do not have food or a home.  With the help of a friend who has been heavily involved in the group, I arranged the time for us to meet up with the people who started the group.

This morning I reminded the kids that today was the day we emptied our Blessing Jar and gave the money away.  They were both really excited.  After talking more about it with my daughter (age 6), she decided that she wanted to bake some muffins to take to them as well.  We spent the morning baking Banana-Zucchini-Chocolate Chip Muffins!  They even decided to donate all of their weekly allowance to the jar.  Unbeknownst to me, my mother had decided to pitch in as well and help the kids with their money collection, so after a quick stop to pick up her portion of the donation, we headed down to center where a meal was getting ready to start.

As we stood there waiting to deliver the money to the gentleman who started the group, we watched as the line for a warm meal (they cook very nutritious meals) grew quite big.  Even after working in the field of social services for the past twenty years, I was a bit taken back by the number of people being fed.

We were pleased to give the group quite a bit more than we were last year, and our hope and faith is that God can take it and multiply it to meet the needs of this community.photo 1 (14) photo 3 (4) photo 2 (11)photo 4 (1)

If that were the end of the experience today, then it would be just fine.  However, shortly after delivering the money, a gentleman came up and hugged my friend.  He told her how much he appreciated all of the help she and the group has provided him.  “They changed my life”, he said.

As we stood there listening to him, tears started to well up in my eyes, my friend’s eyes, and the eyes of the gentleman before us.  This gentleman explained that before he became homeless (he told us he was a farmer before his current situation), he used to judge others who were homeless.  He also did this even during his homelessness.  As he watched the group show kindness to each other, he learned how to treat others with compassion and to not judge all within any group based on stereotypes.

After we left the center, the kids talked about the people who were there eating. They were glad that the money we gave will help feed them again.  My daughter was also glad that she baked some muffins for them to eat.  While tucking my son in bed tonight, he talked about maybe someday helping to serve the meal.  I told him that I would check into that for him, but I think that would be an awesome thing to do.

As my husband and I processed the day, I told him that the fellow to whom opened up to us had been on my mind all day.  My husband agreed.  The fact is that it does only take a little bit of kindness to potentially change someone’s outlook on life.  For that matter, kindness can not only change an outlook, it can change a life.

To be reminded by a homeless man that there is great power and potential when judgement is confronted by compassion is probably one of the most humbling reminders of all.  

To look around the room today, and see people who are struggling, who may only get that one meal of the day, who may be sleeping under a bridge tonight, who may be lonely, depressed, thankful, or prayerful, and to watch them ask about each other’s well-being, smile, hug, and show kindness to each other, was a blessing.

The Blessing Jar project started as a seemingly simple way for us to teach our young children about compassion and generosity.  We are finding, though, that we too are gaining lessons from it.  We are learning that despite our own challenges (and we have them), we have so much to be thankful for.

We are also learning that when you set out to change the life of someone else, it is often that your own life is changed for the better.

Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. -Luke 6:38

mercy has your name written on it

You sit there staring at the image reflected back at you in the mirror.  The mirror lies to you, and yet, you see that reflection as truth.  It exposes your blemishes, and your scars.  The image of your body is one that you would rather never reveal to anyone, except maybe…this vile mirror that has become the reflection of who you think you are.  The bruises, the fat, the lines…whatever errors that have affixed on your skin…shows up greater than anything else.  You wonder, “God, how can You forgive me?  How could anyone love me?  I deserve to be lonely, and to be treated like this.  I am worthless…deserve even worse.  How can there be mercy for someone like me?”

You lay there staring at the bottom of an empty bottle, and your anger is being stirred with a mixture of dependency and despair.  The bottle…the friend you have come to rely on…is empty, and you are left alone.   Alone.  Isolated with your regrets that seem to have burrowed themselves in your soul.  Deep down, you know that the empty bottle symbolizes how you feel about yourself.  Empty.  Broken.  Dry.  You tell yourself, “There is no way God will ever love me.  No one will.  The only friend I have is a bottle.”  You wonder, “God, how can You forgive me?  Is there a way out of this vicious cycle that has taken over?  How can there be mercy for someone like me?”

You stand there, sign in hand, while looking around at the concrete bed that you will be sleeping on tonight, and you think, “When will this ever change?  When will I feel human again?”  You are cold.  You are hungry.  You are confused.  Perhaps, just maybe, if your story of how you became like this was actually scripted onto those cardboard pleads of help, then maybe…just maybe, others might see you as a human being.  You might be valued.  As family filled cars pass you by, you wonder, “God, how can You forgive me?  When will my circumstances change?  I hope for something new each day, but the days seem to turn into months, which seem to turn into years.  How can there be mercy for someone like me?”

You sit there looking around at the empty house that was once filled with the sounds of the life of a family.  You stare at the living room, you glance at the spot where your wife once slept, and you dwell on the empty chairs at the dinner table.  You think about the life you once all danced to.  You remember the Christmas mornings, birthdays, nights spent around a ball game, or playing outdoors. You think, “I deserve this.  I deserted them.  I was selfish.  God, how can You forgive me?  How can there be mercy for someone like me?”

You are staring at the negative sign on the pregnancy test you just took.  As the sadness starts to fill up your heart, you begin to say the same mantra that you have said for years….“I deserve this.  God must think I would make a horrible mother.  This will never happen.  I will never be a mother.  I am worthless.”  As time goes on, you wait…wait…for your moment.  You endure the showers of others who are expecting the very thing you have desired for years now.   You wonder, “God, why would You spare me?  If it is Your will, then why won’t You give me a child?  How can there be mercy for someone like me?”

Well, dear friend, precious soul, battered one, addicted being, homeless shell, wayward son, and one filled with despair, there is no need to wonder.  When Jesus carried His weary body so that His feet could be nailed to the Cross, it was for you.  When He breathed His last breath, it was for you.  It was for all of us.

When He exclaimed, “It is finished”we were on His mind.  His salvation lasts forever.  It lasts through the hardship of life.  It conquers the poor choices, imperfections, addictions, broken relationships, concrete jungles, and empty nests.

His mercy is fluid.  It moves with you.  It wraps around you, and migrates with each step you take.  You wonder, “Am I worth it?  Why would He spare me?  Am I worthy of forgiveness?  Is there enough mercy left over for someone like me?” 

Yes, dear friend, precious soul, battered one, addicted being, homeless shell, wayward son, and one filled with despair, you are worth it.  You are a child of God.  Do you know that?  Your worth is so much more than you can ever fathom.  Mercy….

Mercy has your name written on it…

….and, praise Christ for that!

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it. – Hebrews 4:16