One Life At A Time

Just One

People who want to make a difference in the world usually do it, in one way or another. And, I’ve noticed something about people who make a difference in the world:

They hold the unshakeable conviction that individuals are extremely important, that every life matters. They get excited over one smile. They are willing to feed one stomach, educate one mind, treat one wound. They aren’t determined to revolutionize the world all at once; they’re satisfied with small changes. Over time though, the small changes add up. Sometimes they even transform cities and nations, and yes, the world. -Beth Clark

Click to Read Related Posts:

10 Quotes about the Power of One

Sometimes It Takes Just One

Join me on Twitter @DestinysWomen

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

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What Does Love Look Like?

 

“What does love look like? It has the hands to help others.
It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has the eyes to see misery
and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what
love looks like.” –Saint Augustine

 

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Sandy Hook: Community Matters

I began writing this post when thinking about the families who have experienced such great loss in the Sandy Hook shootings. We’ve all read and heard stories surrounding the fateful incident, one that has stirred a gamut of thoughts and emotions in all of us. In the midst of this dark time, I’ve been moved by the significance of community. Not just about being stronger together… but about being better together

History is filled with all sorts of accounts about groups of people who banded together and were strengthened by their numbers, but for all the wrong reasons. I want to bear witness to the people who come together for all the right reasons. Because of their intentions and solidarity, they leave an indelible effect in a community, a place, and a time, because they leave it better for having come together.

Over and over we hear testimonies of people in the midst of crisis who have felt pulled to “be there” for one another, and not just family and friends, but complete strangers. That’s just pure goodness and selflessness in a time when “self” has been so prioritized. How refreshing. One man said he got tired of watching the sadness and sorrow on his television set and decided to go down to where the victims’ families were gathering. In his words, he was compelled to go and just “be present” for strangers in his community. What strikes me about these simple gestures is they’re not about some big strategy about how to rush in and save the day, but simply about “being present” and “being there”.  

It’s about showing up when people need us most; and, it’s about showing up with what is in our hand to give at that moment. Sometimes we miss significant opportunities because we withhold or delay until we think we have “enough” to give. You being present, is enough.

We see an outpouring of compassion during the holidays, strangers being more thoughtful of one another, generosity in giving and also in spirit. It’s the one time of year when collectively, the world is a little kinder and a little gentler.  If only we would take hold of that spirit of generosity and thoughtfulness throughout the year.  One woman said, “After feeling so helpless in the wake of that tragedy, our little family of three decided we needed to do something–anything–to help”. It’s that tugging on our heart strings to treat others as we hope they would treat us if the tables were turned.

“Your strength and compassion (have) been, and will continue to be, an inspiration to me and countless others as we work to honor the memory of your precious children and our beloved staff.” (Note posted by Principal Donna Page on the Sandy Hook School’s website)

Again, it is the simplicity of human kindness that is so often what remains in our memories. Never underestimate the healing power of an encouraging word, holding someone’s hand (even if in silence), and heartfelt prayers. A principal who had experienced violence at his school in the past said, “We remember the love and prayers that were sent to us, and in an effort to pay that kindness forward, we wanted to send to you our love, our hope, and our faith, so that you may heal in your own time from this tragedy.”

When others are too weak, we hold them up. When they are numb, we help them feel. When they are cold, we give them some of our warmth. When they can’t speak, we simply allow them space and time.

Randy Caballero, a young boxer, started an event called Just a Little Something. He said, “When we bring this valley together, we can make anything possible.” So many people stepped up to do something over doing nothing. Sure they felt helpless and impotent to make any real difference. What do you say to a mother who has just lost her baby? What words can possibly comfort at a time like that? The point is, sometimes it’s not about words, or doing just the right thing, it’s about showing up, being there, and not letting those who are suffering suffer alone. From stuffed animals to bracelets, handcrafted items to flowers, balloons and memory books to poems and prayers—every little thing came together to form something very powerful, a community that locked arms (and hearts). The clear and indelible message was, “We are here for each other.”  

When victims’ families receive gifts and love notes with hope-filled words from strangers whose eyes fill with tears and hearts swell with empathy for a grieving mother and father—ones they will never meet–that means something. Fire Chief Stephen MacAdam said, “You see from the events this week, it really is a family, not just in one town, but right across the country”.

Whether it’s a mass shooting in an affluent village in the town of Newtown, Connecticut called Sandy Hook, or at Virginia Tech; natural disasters in now-familiar places like Joplin or New Orleans; or mass devastation and human rights atrocities in war-torn regions in the Middle East, Bosnia, or the Congo, the message doesn’t change. When we are “there” for each other, sharing our courage, faith, love, and resources, our communities are stronger, which means our children are stronger, and we are stronger.

“At the end of the day, the equation is in favor of what is good and what is human and what is giving instead of what takes away.” -Veronique Pozner (Mother of the youngest shooting victim)  Read the Article: “Noah Pozner’s Family Remembers and Mourns”.

The cousin of a Sandy Hook shooting victim wears a bracelet that was given out at his cousin’s funeral. It reads, “Ana Grace. Love Wins.” Yes, it does.

Photo by: ValleyIndy/Flickr

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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Christmas Gifts of Love, Joy & Hope

 

Christmas, the time of year that symbolizes love, joy and hope, is here once again. 

Some of us know Christmas is near from the chill in the air. Crimson leaves have finally fallen. Trees stand still and stark against the bitter cold.  For those of us who enjoy the distinctness of the seasons however, it is a welcome chill that transports us to the warmth of our crackling fireplace sipping warm drinks, enveloped in music, family, festivities and cheer.  Our hearts swell with gratitude as we reflect on the love given and received throughout the year.  Our imaginations flow with dreams and visions for the New Year. Peace and joy abound.

But peace and joy escape many women, especially at this time of the year. Countless women and girls have received little or no love so there is no capacity for reflection, no warm memories to buoy their hearts. They experience another kind of chill. The coldness from a world, that, like the perpetual motion of a merry-go-round at a fair, just keeps going without a care.  

And there are ones who are locked away in the darkness of addiction, the bitter chill of un-forgiveness or some other form of dysfunction. They are not living their potential or destiny. Gripped with fear, self-loathing or pain, they feel powerless and incapacitated. Their hearts and imaginations are strangled by the icy fingers of hopelessness that wrap around them, causing their hearts to grow cold and sometimes, hard.

Life doesn’t stop for anyone. We live in a world that applauds wealth, status, beauty and accomplishment.  But, for many women and girls, the world’s definition of success is not even within their grasp. They are overlooked and in many cases, even viewed with distain. They feel forgotten, abandoned, neglected or unloved. They begin to believe the lie that the beauty, kindness and goodness in the world is not for them.

The orphaned feel abandoned. The abused feel neglected.  The unloved feel unworthy.  The marginalized feel trapped. The used feel shame.  And, those are the “lucky” ones, because many no longer feel anything at all.

But Christmas at its core symbolizes unconditional love, hope for the future, and God making a way (for the forgotten, addicted, dysfunctional, marginalized, abandoned and unloved) when there appeared to be no sign of deliverance or remedy. Gratefully, the ultimate gift of Christmas isn’t for a select or elite few, it is for all people, everywhere.

Don’t get swept up believing that people want to be left alone or that they have a “need” to be independent. Sometimes it’s good to gently press in and invite, welcome, encourage or simply reach out to those in our lives (or even strangers) that need to see the good in Christmas. They need to know someone feels, someone sees, someone cares. Their dreams are worthwhile and their life does matter.  And as long as they have breath, there is hope.  They need to feel the kiss of heaven.

It is with great joy that I will be highlighting several unique ways you can get involved to give the gifts of love, joy and hope to women and girls who desperately need to know that their life matters this Christmas season.  For if not for the grace of God, we could be her.

I challenge you to join me this month in helping in some small way, to ease the pain, soothe the sorrows and reignite the hope of a woman or girl in need.  Let’s put our feet to the street and prove that love does conquer and heal. Make a commitment to yourself (or maybe even take on a project with a group of friends) to love on a sister-friend unconditionally in some special “you” way this season.  I’d love for you to share how you decided to reach out, and how it also touched you in the process!

Who will you reach out to this holiday season by sharing the true meaning of Christmas?

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

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Making Your Moments Count: Living Outside Yourself

Me, Me, Me… It’s all about ME!  Do you know people who talk, act and live with that philosophy?  One word: Boring.  We often hear the phrase: Get a Life — but these people already have a life.  They simply aren’t motivated to do much with it.  At least, not beyond themselves.  A simple scroll through the TV channels, social media pages, advertisements and airwaves will validate that!

A myriad of messages clamor for our attention, vying for our investments and begging us for just one more look at what they have to offer.  And what do they have to offer?  Or should I say, what do they want to sell us?  They tell us they want us to be happier, more comfortable, more sophisticated, more beautiful–richer, sexier, powerful, and more desirable.  All of this, as if to say, they have our “best interest in mind”.

But do they have our best interest in mind?  Will we really feel like a new woman if we use a particular brand of makeup, wear designer clothes, or style our hair in a particular way?  Will we be more satisfied if we live in bigger houses, drive fancier cars, or get invited into an elite social circle? Will the latest romance novel, vacation getaway, event, promotion, award or relationship really satisfy us beyond the moments we spend on them?  Or, do the “satisfaction brokers” really have their own best interest in mind–in large part, to make money? 

MAKING YOUR MOMENTS COUNT

But even with the bombardment of external messages we receive, we still have a choice. We can choose to flit from one self-indulgent, self-medicated, self-serving moment at a time, day in and day out–allowing meaningless “stuff” to fill the moments in our lives; Or, we can choose to invest in our moments by breathing life into the things that really matter and that make the world a better place.

“We can choose to simply live in the moments or choose to make our moments live” –April McCallum

When we choose to make our moments live, we choose to not only be present in the moments of our lives, in essence, but to make conscious choices to make those moments matter.  When we make our moments live, they take on an organic nature allowing them to impact other moments.

By contrast, if we live ingrown lives only to satisfy ourselves, that’s all we’ll get—moments of self-gratification. Woo-hoo, put on your party hats! …Or, not.  Because those moments, like little monsters with insatiable appetites, are always demanding more, and more is never enough.  They bring about an unsettled striving, a perpetual movement from one thing to the next, and the cycle repeats itself.

I like beautiful things, creature comforts, experiencing exciting new places and putting on a party hat as much as the next girl, but there needs to be more than just that.

LIVING ON PURPOSE

I love the term “Living on Purpose” especially when we’re talking about intentionally living beyond ourselves in some way.  “Intentionally” is an action word, a process–in this case, something in positive motion. It’s about being motivated and fulfilled by purposing to make a difference in other people’s lives, by giving rather than just taking.

Because life begets life, our choices and actions pave the way for regeneration.

It’s about women (and people in general) who want their life to count, and the moments in their lives to count. They look for ways to leave a valuable imprint that will act as an inspiration and challenge for others who aren’t quite there yet.

And there’s even a surprise ending.  By living outside ourselves and making our moments count, we always receive a reward–our investment gives back!  Do you want more joy, peace, love or fulfillment in your life?  Simply start making your moments count by living outside yourself.  Invest in the things that really matter.  

“The things that you do for yourself, die with you, but the things that you do for others, live on”

Are you living your life simply for the moments, or are you making your moments count?   

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

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