Two days before Christmas, I witnessed a wonderful demonstration of generosity and compassion. A local automotive dealer, Mike McCarthy, donated a minivan full of toys to one of our families with three small children who have been working their way out of homelessness and into self-sufficiency. It is really a heartwarming story. For the most part, the mom had been raised in the foster care system. As a teenager, she participated in the Family Care Network’s Transitional Age Youth programs where she learned enough skills to venture out on her own. Eventually, she married, had three children and seemed to be getting by. But unfortunately, economic hardship forced the family into homelessness. As they put it, coming “full circle”, they were referred for assistance to the Family Care Network’s Housing Support Program (HSP).
Our HSP staff were able to get them into stable housing, but they had one big need to fill– reliable transportation so they could get to and from work and safely transport their children. Along comes our amazing community partner, Mike McCarthy, and their problem was solved! What a Merry Christmas indeed!
This story illustrates the heart of the Family Care Network’s Mission–to enhance the wellbeing of children and families in partnership with our community! Here is a young family who encountered hard times and bad luck. Now, they have safe, affordable housing, an awesome automobile and are on their way to achieving self-reliance. These critical components of success were made possible because of an effective partnership between the Family Care Network, the Department of Social Services and a generous member of our community; it was possible because we have stayed “Mission Focused.”
Pondering this situation, several key elements emerge for me. First, it is extremely unfortunate that a sizable number of Americans stereotype the poor and homeless as being “lazy takers” or mentally ill, who just want to “live on the public dole.” This errant attitude is especially prevalent with those identified with right-wing politics. That couldn’t be further from the truth. About one third of individuals living below the poverty are employed, the working poor; with another 45 percent being children. The majority of these folks do not want to be homeless and poor, they want economic opportunities and living wages.
My second observation from this story is really twofold; there needs to be a willingness to seek help as well as a willingness to provide help. It took real guts for this family to ask for help. Personal pride, embarrassment, discouragement, et cetera, can act as roadblocks to help and assistance. Remember the ageless axiom “ask and you shall receive.” But there needs to be someone listening and responding as well.
Baseball legend, Jackie Robinson, once made this statement when questioned about breaking the color barrier in baseball and his lifelong pursuit of racial equality:“a life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” I wish that everyone embraced this attitude instead of the narcissistic, self-centered “it’s all about me” mind set that dominates our present day culture. Think how different life would be if everyone’s “Mission” was to have a positive impact on other lives. Mike McCarthy is certainly a great example of someone who lives by this creed.
My final reflection on this, and so many similar stories, is the “feel-good” aspect. Enhancing the wellbeing of others produces an intrinsic, sublime sense of joy and gratitude which does not require accolade and fanfare. Celebration and acknowledgment is overrated in my book, compared to the power of knowing in one’s heart that you have positively impacted someone–you have made a real difference.
The Family Care Network recently published its 2014/2015 Annual Report which once again reflects some amazing outcomes. Our agency served 1,420 children, youth and families with a 93% success rate for all programs in 2014/15. Around 90% of children served in our foster care programs had positive outcomes, i.e., were reunified, moved to permanent families, stabilized their behaviors, transitioned to independent living, et cetera. Nearly 600 volunteers donated 12,594 hours to our mission; and the list continues. But, I want to look at these outcomes from a different angle.
Every “success” story is about real people, with a real trauma, crisis or instability which required considerable human intervention and sacrifice. It required careful planning and hard work, and dedicated workers, community partners and volunteers–a substantial, committed network of individuals driven by the Mission to have a positive impact on the lives of others. For these individuals, their efforts are not about celebrity and glory; it’s about the incredible sense of personal satisfaction that is only obtainable through positively impacting someone else. Every “client served” represents a team of amazing, mission-focused people, quietly serving.
As 2015 closes and the door to 2016 is open, I want to say thanks to all of you dedicated, hard-working, mission-focused individuals who have positively changed so many lives this year, and encourage all of us to boldly embrace the Mission to have a positive impact on the lives of others in the year to come.