Making a Difference Day – It takes a community to make real change happen.

Change is inevitable.

Positive Change is not inevitable.

Real Change requires real work, commitment and a community of support to make it happen.

How many people affect your life or mine without us even really thinking about it?  What would happen without trash collectors, teachers, utility workers, firemen, cooks, mechanics and the list goes on and on?

The same is true in the process of recovery from homelessness. At the Los Angeles Mission our friends and neighbors would not have food, shelter, hygiene or healthcare without donations and dedicated staff and volunteers to make things happen. Recovery program students would be facing endless addiction and despair. Without a community, there would be no Los Angeles Mission on the front lines of the war to end homelessness.

A can of food placed in a student food drive box in Santa Monica makes its way to Skid Row with the help of teacher or parent transportation. That can might find itself in a food box assembled by a volunteer from Manhattan Beach, passed out by a staff member from Inglewood or carried out by a student from the OC.

A warm coat or blanket finds its way to LA on the back of a “Ride for the Cause” motorcycle, collected by a student from Watts, folded and set up for donation by a volunteer group from Canada and given out by a staff member from Glendale.

Students in our recovery programs have meals because someone donated food or funds to the Mission.  Cash was used to buy food from the Regional Food Bank; it was prepared by staff, students and volunteers; it was passed out by a volunteer from a local bank with a greeting of “Good Morning or God Bless You” from another staff or volunteer.

Students learning to read and write or pass the GED are there because a donor purchased computers and software, a staff member turned on the lights and the electric company supplied (for a fee!) the electricity needed. Volunteer mentors, LAUSD teachers and Mission staff helped guide that learning with encouragement and concern.

Students completing recovery get jobs because of staff and volunteers who help prepare resume’s, conduct mock interviews, clear up legal issues or introduce graduates to prospective employers who have come to know of and love student graduates of the Los Angeles Mission. These students were helped along by work therapy, where again staff and volunteers help teach basic skills or encourage others to achieve their personal potential in spite of past mistakes.

The faith community welcomes our students, friends and neighbors into loving relationships that empower, inspire and give moral guidance and direction to many who knew no such a community.

Making a Difference Day should not be that unusual… it should be the norm.

Very often my carpool partner asks me: “Herb, what are you going to do to be great today?”

Great is always defined as what I am going to be able to do to help someone else, not by what’s in it for me. Some days it is encouraging staff or students with faith or kind words, just letting them know that I care. Other days it might be helping a donor achieve their goals by supporting the Mission or others with various types of donations. Or, it might be looking beyond just 303 E 5th St. to study the local and world issues of homelessness, poverty, poor education or incarceration. It is my hope that those I am called to lead might join me in looking outside our day-to-day routines here at the Los Angeles Mission and be part of a larger MISSION.  To end homelessness, eradicate hunger; educate children so they avoid chronic homelessness or incarceration. Breaking generations of “me too” role models that so break our heart and frustrate our donors to sometimes say: “that cause of homelessness, it’s like pouring sand from a bottle – there’s no end!”

Making a Difference Day requires a community committed not just when it feels good, it’s popular or it seems achievable. A community committed to helping our neighbors just like we help our own families, giving because it is the right thing to do. Looking at others who might be in rags pushing shopping carts, not as “them” but as persons of worth, created in the image of God and worthy of our assistance along the journey of life. Otherwise, what is a “human being” other than just the ultimate taker in the food chain?

Make a Difference Today by giving of yourself to serve someone else to make a positive change. Show them that life can be better with hard work and the love of friends and family. Come serve at the Los Angeles Mission to see Real Change occur. Or, go serve at a charity of your choice.  Make a Real Difference 365 days a year!

-Herb Smith, President

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