It's Been a while. A long past few months with a Nashville Ready Mix Fight. Apologies. We won. I am back. ( will cover that in a seperate post).
In the past few months, I have been thinking about what has inspired me to do some of the things I have done of the past couple of years on Katie Hill. When people ask me " why?" , it's been an extremely hard question to answer or to put my finger on just one thing or event. I was asked today if people just come knocking on my door when a problem arises. I responded and said, " Actually no. I go knocking on their door." As we age, we sometimes forget those experiences in our youth that define who we become as adults. Throughout my adult life, I have strayed from serving others to experience freedom, fun, and adventure, but the passion to serve has always been there, and I am slowing learning to accept that part of my purpose is to lead others to become to not just volunteer, but to sacrifice. And wait for it.... guess what.... "Volunteering" just simply isn't enough.
I have been preparing to become a foster parent (to many children I hope) and an adoptive mom as well. If you have ever been a foster parent or adopted a child, you know what the tough background checks are like and the personal probing that comes along with this heavy task of parenting a foster child or adopting a child in the US.
As I was preparing for my home study, I came across a 3 ring binder I had not seen since high school most likely. "Student Leaders in Service" .... "Taking Down Walls - Building foundations" ... Birmingham Southern College - 1999.
I was 17 years old, had just finished my junior year of high school, and had just won the SGA Student Body President title. As I flipped through the pages of the binder, I almost shed a tear. I remember begging my parents to allow me to attend this training because I really wanted to make a difference in my school. It wasn't a popularity contest or a title when I won Student body president, although most people probably thought it was. I remember pulling up to the college and everyone else's parents were dropping them off. As Miss Independent even at the age of 17, I convinced my parents 'I got this', packed my trunk, and drove south for 3 hours in the pouring the rain to learn about "leadership" with complete strangers. Looking back on my life, those 5 days played a huge role in who I am today.
Looking back, it all makes sense where I am today. Part of our training was to learn about leadership, leading, and service. I had never really done "service" work. Sure, I had volunteered some, but never truly got my hands dirty, and invested time with inner city kids until that week. I had never learned about civil rights until that week. I never knew what it mean to be a woman and how that would impact my role as a leader. To be realistic, how many 17 year old's really cared or experienced any of that? It was also on this trip, where I met my artistic influences, Lonnie Holley and Charlie Lucas.
All of the concepts I live by today, were in me all along. I can recall our visit to the Civil Rights Museum and 16th Street Baptist Church. I was in shock. In shock at what one human being could do to another human being based on the color of his or her skin. My heart hurt, and still does today with everything that is happening around us with modern day racism and modern day segregation. We all have opinions as why this still exist, and it is counter productive to spread hate or even focus on non progressive thoughts. I have even been called ignorant. If loving means I am ignorant, then I guess I am. But I am a fighter. I fight for the good. I have taught myself to be vulnerable to those who don't agree with me and welcome my own ignorance. Below are some of my daily journal entries as a 17 year old girl just learning about people, leadership, and evening be a woman.
As I continued sifting through the different case studies that we talked about during the week at Birmingham Southern, I found an article shoved in the side pocket of the 3 ring binder called " Is Volunteering A Waste of Time?" published in the U.S. News & World Report on April 28th, 1997. ( Nearly 20 years ago now). I was intrigued by the title immediately and the little blurb at the bottom stating " Plus: How to ensure you really can make a difference". I began reading as the pages were almost glued together after 17 years.
Controversial question, right? I mean we hear it all the time. You get in trouble? One must volunteer. Want time off from work? One must volunteer. Want to get involved with your church? One must volunteer. As a matter of fact, check out these statistics on volunteering in 2014 provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics
- Tennessee has an annual volunteer rate of 25%, with 1.28 million volunteers serving 149.5 million total hours per year ( we are ranked 35th and we are the Volunteer State? Hmmmm)
- 25.3 % of adults in the US Volunteer
- 6% of all volunteers mentor youth
-9% of all volunteers Teach/Tutor
Let me make a disclaimer before I write what I am about to write. Volunteering is so important. It helps build a sense of community, breaks down barriers between people, and raises the quality of life for those around you. Plus... it makes YOU feel better about yourself right? When disaster strikes, there is never a shortage of volunteers to help and humanity seldom has trouble attracting volunteers on weekends to raise money for a cause such as a walk-a-thon. These events can make a big difference in a short amount of time, and I even participate in some.
BUT the problem of troubled children, needy seniors and the poor require a different type of "volunteering". It must be preformed one on one, over long periods of time, and often, in low-income neighborhoods. And for this type of assistance, there is HUGE shortage of volunteers.
Why are supply and demand so misaligned? As the article 20 years ago states and still stands today...." The simplest explanation is that volunteers sign up for reasons other than the urgency of the social problem."
WHILE THE GOOD SAMARITAN ONLY HAS TO CROSS THE STREET, MANY VOLUNTEERS MUST CROSS TO THE OTHER SIDE OF THE TRACKS.
I guess it is natural for someone to fear if they visit neighborhoods with high crime rates, they may suffer violence or be antagonized. But understand this. The once a year volunteer who serves at the food kitchen, or picks up trash in a dirty creek does not help with the more complicated human interactions, and that is a significant loss to society and in my opinion. our nations biggest problem.
How is it that we have 62 MILLION people volunteering in the USA and our cities are more dangerous than ever?
Only 6% of volunteers are mentoring youth. That is quite alarming if you think about it. Yes, I do school supply drives, toy drives, and raise money for families in need, but my gosh, if we can't get our feet wet and truly mentor and tutor not just children, but even adults who need guidance in life, then this country won't get any better.
Many people as me how they can help my community. I wish I had the answer for that . I don't have the resources, no community center, or even a park. I have neighbors that I care for, and I honestly need to do much better at not just reacting to the community needs but figuring out a way to get the resources on Katie Hill . We need a community center, a park, and even sidewalks. But we just don't have it, and I pray one day we will and I can bring more people along to help with Katie Hill.
I challenge you all to not just volunteer, but SACRIFICE. What does that look like for you? I can't answer that question. But think about what you like. If you aren't able to fully commit to an intense challenge like teaching or mentoring a child, don't do it. It will only hurt the child when you back away. But to start things off, I recommend trying different things and see what you enjoy, but Do NOT be guided only by what you want or like to do. The real questions are .... Who do you want to serve? What is needed by those you serve?
I dare anyone out there to say you are too busy to sacrifice. I will send you my outlook calendar and we can compare. :-) Sacrifice is a choice.
Interested in Becoming a Foster Parent or Adopting? Please shoot me an email or check out Youth Villages . I would love to give you any information you need!
P.S. Thank you Birmingham Southern College - You changed my life.