There are three ideas that I can not seem to shake today. I am going to go off on a little bit of a tangent, but I am so overwhelmed by these thoughts, I hope that by writing them out, I can move on to the stories I want to tell. Today is Christmas at the Village. I sat on the front porch of the Volunteer Center to write and await an interview. In the distance you could hear laughter of kids on the Merry-Go-Round. Christmas Carols filling the air through the campus wide speakers. There will be a Christmas Party this evening where Mayor Clayton and his wife, Mary, large rabbits who live in a little yellow cottage in the center of the Village, will be hosting Santa himself to pass out special gifts to all the children who are staying this week. I will join the party tonight, my last time this week at the Village. But I am certain I will be back many times in the future. Even Santa cannot stay away!
When you find yourself faced in a moment of trial, you have also found yourself at the dawning of a new missional purpose of your life.
“I can see the connection now. I can draw a link from the past to the present. From the desperation of my own childhood grew the empathy to serve children facing their own desperate circumstances. From survival as a child to fighting to help other children survive, my life has come full circle.” Henri Landwirth
Many of the staff and volunteers that keep this amazingly run organization flowing with an effortless appearance, once arrived at the Welcome Center, a child facing critical illness. Because, they know the impact of childhood disease on a family, they have found a mission to ease the load, if only for a week for the families who are in the thick of that challenge. Henri Landwirth himself queries the connection between his past and the development of Give Kids the World. Would he have felt compelled to do this sort of work had he not known the suffering he endured in his own childhood? How could you know for sure? Landwirth lived the idea: from your adversity, build a life of giving.
Not one human living, whether they be old or young, rich or poor will escape a season of adversity. It is, unfortunately, the cost of life. But as I roam the streets named for children who lived for too short a time on this Earth at this place, I have been overwhelmed by the idea that from that adversity, a Village of love can bloom. Maybe not to the scale of Give Kids the World, but from our own adversity, we can reach out to share in the suffering of others. To have compassion for others, simply means we are with them in their suffering. Who better to extend compassion to the depressed, then one who has walked in the darkness and has found a way through it? Who better to sit in the grief of an expectant mother who has miscarried than the women who understand the grief that is often so lonesome? Could anyone be more powerful to stand with the father who must intervene for his son, the addict, than the father who now enjoys a relationship with his sober son? Our adversities can define us, they can break us, or they can be the fertile soil in which we plant faith and harvest redemption. I long to take the broken, hard pieces of my life and quietly build a safe place where not only I reside, but can share with those who need the shelter.
Give Kids the World did not come into existence because someone noticed there was a problem and said, “That is a problem.” It exists because someone noticed there was a problem and would not rest until their was a solution.
I am an observer. People watching could probably be categorized as my sport. I love the details of life. The patterns, the curves, the idiosyncrasies of people, places and things. Noticing things is a large part of my day. I am embarrassed to share how I daily notice a problem and then move on. How many opportunities for creative intervention have I missed because the noticing did not move me to action? What if we all—and I know all of us once a week notice something that needs a solution—decided that each month, if we notice a problem, we would push for a solution. Whether it be placing a trashcan at a place in your office that tends to need one or a solution to how a mobility challenged person can make a regular appointment every week, couldn’t we all use our talents to be the innovative pioneers of change? I believe this use of time could change our world in real and dramatic ways. What if we shared our ideas with our communities and they jumped on board? What if the good work we developed became a Village with a purple gate? It can be done. I have stood in the midst of that ingenuity this week. It is beautiful.
The volunteerism that is happening at Give Kids the World is so impressive and can be done in every community across the World.
Squatting down to talk with a child sitting in a wheelchair to ask what they were going to be doing that day does not require an overnight drive to Orlando. Learning how to effectively communicate to the nonverbal and recognizing communication cues can happen at the mall of your hometown. A mother who is overwhelmed with her children at the mall can be served by taking her food tray and helping her to find a seat at the restaurant. Giving hugs to someone because they are suffering a terrible adversity and smiling through the pain does not require a name badge. You can provide small acts of kindness to everyone you meet. You can look them in the eye and wish them a beautiful day. You can ask the stranger in the elevator if he is having a great day. You can team with your friends and clean for someone who needs to rest. There are hospitals and nursing homes full of lonely people who would love to hear where you are from, to discuss their favorite roller coaster with, to just connect to. We have opportunity wherever we are to give people the very best parts of ourselves.
One of the things I can not seem to not notice is how there is no litter on the ground in any part of the Village, yet I have never seen anyone sweeping. I was chatting with a fellow volunteer about this and he suggested that the people here are so purposed in making this place be all it can be, they are likely not passing up small pieces of trash, but instead bending over and swooping it up as they pass by. What if we all were purposed in making our homes, our communities, our world all it could be, by just swooping in and doing what needs to be done? If we can do it here for a week, we can do it every single day.
We have in our hands the ability to change the world. Shall we join together where we are and begin?