The full circle of kindness and hope

It was just over three years ago I took a ride through a campground in this county in an effort to discover our hidden population - the homeless. The motivating factor for that ride was for an article to create an awareness - Just weeks before that ride I became rudely aware on just how few resources our county had for someone experiencing homelessness and my awakening came after a friend phoned me needing resources for a relative of her - we could find none. 

The domino effect began - 

I will never forget the emotion that swelled up within me during that drive through the campground.   I knew that I would find what I was searching for but when I did nothing had prepared me for what my eyes saw, and my heart felt. 

Battered and weathered campers used as home base - tents with couches sitting outside by the fire pits - items stored in boxes and bins - obvious signs that the people staying there were not there for a week trip but rather an undetermined time until something better came along - 

-Note that I did go back the next day and speak to some of the people who were staying out there - they did not want to be identified - but did in fact say they were in effect homeless. There are officials in this county who will not be happy that I aired this video -the thing is, this was a truth some wanted to stay hidden - I will say many of the people at this campground would be labeled "chronic" homeless - most of the people we help are not the chronic homeless - a few have been known to have camped here prior to coming to us- 

The tears hit when I saw the toys - the tricycle and dolls strewn about. That is when my heart realized children were calling that campground home. 

I can remember the fear in me. I, being that single mom struggling, and thinking about what life would be like if it was my children living like that - a reality that at the time was not far fetched. 

I thought about a child waking up on Christmas morning shivering in a tent that most likely Santa did not visit. 

Every year since that ride those thoughts and memories come back to me - the reminder that life and so much in it we all take for granted. 


A reminder that for the last three years I have been so blessed with seeing and being part of a group working to provide a hand up and shelter to people and neighbors in need. 

It hasn't been easy. As a matter of fact this cause - the work we do - has at various points in the last three years has been a focus in my life and in my children's life -  

I've cried my self to sleep many of a night when we didn't have the funds to help people. 

I've screamed from the top of an imaginary mountain more than once when politics interfered with the work we try to do. 

Last year at this time I felt helpless when I became ill and couldn't keep up with the demands of the cause - nor my own situation. 

Then there have been the times when I cried tears of joy along with some of the people we've assisted and they had been successful in moving forward and up - their success fed my hope for better tomorrows. 

Over the last three years I've watched my sons go from confused and sad boys who were grieving the loss of their father in their lives all from a hurricane of domestic violence and alcoholism entering our lives  -to confident and caring young men who realize that despite what we do not have, we still have more than many. 

Three years ago I was a woman searching to be a survivor - still absorbing the tragic and violent end to my own almost 18 years of marriage - going from housewife to soul provider overnight in an economy where people - couples - were drowning - to now a woman confident in my abilities and respectful of the growth I've gained. 

That ride just over three years ago led to Lend a Hand being formed - and to it growing into and merging with Grateful Hearts in creating a Circle of Hope

Full circle - 
Here two iLead students shower the baby girl with affection 

It hit me last week when at our center and watching the students of the iLead Charter School here in Mauston being so enthusiastic about volunteering for their community - while there a mom we had helped with shelter for a month came in to relay some good news about being hired at a new job ...with her was her 3 month old daughter. Those students ran to that small infant and scooped her up. The entire time the mother was there that baby girl was in the arms of another child - they all took turns holding the little girl - showering her with affection.  

It hit me - I was witnessing a Circle of Hope. - Full circle. Those students will forever have that memory of holding that small infant and knowing that such a sweet innocent being was once homeless - they will remember that as they grow into adults - they will remember that mother beaming with pride speaking about her new job - they saw that kindness does have it's own reward and they will pay it forward - whether they realize it or not - it is now part of them...their history. 

It's funny how in moments like that - something that may seem fleeting to another can actually be a memory to last a lifetime  - one that will change lives and create better tomorrows and most likely without people realizing it is happening. 

There have been so many times in the last few years I've wanted to give up - walk away - life can do that to a person. It can be so heavy at times you think you just don't have the energy to bounce back one more time. I've come close to that point more times than I have ever shared with others, luckily, for some reason - being surrounded by these stories the past three years - all these people - seeing the kindness in the community - a smile from a stranger - a child with no home, laugh - has been my own Circle of Hope - in those moments when life's hurdles have tripped me the kindness surrounding my world has been my safety net - I know as long as my eyes can see it - take it in - and my heart feels it -  there, in fact, will always be better tomorrows.  



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