Friday, June 28, 2013

Neighboring




We recently moved to a new neighborhood. Our neighbors on one side are selling their house and haven’t talked to us one time. We met the neighbors on the other side within a week of moving, because our son was selling boy scout camp cards with coupons on them to help him raise money for summer camp. They didn’t buy a card, but they did welcome us to the neighborhood. 

I’ve already written about how our old neighbors were so supportive of him and the new neighbors here were pretty great, too, buying cards and encouraging him to talk by asking him questions about scouting.

Back in our old neighborhood, I had a habit of bringing cookies over to new neighbors, at least in the first few years of living there. Later, we had so many new neighbors that I stopped doing it. I think I also got tired with the apathy in the neighborhood.

Our neighborhood had a community issue to deal with that never really got solved. We had a 55 year old sign in the front of the neighborhood that was falling apart. A few people really wanted to replace it. I offered to help mobilize the neighbors and have a meeting at my house. A total of three people came.

I had done some work gathering estimates for a sign and another neighbor had his own idea for building one. In the end, that neighbor did start building it but at this point it’s still not done. 

I tried to help him a few times, getting information and gathering support in the neighborhood, but it never came together completely. Why? Have we lost our sense of neighborhood pride and community? I think perhaps in a lot of neighborhoods we have.

Jesus asked us to love our neighbors as ourselves but it’s often said that in America people don’t take the time to know their neighbors. We’re living lives too fast-paced to slow down and talk to the people who live only yards from our doorstep. That’s a shame.

The Points of Light Hands on Network is trying to change that. For Martin Luther King, Jr. Day this year it encouraged people to come together for Sunday Supper, when people of a community could discuss their shared issues and how to solve them.

Another of their initiatives is Neighboring, an “approach to volunteering that empowers residents to find innovative, sustainable solutions to local challenges…Tens of thousands of resident volunteers have been engaged to create programs such as a community garden to provide fresh produce to low income community members, a neighborhood watch to tackle problems of drug abuse, a mobile volunteer tax assistance site on a Native American reservation to provide an avenue toward financial stability, and many more programs to meet the needs and talents of the community.”

The program encourages people to:
  •  Get to know the community and build trust.
  • Work with community members to identify their talents as well as their desire for change.
  • Acknowledge where Neighboring is already occurring and support, not hinder, existing efforts
  • Give people access to the tools and resources to help one other.
  • Work with neighbors to identify common goals and foster mutual respect.
  • Enable neighbors to develop a renewed sense of hope and take responsibility and ownership for struggling communities.
  • Assist neighbors in creating supportive networks and opportunities necessary to bring them together.
  • Support neighbors in building a better future for individual and families communities.
  • Empower communities to create the change they seek.             
So, if you have an issue in your neighborhood, you can be the change you seek and use the Resources of HandsOn Network to do something for your neighbor. If you don’t, you can remember that everyone is our neighbor and see if you can help someone in another neighborhood.

Before I left our neighborhood, I stopped by our neighbor’s house who was working on the sign. We won’t be around to help with the sign any more, but I gave him a donation to help him with the effort. I didn’t want to leave without trying once again to make our neighborhood a community, even if it was just in one small way.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Volunteers of America

I often brainstorm topics to write about for this blog. I keep a list of over 250 ideas to which I am always adding. But sometimes I miss the obvious. Have you heard of Volunteers of America? Neither had I, until today.

It’s a Christian organization that’s been around since 1896. It provides help for homelessness, people with mental health problems, children, communities, veterans, those with disabilities or substance abuse problems and seniors. It also provides emergency services for people in crisis.
As its name implies, it provides its ministry just in America. It provides services to more than two million people in over 400 communities in 46 states and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. You can search for a local office near you at its website.
I love its statement of Why We Do What We Do:
 
We are Volunteers of America.
And we are the first to step forward,
Taking on the most crushing problems.
The dire.
The hopeless.
The untouchable.
And we make a difference.
Because we not only perceive the burdens of others,
We know firsthand what it means to make them lighter.
This is why we do what we do.

Our story is long and rich.
And widely unknown.
But we’re not chasing fame. Or glory.
Our lives are meant for service.
For lifting up the broken-hearted.
For finding the lost.
For reaching out with mercy and compassion
To those who thought they were beyond reach.
For uplifting all our lives.
This is why we do what we do.

Every day, we see our brothers and sisters
lying beaten and bruised on their own roads to Jericho.
We act because we’re trained.
We’re impassioned.
We’re honored.
This is why we do what we do.

Like our Great Exemplar,
We go among the unclean,
the broken,
the forgotten
and the outcast.
and we use our lives
to make theirs better.
This is why we do what we do.

We are Volunteers of America
 
Isn’t this what we are called to do as Christians? To be like Jesus? He used his life to make others better. He helped without asking for any return. He gave his life for us.
 
Now I know people say different things about Christians helping others, that the acts are important but not necessary. You don’t do acts of service to become a Christian, you do them out of love because you are a Christian. Maybe that’s a topic for another blog. For today, think about what you do out of love for others.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Back on My Feet


It’s a crazy idea, starting a running group for homeless people, but that’s how Back On My Feet (BoMF) began, with one runner thinking that helping nine men add a regular discipline to their lives might help them get them back on track.
Back on My Feet “Residential Members” (meaning homeless persons) are getting jobs and housing and improving their outlook on life, too. Seventy-eight percent are sure they’ll get a job they like and 94 percent are hopeful about the future while almost 900 have gotten jobs and over 600 have found a home.

It starts with running. Attendance, mileage and attitude are tracked on every run. After 30 days in the program, each Residential Member who maintains 90% attendance at the morning runs moves to Back on My Feet’s “Next Steps” phase.

In this phase, BoMF staff work with Residential Members “to build a road map toward self-sufficiency which includes financial literacy and skill-building classes with for-profit and nonprofit partners.” After training, members have access to interview and employment opportunities and are also offered financial assistance such as a security deposit for more permanent housing to overcome barriers to self-sufficiency.

That very first runner and founder of BoMF was Anne Malhum in Philadelphia. Now, BoMF has spread across the country with a new group starting in Los Angeles this year and other groups running in Austin, Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Indianapolis, New York, City and Washington, D.C.

If you’re in any of those cities, you can sign up to run with a team on Monday, Wednesday or Friday mornings or on Saturdays for longer runs.

The Stroehmann Back on My Feet 20in24 Challenge is coming up next month in Philadelphia with five races in one weekend July 20 and 21. Races include a Pajama Loop and Midnight Madness run in reflective gear. Teams, partners or lone rangers run the other three races.

There are also fundraising bashes (with formals and tennis shoes) and other social events throughout the year and gear you can buy on the BoMF website.

I have tried running and have found it to be a great way to stay in shape and keep a positive outlook on life. For some, running is a part of life like sleeping or eating that has to be done. If you’re one of those, consider sharing your addiction with people who need a healthy alternative to life on the streets.  

Help them get back on their feet.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Men, Listen Up!

Next Sunday is Father’s Day and the week leading up to it is Men’s Health Week as part of Men’s Health Month in June. I shared with you last week how my husband reminded me about the spirit of charity when I forgot it. This month, we need to remind the men in our life how important it is to take care of themselves.

For years I played in a tennis league and tried to encourage my husband to do something regularly for exercise. But he wouldn’t. It wasn’t until someone he knew who was around his age died of a heart attack that he finally realized how important it was to take care of himself. He began doing martial arts three times a week.

Sometimes men need a wake up call like that but they shouldn’t have to wait for someone to die to start taking care of themselves.

The Men’s Health Network (MHN) in its Drive for Five, is highlighting information on five important health risks for men--high cholesterol, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high prostate-specific antigen (PSA) and low testosterone.

MHN gives six signs and symptoms men need to be aware of and talk with their doctor about:

1.       Reduced sex drive

2.      Problems during sexual activity

3.      Feelings of sadness

4.      Bladder or bowel control

5.      Weight gain

6.      Drug abuse

MHN also gives tips for how to prevent health problems:

  1. Get plenty of rest, eat right, and exercise often
  2. Check with your doctor before starting any diet or exercise program
  3. Know your family's health history
  4. See your doctor at least once a year, and ask for an explanation of your test results and what it all means
  5. Make sure you follow the treatment plans that you have worked out with your doctor

Everyone, support the men in your life by spreading the word about these health tips and the resources I’ve mentioned. Let’s help men stay healthy!