The “Army of the Ordinary”
My apologies for the long gap in my blog posting. There is no singular reason for my inability to be more consistent in writing but rather a number of work/family/life issues that have prevented me from being more vigilant in sharing my thoughts. As I write this, I sit in the Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. waiting for my flight home. I have time to write only because my flight is delayed due to weather back home in St. Louis. How ironic that it takes something out of my control, like a problem in my transportation schedule, to give me the time to reflect on my work and sit still long enough to write!!
Beyond Housing continues to be not only resilient in difficult times but we are actually thriving! As of today, we have over $11 million of construction and rehab underway across our mission delivery systems. This includes our 4 story 42 unit senior building with a full service bank on the bottom floor which is across the parking lot from our grocery store, a ten home for sale development and a six home, for sale rehab project. While that covers the housing part of our name the beyond part includes our after-school program serving over 30 children every day, our first time homebuyers program that will help over 170 families achieve the American Dream this year, our foreclosure counseling work that will help over 800 families stay in their home, or the nearly 100 families that will receive gifts for the holiday season from our Holiday Friends Program, the 115 Normandy High School students saving for their college education in our Viking Advantage Program, our ten day care partners working with the Child Day Care Association in their program Achieving Quality in the Normandy School District and the 24 cities in our 24:1 Initiative that are working together to be more effective and efficient in the delivery of service to the almost 40,000 residents who live there.
Whew!!!! Writing this makes me tired!!! The scale of our work is remarkably parallel to the lives of many families we serve each and every day. The daunting task of raising children, working your job, hoping the car does not break down, hoping day care at the neighbors still works, hoping the ex-spouse/ex-boyfriend does not hassle you today, and all the other real life dilemma’s our families face each and every day is far more challenging than my work. This fact is rarely acknowledged by most folks in our society. Being poor or not being able to take care of your basic needs is simply no fun. The average person doesn’t want a life of struggle and challenge. Rarely does anyone desire a daily existence of trials and tribulations. Yet, so many of our neighbors who live in poverty, quietly and courageously soldier their way through these difficult circumstances.
Our annual fund raising appeal this year was entitled Army of the Ordinary and was penned by our Board Chairperson Rich Ryffel. I will tell you about this great man another time. In our appeal, Rich quoted Bobby Kennedy well over 40 years ago when he toured Appalachia and the Mississippi Delta and was so outraged that he declared “If we believe that we, as Americans are bound together by a common concern for each other, then an urgent national priority is upon us. We must begin to end the disgrace of this other America.” The “other” America Bobby Kennedy was referring to was those who live in poverty. Our appeal letter goes on to say:
“Poverty is a mighty adversary. It fights on many fronts and with many weapons. It is ruthless in its choice of when and where it attacks, showing no mercy to the elderly or children. It does not abide by any rules of engagement. Poverty cheats, it steals, it hits below the belt. It hits us when we are down. It has no shame. Its tactics should anger us and call us to arms.” We conclude our appeal with the following:
“We have no medal to pin on you. Your gift will be its own reward. No contribution is too small to escape our gratitude. You are a hero in the making. But first you must join the fight. Our campaign like all great causes, will be won by the contributions from platoons of ordinary citizens called to greatness by their times. Will you join our army? This Army of the Ordinary, with your help, can do the extraordinary. The battlefield awaits. Choose your front. Join us. We can have poverty in retreat”.
Anyone who reads this, please join us or any other organization that is fighting poverty and its consequences like hunger, underachievement, and preventable illness or crushed dreams. The Army of the Ordinary needs all the recruits we can find. Don’t hesitate, don’t delay.
In the days to come I will post more regularly and share the insights my organization gleans day in and day out as we serve the community. I look forward to seeing you on the battlefield in 2012.
Happy Holidays to all!