Sometimes It Takes Just One

If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one. –Mother Teresa

There are familiar expressions floating around about the power of many. For example, “It takes a village to raise a child”, or “many hands make light work”.  Whether you agree with the first statement or not, I think it’s safe to say, we are stronger when we work together to bring about positive change. The strength may come from a greater capacity to raise funds, solve parts of a problem that you just don’t have the expertise or experience to manage on your own, or it may just strengthen you because you need an emotional support system.

Got Village?

But there are times when there is no village. You haven’t found your “tribe” to go with you. Whether it’s to help the homeless, encourage single-mothers, support widows, feed the poor, or help realize a vision that will empower your community, or simply one life. People around you seem clueless, disinterested, or maybe, just too busy to get involved on a personal level.Whatever the situation, it can feel like you are standing alone. And many times, you are. It can feel like you are in some kind of warped reality. You may wonder why people don’t see what you see, or care, or feel like you do.

So, what do you do with that? What do you do when an opportunity to make a difference in a situation or someone’s life presents itself? Do you walk away with your head down because no one would go there with you? Do you get mad (at who, and why)? Do you back peddle in your mind convincing yourself that maybe it wasn’t such a good idea after all, wondering, “What was I thinking?!?”

Vision for Something Versus Nothing

My good friend Nora had a saying that stuck with me. She said, “If you see the need, you have the gift”. Not that it’s technically true all of the time, but it does make you stop and think. Why do I see this, when seemingly no one else around me does, or not right now anyways? Is it possible that it’s for a reason? And, does it even matter why? Think about it, are you really going to stop because no one would “go there” with you? Does that even make sense?

Maybe you can’t do everything, but you can do something. Maybe you can’t feed or clothe or help educate a community, but you can feed or clothe or help donate to help just one person. It may be something as simple as helping widows with chores, buying diapers or formula for a single mom, giving toward one child’s education, donating a used musical instrument to a child that couldn’t otherwise afford to follow their passion for music. It can be a million things or it can be just one. It may come in the form of money, but it may just be spending time with someone that’s lonely, mentoring, encouraging, teaching, or serving—things that money can’t buy, but that make all of the difference in someone’s life. And because every single individual life makes up a community, the community becomes stronger and better because of it!

Opportunities are Invitations

You may learn about a need in your community through everyday conversation, by reading a story in the newspaper, hearing it on the local news, or from seeing it with your own eyes. You want to get involved and make a difference. Maybe you talk to a friend or two, but they’re not really interested, or they don’t think it’s their “problem”. Maybe you share with a group you’re involved with hoping they’ll see the need like you do and get on board, but they don’t. They may have other pressing projects, or their priorities might not match yours.

Again, what do you do with that?  So, here’s what I want you to think about: if we take our focus off of the “that” (the issue or need) and re-focus on the “you” in the question, it changes how we view it. Imagine the need and imagine the question posed this way: What are YOU going to do with that? Instead of just seeing the issue or need as a problem, it transforms it into an opportunity. Opportunities are invitations. Personal invitations with your name written on them, because you are the one who saw and was moved by the need. This is an opportunity for YOU. Are you going to accept the invitation?

Power of One

Go there anyways. Go alone if you must.  But go with confidence, and a smile in your heart knowing that you saw a need and you did something to make a difference in another person’s life.

Join me on Twitter @DestinysWomen

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™ – “Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

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Mary Kay Beard, Angel on Earth: From Emptying Banks to Filling Hearts

Mary Kay Beard, Founder of Angel Tree

Was she the woman raised in an abusive home, leading a life of crime and danger–wanted by both federal and state authorities and the target of a mafia contract?   Or, was she a benevolent compassionate big-hearted woman who cared for women and children separated physically and emotionally by the prison system, and the breakdown of the family structure? 

Mary Kay Beard was both.  The pain and anger she suffered in childhood set the stage for pivotol choices in her life.  Which road would she take?  By age 27, she became famous–but for all the wrong reasons. Her face became a target for both federal and state law enforcement agencies.

At an age in many young women’s lives when they are finishing college degrees, raising families or embarking on life-changing missions, her destiny seemed set.  She was captured and convicted for armed robbery and grand larceny. Mary was sentenced to 21 years behind prison bars. 

She also spent time in solitary confinement in an Alabama prison. But it wasn’t exactly solitary confinement, because she wasn’t “alone-alone”.  She was alone with her thoughts, her dreams and… God.

In the confines of prison and the confines of her own thoughts, she found herself at another pivotal juncture in her journey. Would she push back her hope of becoming the woman she was meant to be because of the bad choices she’d made along the way? Would she allow herself, or other voices, to silence the dreams that were meant for her because she didn’t feel deserving, capable or good enough to fulfill her own destiny?

It was in that dark place in her life, that she said “yes.”   Yes to the tiny pinpoint of light, the tug on her heart, and that seemingly insignificant amount of hope. She gave what she had to give at that crucial point in time–her faith for something not yet seen.  And in doing so, she met so unexpectedly with a re-written script: A future that was meant for good, and not the presumed destruction of her hope, her life, her dreams.

That’s why Mary Kay Beard, Prison Fellowship staffer and ex-bank robber, began Angel Tree®–an outreach to share the message of love, joy, hope and reconciliation to millions of prisoners’ children through volunteers who deliver gifts on behalf of their incarcerated parents. They reach across the U.S. and 90 countries worldwide. Since the birth of Angel Tree in 1982, it has reached millions of prisoners’ children with the true message of Christmas and the love of Christ.

Families are meant to be together, and when one of us is missing, be it physically, like prison inmates, or even emotionally, like countless other situations–it hurts and children remember.

She is quoted as saying, “I didn’t do it. God did it. I had no idea God could use me after the mess I had made of my life. God is not limited by us in any way.” 

Read: “Rogue Angel” by Judi Werhanowicz, The spiritual journey of one of the FBI’s ten most wanted — the official biography of Mary Kay Beard’s life experiences.

Watch the Video Clip: “The First Angels – Mary Kay Beard”

Related Articles: “Angel Tree: Gifts of Comfort & Joy for Children of Imprisoned Parents”, “Christmas Gifts of Love, Joy & Hope”and “Angels on Earth: Advocates of Freedom”

As promised, I will be highlighting organizations throughout the remainder of the year that offer unique ways to give the gifts of love, joy and hope to women and girls in need. Share the true spirit of Christmas and, spread the love… Tell a friend! 

To learn more about how you can continue to spread the light of hope to the hopeless through Angel Tree®, call 1-800-55-ANGEL or visit the website 

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™ – “Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

(Photos by Prison Fellowship)

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Angel Tree: Gifts of Comfort & Joy for Children of Imprisoned Parents

One in three prisoners is a parent, and about 75 percent of women in prison are mothers. One in every 43 children has a parent in prison, which means more than 1.7 million children will spend Christmas separated from their incarcerated mom or dad.

Oftentimes, the child doesn’t know or understand why their parent is in prision, only that they feel abandoned, forgotten or left behind.  Families are meant to be together, and when one of us is missing, be it physically, like these prison inmates, or even emotionally, like countless other situations–it hurts and children remember.

Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree®, is a unique program that works by connecting parents in prison with their children through the delivery of Christmas gifts.  Gifts are wrapped and delivered to the children, usually with a personal card from the child’s imprisoned parent.

Children of incarcerated parents can struggle with feelings of anger, abandonment, loneliness and despair. A simple Christmas gift from their absent parent can show a hurting child that even though they are absent physically, they are not absent in their hearts and minds. These simple gestures can help overcome the feelings these children carry of being rejected or unloved, bringing even greater gifts of comfort and joy. 

“Every time a parent goes to prison, their sentence is also a form of punishment for their children. These kids don’t necessarily understand why their parents are not with them for the holidays. They only want to be with their parents, and to feel their parents’ love, just as any other child would during this special time of year” –Jim Liske, CEO of Prison Fellowship

At 10, Robert watched his dad handcuffed and driven away to prison. To keep the family afloat, Robert’s mom packed up and moved them from their comfortable home in the country to a gang-ridden urban neighborhood. As she struggled to put bread on the table, she warned her children that Christmas might not look like much that first year without their dad.

On Christmas morning, Robert woke up to find a bare room and his mother crying on the couch. He went over to her and wrapped his arms around her. He told her that he did not mind that they didn’t have any gifts; that they were not all that important.

But her tears were tears of joy. She told Robert to go look out on their front porch. There he saw gifts piled high, some with labels with his dad’s name on them. They were Angel Tree gifts, given by volunteers from a local church. But Robert did not know that at the time. All he knew was that his dad loved him and remembered him.

 A Little Angel Tree History…

In 1982, Angel Tree® debuted in Birmingham, Ala., when Mary Kay Beard, an ex-prisoner, received permission to erect Christmas trees in shopping malls to recruit shoppers to purchase presents for prisoners’ children. Beard, who served part of a 22-year sentence for burglary, grand larceny, and robbery, said she spent six Christmases in state prison watching women gather soap, shampoo, and toothpaste they received from charity groups to wrap and give to their kids as gifts. “I realized that children don’t care as much about things as they do about being loved,” Beard said.

And on visiting day at the prison, instead of the kids turning up their noses at such simple gifts, “there was such joy on their faces,” Mary Kay remembers. “It didn’t really matter to them what they got–it was from Mama!”

Related Article: Mary Kay Beard, Angel on Earth: From Emptying Banks to Filling Hearts

As promised, I will be highlighting organizations throughout the remainder of the year that offer unique ways to give the gifts of love, joy and hope to women and girls in need. Share the true spirit of Christmas and, spread the love… Tell a friend! 

To learn more about how you can continue to spread the light of hope to the hopeless through Angel Tree®, call 1-800-55-ANGEL or visit the website 

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™ – “Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

(Photos by Prison Fellowship and Seeds of Hope Ministries)

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Angels on Earth: Advocates of Freedom

Was there a special person in your life who was your “Angel on Earth” – someone who helped you through a bleak season in life, through your dark night of the soul?

In a world filled with beauty, wonder, goodness and promise there also lurks a simultaneous undercurrent of darkness and despair. While some pockets of humanity thrive with life, freedom and joy others groan under the crushing weight of abuse, addiction and other dream killers.

Some of the threat simply comes from the consequences of neglecting to steward the earth and the people who live in it, while some comes from the intentional abuse and exploitation of others. Sadly, it often comes through illness, disease or as a devastating byproduct of personal choices. No matter how you slice it, all are oppressive. 

Our Personal Paths to Freedom

Women who endure suffering know that whatever path brought them to that place where they find themselves standing amongst the shadows in the dark—it is real and it is personal.

Our loved ones may or may not understand or even be fully aware of their pain; and in some cases, the pain that they are causing others.  Trapped in various forms of oppression–peace and hope are elusive. The possibility of freedom and wholeness appear to be lost forever.

That’s when angels on earth—real life people like you and me—have an opportunity.

Vision and Hope

Looking from the outside in, we may not know or understand the root causes that have brought our sisters to that place of pain, disillusionment or dysfunction—those things that keep them from living their life to its fullest. And, we may not feel what they feel, but we have eyes to see. Eyes to see how living in their personal prison is robbing them of their destiny. That vision gives us the opportunity to advocate, bring comfort and instill hope.

“Friends help put the sparkle back in each other’s eyes” –April McCallum

 

We have faith to imagine a future for them that they could never imagine for themselves. We find strength in our own weakness by daring to step out of our own comfort zone and go there for a greater cause. What a privilege to understand that we just might hold the key that helps unlock the door to someone else’s personal destiny.

“If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain:
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain, Or help one fainting robin
unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain” –Emily Dickinson

Maybe you’ve heard the expression: What you wish you could do for the world–do for just one.  What does that look like in your life?

Angels on Earth – Humans with Halos

Have you ever been given the opportunity to be the vision, the hands or the hope for someone who was trapped in their own personal prison, and because of you, they have been set free? Or, did you have an an “earth angel” that shared their heart with you, who had enough faith to cover you during a dark season of your life, and because of them–you are now on the path to living out your destiny?

There is a proverb in the Bible that says: “…He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed” –Proverbs 11:25.  To refresh is to restore strength and renew supplies. In planting we give life, and in the process of giving we receive. Give what is in your hand to give and let heaven take care of the rest.

© By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women

(Photos by lunamom58paparutzi)

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