Building Strength through Kindness
By Elaine Hamel
December? Wow, what a whirlwind that was, 2020. I am ready to close the door on what was a rough ride for so many. Don’t give up though, because every closed door provides an opportunity to open other doors. And in a few weeks, we will all get to open a new door for a new year, a fresh start.
While 2020 has brought so many challenges during this past year, I want to shed some light on the amazing support that you, our supporters, managed to continue to provide. I captured some of it in our first blog post about how grateful I am. but there is so much to be grateful for it will take many, many posts. So stay tuned for some hope filled, inspiring stories of many who continue to step up for our mission and our little builders.
I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn the Word of the Year for 2020 is ‘Pandemic’. I propose we all take that in stride and look ahead to 2021 to new words that will empower us as opposed to dis empower. One of my favorites that I might suggest for next year is the word ‘Kindness’. I love this word as it is what surrounds us in the shop each day. The kindness of strangers who made donations, tradespeople who reduced invoices or donated time or material, volunteers who showed up consistently, in both large and small groups. We were certain to keep food/drinks on hand so all felt appreciated and if we ordered food (we always ordered extra) or random folks came by with lunches, we were sure to share with the folks who were homeless just around the block from us. There is a lot of power in the word kindness.
If you were not aware, we now have a large closet filled with donations for our builders. We have backpacks with school supplies, boots, socks, hats, sweatshirts and more, all to help out our builders. These items are all donated because of the kindness of so many. When you look down at the feet of a little girl whose soles on her shoes are no longer fully attached, flapping as she walks, or holes in the tips of her sneakers, because she outgrew them long ago, or she is wearing a short sleeve shirt that no longer really fits on a bitter cold winter day, it triggers something inside that knows we can do more. But we can do more because of you, each of you who has been there for us to bridge the gap. Together, we can do things to help change the narrative for these little kids – that they are worth it and it matters, it matters a lot. What started as a woodworking program out of the back of my pickup truck, now has many facets that have evolved because of the kindness of strangers. These items have an added bonus, not of just keeping them warm or much needed school supplies in their hands, but all of these items also help build their self-confidence. When these little girls walk out of the kindness closet with a new pair of Timberlands, or a backpack with school supplies, or a warm sweatshirt, I guarantee you they stand taller and walk with pride in their step – they feel they matter. I can still see little Ava the day after she headed home in a new pair of boots. She showed up the next day in her new boots and said “I wore them to bed so no one would take them.” This is a powerful reminder of how much these items matter.
Kindness is seen all over our workshops as well. Thanks to Bosch, each tool the little builders use has been donated, and sharing that knowledge results in a sense of ‘wow they gave these to us?’ Then we get to have the conversation about how many people believe in them so much, that they wanted them to have the best tools to learn how to build. It’s pretty magical to see their sense of wonder with this conversation. Or the powerful graffiti volunteers have been painting on the shop walls, I am so excited to see the reactions of our little builders!
So if you are interested in joining in this energy of building up our little builders, this week is an opportunity to join forces with so many wonderful nonprofits in the annual ritual of Giving Tuesday. This was started a few years ago as a counterpoint to Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the few days following Thanksgiving, Americans are asked by nonprofits to give of their time, talents and if possible, financial resources to support any number of causes. There are so many nonprofits doing such important work and we’ve been fortunate, more often than not, to find you’ve included our mission of empowering young girls on your important Giving Tuesday list.
While it may be for the charitable aspect – the reality is yes, there are financial benefits to making donations at the end of the year and Giving Tuesday is a timely reminder. But I want to reflect back on the thought of your kindness. It’s your continued kindness, whether through a financial donation on Giving Tuesday or perhaps the value of your time with us on other days during the year that keeps our mission alive. And given that many of us learned that it is not ‘stuff’ but people and experiences that are missed during these days of isolation, nonprofits provide experiences powerful enough to change the narrative for many. And I guarantee that this investment will outweigh any purchase made during these sale days.
Aviation pioneer, Amelia Earhart once said, “A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up to make new trees.” That is a powerful thought and I continue to see it every day. Whether it’s when spending time one on one in the workshops with our teen leaders or when we deliver the “Yes You Can” kits to our younger girls in the inner city; the kindness of your support shows up every day in these girls faces – and makes them stand tall, like the most solid trees that have the support of a strong root system.
I appreciate your kindness, today and every day. If you’re ready to jump into the community of energy that has become our mission, or if you would like to continue building up young girls we are here for you – thank you for being there for us! If you would like to donate during Giving Tuesday here is your link. If you are unable to, no worries. Please reach out in 2021, because once we kick this damn pandemic to the curb, we will be welcoming everyone in to share a cup of coffee or a smile in our new digs, volunteer on some level, join a committee, interview for our board, paint some powerful graffiti on our shop walls, you name it we will have it going on in the millyard. Oh! And lastly, I will be cashing in on so many long overdue hugs -watch out!
Thanks for taking the time to read this. Make no mistake we will come back stronger in 2021, so please stay safe and make those sacrifices to not see folks during the holidays so we can all be #strongertogether in 2021.