Today I had a guest speaker in my class that spoke to us about an organization called Uplift. If you haven’t ever heard of them, please go to their web-site and learn.
It’s a pretty incredible organization and there are many opportunities to get involved!
A few things I learned about this organization that really struck me, first it was founded by some Catholic men 30 years ago and it is a total not for profit institution. What that means is that not one single person makes any money working for this organization. It is completely volunteer based. So, for 30 years Uplift has survived and thrived on the generousity of those who volunteer and donate.
Uplift has 4 fully operational trucks that deliver hot meals to the homeless every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. They have not missed a day in 30 years. The reason they meet them where they are at is because many homeless won’t or can’t go to a food kitchen because of things like pets and/or they don’t want their belongings to disappear when they are there. This is something I didn’t realize.
As a result of that, Uplift meets then where they are at. How cool is that? The gentlemen who was speaking to our class has volunteered with them for many years and while he shared a lot of interesting and valuable information about the organization itself and how to get involved, the best part of his presentation was the stories he told.
When I asked him what the biggest misconception is about the homeless population his response was perfect. He said that they aren’t really that different or far removed from us, they are human, not sub-human like society brands them.
As a group we watched a video and he had to keep pausing it to tell stories about the people in the pictures. One picture was of his friend, Paul. He recalled seeing him on the street for the first time and feeling like he knew him from somewhere. It took some time and several visits but eventually he was able to decipher how he knew this man. They had been classmates at KU. They had the same major and had shared several classes together.
Through time and visits he realized that this man, like our speaker, had a masters degree. He was well educated and had even served in the military and later the CIA. His wife and daughter were killed in a tragic accident and that, coupled with his military PTSD led him to a life on the streets and one of substance abuse. Our presenter spoke of him several times as his “friend.” He even talked about how they’d went to watch KU basketball games together. It was such an amazing witness to hear an educated man, a teacher, a father of 6, a husband, talk about his friend Paul, who had hit some road blocks and lived a tough life. He spoke about him with pride, rather than judgment. It was absolutely inspirational. While most people would have seen Paul on the street and had a judgment about him, this man, made him his friend. Incredible. I was in awe and in tears.
It was such a beautiful witness to our kids that regardless of “appearances” everyone has a story. Everyone has some kind of cross that they bear. It is a stark reminder that we should always be kind as we never know what cross the person we encounter may be carrying.
As our presenter pointed out we all have hardships in life, we just deal with them differently. Sadly for his friend, Paul, he dealt with them by drinking, which led to his life in the street.
He also told us about a woman who had cancer and was receiving radiation while homeless. She was a recovered meth addict but was sadly, still homeless.
Every story was tragic, but every story humanized these people even more to the kids in my class today.
Today our kids pulled out our advent card for the day and it read this: “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices GOD is pleased” Hebrews 13:16 Take $10 of your own money and go to a local store. Buy as many items as you can for your local food pantry (shout out to Gaga for suggesting we do this locally).
So, when I picked the kids up for school we headed straight to the store. They used their own money and bought as much food (and a little extra) that their $10 per person could buy. Then, we drove straight to our local food pantry and dropped it all off.
While it’s just a little thing it was perfect that we got to do this thing today. The kids had a lot of fun trying to figure out how far they could stretch their $10 and we had great conversation about how blessed they are to always have food to eat. Fiona was baffled how chicken could come in a can and we discussed the difference between canned fruit and vegetables compared to the fresh stuff they get at home. Our kids are truly blessed.
Being a parent is hard, I know that I always feel like there is more to teach them…our job is never done. I’m so grateful that I work in a place and now get to teach a class, where I can teach kids how to make a discernible difference in others lives and I’m doubly blessed that this often trickles into my life at home.
When we ate dinner tonight we reflected how lucky we were to be eating a warm home cooked meal in our own home. The kids learned today that food is expensive and the fresher it is, the more expensive it will be. They learned why mommy and daddy get upset when they waste and they (hopefully) learned not to judge a book by it’s cover.
I am excited for when they get a little older to take them out on that Uplift truck. I’m excited for them to get to meet some of the people our speaker talked about today. I look forward to them seeing first hand that there are a lot of ways to live and that they should never take for granted the blessed life they lead.
I came home this afternoon and spent my evening cooking dinner with our oldest son, Finley Joe. He was so interested in learning how to cook and we even baked a chocolate peppermint cheesecake to eat tomorrow.
We topped of our night watching the fierce and totally BA Mulan and it was awesome. All of our kids were completely confused as to why it was inappropriate for women to fight and why the Chinese culture (in the movie) thought women were only good for marriage. Man….sometimes GOD sends you a win as a parent to tell you that you are doing something right. I loved that they were worried about this and asking questions. I also loved how all of them were celebrating a woman who was kicking ass and taking names. GOD is good!
It was a glorious day and I have much to be grateful for. Today was uplifting in so many ways. I’m so grateful for our speaker who crushed it and changed people’s lives today, including mine.