It’s been a few days since I’ve blogged.
There’s a reason for that. (Actually, there are many. But there is one reason that figures more prominently than the others.)
My last blog post was entitled ‘Do something.’ It followed on the heals of some posts (here and here) about some issues facing the community in which we live and minister. One of those issues being homelessness.
Lately, we’ve been confronted again and again with that issue. There are things that I would love to do––opening a shelter and starting a business that provides a living wage to employees, to name a few. Zoning restrictions and the lack of money to purchase a building or start a business are two of the things keeping these dreams from becoming a reality. Granted, all of that could change. Someone could give me a building. A large sum of money could fall into my lap.
But none of that has happened to this point, which leads me to the reason for my brief hiatus from blogging.
A couple of week’s ago, I was in tears. I was weeping because I had just spent some time talking to a mom who had no place to stay and no means by which she could provide suitable, safe housing for her children. Her children are about the same age as my kids and the thought of my kids (or any other kid) sleeping in a car, an abandoned train car, or in an abandoned building breaks my heart. To make matters worse, this woman wasn’t an addict. She wasn’t lazy. She has job––two jobs, in fact. Between the jobs, she doesn’t make enough to put food on the table and pay for rent and utilities.
Crystal wasn’t at home when they stopped by and knocked on our door. Quinton was at school and Maddie was taking a nap. I talked to her and listened as she shared her heart-breaking story. I offered her a little money and called anyone and everyone I could think of who might be able to help. She turned down the money. She had enough money to provide food for her kids. She just didn’t have enough to provide a safe place for them to stay for any more than a night or two at the time. She wasn’t arrogant or prideful. She knew her needs and she knew the thirty-five bucks that I had in my wallet wasn’t going to do much more than get them a room for a night at a dingy, dirty motel room that was worse than where they were currently camping out. (For those who tend to see the worst in people, please notice that this woman, although in dire straits, wasn’t looking for a handout. She wasn’t looking for a quick buck. She was looking for a way out; a hand up; a means by which to break free of the cycle that she found herself in.)
A few phone calls yielded results. A local motel was willing to put her and her children up for two nights (free of charge!), while she waited for a space to open at a home operated by a couple whose mission is to provide housing to single mothers and their children on a month-to-month basis. The lodging is close enough that mom can get to work and continue to provide for her family by way of her two jobs. She’s also been able to start the process to get assistance so that she can have (and afford) an apartment of her own––a safe place for her and her children to live.
Things came together. It was a good resolution to a heart-breaking situation. But still, it left me teary-eyed.
Mid-sobfest, Maddie awoke from her nap. She stumbled into my office, blanket in hand and thumb in her mouth. I wiped the tears from my eyes, sniffed with gusto, and attempted to hide my sadness from my daughter. However, Maddie is rather perceptive and it didn’t take her long to figure out that daddy was sad. So we sat at my desk and talked about why daddy was sad. With childlike faith, Maddie suggested we pray for the mom and her children and, after we concluded with an ‘amen,’ she suggested we do something. Convicting words, given my recent blog post. Yet, a frustrating suggestion, given my big dreams and scant resources.
I have to admit, I thought to myself, ‘Maddie, if you only knew. I tried to give her all of the money I had and she wouldn’t take it, because it wouldn’t help.’
In that moment––as I held Maddie, considered what she said and made excuses for why we couldn’t do something to solve this enormous problem that is greater than the resources that we have––two things came to mind:
- God cares. It’s something we talk about constantly with our kids. It’s a message that we’ve conveyed again and again at our midweek children’s program. And, it’s the subject of a story that Maddie likes to tell me when I tuck her in at night and I ask her to tell me a story.
- We need to do something. And, by something, I really mean anything––no matter how big or little. One small step of progress is better than nothing. A step in the right direction is better than no step at all. Small things done with great love can change the world. (Yeah, I know, I hate pithy sayings and cliches just as much as the next person, but all of this came to mind in that moment.)
But what could we do?
That’s when it hit me. We could take Maddie’s story, write it down, put some pictures to it, and turn it into a book. We could then sell that book and use a portion of the proceeds to provide food to those who are hungry; a place to stay for those who need shelter; clothes for those who need warmth amid the changing seasons.
I sat down with Maddie and wrote out the story. We found some pictures that correlated with each of the aspects of the story. From there, I solicited the help of friends via Facebook and Twitter. I asked people to read the story and provide feedback, and I asked friends in the publishing industry if they might have interest or know of someone who might have interest in the story.
Here’s where things stand at the moment.
- I received some great feedback. Currently, I’m working on some changes to the story. I’m reworking some of the images and rethinking some of the layout and progression.
- A few friends went above and beyond, showing the book to friends and reading it classes at church, etc. Hearing what children and those educating our children have to think has been incredibly helpful!
- Two publishers have expressed feedback. At the moment, however, going the traditional publishing route may mean smaller profit margins, which would mean fewer dollars from each sale actually making a difference. For now, I’m working with one publisher to see if there might be a way to lower cost so that we can ensure more money goes to helping people than paying for the costs of publishing.
I’m hoping that we may be able to work things out with one of these publishers and move forward. However, if either of these publishers doesn’t pan out, one of two things will need to happen: 1) I’ll need to find a publisher or, 2) we could go the route of self-publishing. I’m not opposed to self-publishing, as my blog provides a platform to get the word out and generate sales. Also, I know that my Twitter followers and Facebook friends would likely help spread the word. However, it would be nice to have the weight and resources of a traditional publisher.
In the meantime, stay tuned. I’m going to be rolling out a website in the next week or so. From the website, you’ll be able to find out important information about the book, what’s going on regarding publishing, and how you can get your hands on a copy. Once we begin selling copies, I’ll also provide updates regarding how the profits from the book are being used. Right now, our goal is to see 50-75% of the proceeds from the book go toward helping people here in our community, so if the book generates our sales, Maddie’s story could really show some people that someone cares!
All of that to say, thanks for sticking around. Sorry for the hiatus. But I’ve been MIA and will be blogging sporadically, because my little girl has reminded me that in the face of great need, I need to do something. Anything really. Because even a small change can be a change for the better.