What is Faith?

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. ~ Hebrews 11:1

Thursday, May 27, 2010

And the Winner Is

I cannot tell you how my sisters raised their children. I don't know if it was with an iron fist as my parents raised us or like me, did they go in the opposite direction and rarely discipline. When I did punish however it was harsh, but rarely and I do mean rarely, physically. I think I can count on one hand the amount of times I struck my children.

At some point in my life, I cannot remember when, I wondered what had happened to my parents in their childhoods that had made them the way they were. What horrible things were done to them to make them punish us with such cruelty. Someone once told me 'It's your parent's fault you are the way you are. It's your fault if you stay that way.' I don't know if that is true, but I do believe we all have the ability to change. For some, all it takes is a chance.

First Place Family Development Center is that chance. Here, people who are in transition due to homelessness, job loss, health issues or other critical problems, can receive assistance as well as the tools to promote self-sufficiency. It is here, they find a sanctuary, a respite from the storm of life that has rained upon them.

At first glance, I did not see a commanding nor powerful presence. His stature is not great in size but his affection is colossal. His energy seems limitless, his dreams avant-garde, and his methods extraordinary. He lives up to his name in every way shape and form. Wise.

With a dream in place, William Wise set out to be part of the change and he has done that and more. When given the opportunity to change everything about Eugene's family day shelter First Place, William ran with the chance. He fired the entire crew because, although good people, they did not exude hope. He spent weeks searching and interviewing person after person, until he had a crew that shared his same line of thinking. It's a little unorthodox, but it shouldn't be. Let me see if I can do him justice.

We all do the best we are able to do in life. Everyone. Always. If we abuse our children, it isn't that we are truly mean or cruel. It is the best we can do, because it was the best of our parents that was passed on to us. More than likely we emulate those who raised us. For many of us whose childhoods were filled with anger and physical discipline, we too act accordingly. Hopefully, we act with less severity than was done to us.

We all have within us the ability to do more than the best we can, and here at First Place, children and adults alike are taught there is a better, much kinder way than what they may know.

Kids aged 2.5 to 5 are taught through love and therapeutic teaching methods that teach better ways to solve problems than with your fists or temper melt-downs. At the state certified preschool First Place Children's Center, children are never told no. Instead they are given options. As Jake Spavins, the director of the kids center explains...

"If a child is standing on the table, we do not say 'No you can't do that. Get down.' Instead, we help them to decide what better choices can be made. 'Johnny, is standing on the table the right thing to do? Can you think of a better way to jump up and down than on the table?'

This way of teaching, allows them the opportunity to make choices for themselves. They are already living in a chaotic world and by teaching them and allowing them to make these choices for themselves, gives them a bit of self worth. It teaches them they are valuable and what they think matters. What's more important, it teaches them that they matter."

"When most people come here, they are in fight, flight or freeze mode. At First Place, we take them as they are. We love them as they are.," says William.

First Place offers so much to their clients. It is here they can choose, without judgment what to do with their lives. They can choose to be more self-sufficient and look for jobs, take parenting classes, even a group therapy type session. Once in, they are usually hooked and the success rate is high.

One of the many things I found interesting was the Interfaith Emergency Shelter System in place at First Place. The shelter is small and cannot house the families they see during the day, but they are not left to fend for themselves. The IESS is a consortium of more than 30 faith communities offering night shelter, food, recreational activities and comfort throughout the school year. Congregational hosts sign up for one to two weeks each year. More than 1,500 volunteers make this outreach possible.

Open 365 days per year from 8-5 p.m., in First Place you find hope. Hope that someone cares. Hope that there is help. Hope that you will find a way home. Hope that your life will get better. One such young man is single dad Nathan. I won't tell you about Nathan. I will let you tell his story himself. Just click on Nathan's name.

In closing, let me tell you that there is a sign at the front desk that frightens me terribly. "Only 4 weeks remaining in Night Shelter. What are you going to do?"

William said to me "We have night shelter facilities from all types of faith communities. Churches, synagogues, temples. But the shelters only go through the school year. There are no shelters for these folks during the summer months. They are on their own again. What I don't understand is why more churches aren't involved. "

That's the question isn't it? I don't wonder why more churches aren't involved. I wonder why ALL of the churches aren't involved. After all, isn't that what Christ called us to do?

"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' Matthew 25:37-40

Watch Nathan's story here. NATHAN

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