Aug 22, 2010

Thank-yous can take awhile

I was at a conference listening to the amazing story of Kazi, a formerly homeless orphan who now runs a huge ministry for street kids in Brooklyn. He coaches the kids to make hip-hop CD and music videso. There is a new movie out about it. He was the closing speaker and his topic to inspire us was "that you don't always get the thank yous but you need to know you make a difference."

He told his story of growing up as an abandoned child in poverty and abuse. It was very hard to hear, but it was real. And he named by full name the people who made a difference in his life. The lady who first fostered him from the orphanage. The social worker who helped him when no one else would. The theater teacher who taught him and his thug friends ("street pharmacology majorw and five finger discount businessmen") drama when they otherwise never attended school at all. The man who kept telling him "to write that--your dream to help street kids make their own music--in your dream book; someday you may make it come true." The man (an incognito philanthropist) who believed in his dream and funded it. The executive directors who financed his CD project and now the movie project. They all had names. And they all worked without thank-you from Kazi for years. And he remembered them all. And now he's called them all to say thing you... sometimes 25 years later.

He assured us that each of us do make a difference it the young lives we work with. He had us pair up and thank one another for the sacrifices we make. For the giving we do. For the thankless tasks we endure. For the difference we make in young people's lives. I left feeling great.

Later that day, my phone rang while I was doing outreach. It was hot. I was working alone and the bags were heavy. I was passing out food. I didn't plan to answer the phone, but I did. It was a client, "Johnny," who lives in Oklahoma. I worked with Johnny two years ago. I've spoken online with him in the past year. Today, "I just thought I should call you and say thank you. I'm here visiting with 'Jimmy,' who just came up from Austin. He's telling me all the wonderful things you are doing. We both want you to know that you're making a difference. People notice and care that you care about them. Keep up the great work."

I have a great boss who makes all my work possible (JC). And I have great donors and volunteers and in-kind donors, without whom the ministry would surely have closed long ago. But it was great to hear that the ministry has made a difference and continues to count. Thank you, Johnny! Thank you for sharing.

"To know, love and serve street dependent youth."
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