My time on the board at Lawrence Family Promise is winding down. What in the world was I thinking when I voted to approve the bylaw stipulating a limit of three three-year terms? The truth is, it’s time for a break, time for someone else to step up to this all-you-can-eat plate, time for new blood and new gifts of talent and compassion for serving the families of our community.
It’s fitting that today I got to do a bit of board work. I showed up at the day center, too late to really help with the task at hand. Dana and staff and guests were helping sweep up the glass and other debris after someone hurled a hunk of concrete and a brick through a couple of windows. The alarm had sounded at 1:30 a.m. The police summoned Dana and Dana called a dear resident of our temporary housing (his apartment right across the parking lot from the day center) to come help her board up the windows. He responded predictably, “Sure, Dana,” ignoring the December cold and the wee hour of the morning, quickly doing the work to secure the day center through the rest of the night.
I stopped by only to thank Dana for doing what she always does, tirelessly, cheerfully, that which is necessary and best for LFP and our guests. She’d been home since the original call, but was back this morning after only a couple of hours of sleep, concerned that all the tiny shards of glass were cleaned up before children, often barefooted, were in the day center later in the day.
We don’t know who broke the windows or why. There is security footage that staff will make time to watch; but the work moves on, regardless. The week ahead will be full of new need. Current families are looking forward to moving on. New board members will come onboard.
I’m better, different for a decade loving this place. I am richer and wiser, having served. To be needed, to have purpose, is high on the hierarchy of needs. It is a critical element of good mental health and happiness to find a place to serve beyond one’s own narrow orbit, to find a job to do that helps. It’s satisfying. It’s rewarding. And mostly, it’s a blast.
This job, like most jobs at Family Promise, has been a lot of showing up. It turns out I can hold babies with the best of them, but I can also make a mean tetrazzini, sleep fairly well on a cot, drive a 16-passenger van, sew barbie clothes, pray, listen, cry and laugh out loud. My personal “tool kit” allowed me to help write grant applications and letters of recommendation for potential hires. I pestered the powers that be–divine and municipal–and worked with Joe Reitz and others to establish this affiliate. I’ve helped with interviews and hires and policies; auctions, 5Ks and furniture donations. I’ve taken call and waited tables, I’ve counseled other board members at other affiliates. I got to sit in Dana’s desk for a month while she vacationed and with the help of generous donors–always those generous donors–we landscaped the place while she was gone.
I found Community Partners. I talked to churches and PEOs, Rotary Clubs and Vacation Bible Schools. I sat, countless hours, and listened to Valerie, our first director, and for the last eight years, Dana, process the tough stuff and the joy, the challenges and the victories of being executive director of this wonky wonderful ship of dreams.
I met several hundred guests and their children. Not a one typical. Every one worthy. With each introduction, I struggled with what to say and what to do. It is hard cardio work here. There is much to grieve and much to embrace. It hurts sometimes and sometimes it stinks. I learned to be quiet when that was what was needed, but probably not often enough. I sometimes got angry and had the sense to walk away.
Our message, our bottom line over ten years, hasn’t varied. There’s no fixing anything or anybody here. But it turns out that what we hoped would be true is spot on. Learning people’s names and their kids’ names, sitting across the table with them at dinner, remembering that they had a job interview and moaning with them about a sore back or a misplaced phone or a spouse who snores builds community. And being in community heals. We all become less “other.” We feel encouraged. We become more willing to work hard and be accountable. And dream. To extend and to receive. We form a happy and, by golly, mostly competent, mutual admiration society. We are all kinda human, after all. And we are–you and me both, sister– made in the image of a loving God.
I am one in a network of a thousand-plus, one of a big team in place to help. I’ll continue on that big team in other roles because I can’t imagine life without the joy of (Thank you, Lin Manuel) of “being in the room when it happens.” I can’t let go of the joy of seeing over and again that Family Promise makes a lasting difference in lives and, inevitably, generations of lives.
I’m grateful for the chance to continue walking alongside and believing Life is possible. With all of you volunteers, loving this young mom and that tired dad, this newborn girl and that sticky fussy toddler boy. Together we’ll continue to help toward wholeness and peace and health. We’ll keep on keeping on, giving what we’ve got and putting our heart and energy and resources toward helping family after family move home.
It’s time to give up my seat on the Family Promise board. I’ll never give up the space LFP holds in my heart.