There is so much truly bad news in the headlines today. On Monday a student at Sparks Middle School in Nevada armed with a semi-automatic weapon killed a teacher and wounded two others. Between tragedies like that and rediculousness like Miley Cyrus’ dance moves its easy to be discouraged about this generation of kids. But there are so many more quietly living impactful lives, doing good for others in need and living lives of character. Here are a few who have made a difference.
￼Shreveport 8th Grade Cheerleaders have raised over $1,500.00 for pediatric brain injury support groups on MLfG Day through their snack stands. They met Live! hosts Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan and shared their MLfG story in New York last year.
Contact: Petra Barber:
Sixth-grader Kathleen and fourth-grader Meredith Doucet of Flower Mound, TX held a hot chocolate stand on MLfG Day in 2012. They raised $400.00 for Maggie Lee’s Closet. They will again be selling hot chocolate for good on November 2nd.
Contact: Colleen Doucet:
video of hot chocolate stand:
Every year High School Sophomore Jessie Keener sponsors the Maggie Lee for Good Costume fun run to benefit North Carolina Organ Donation services. The athletic beauty queen will again have a fun run on October 27th at Fayetteville Christian Academy. This year’s event is MLFG 4 EJB- dedicated to another young girl Emmi Barbaro (pictured above) who passed away this year who embodied the one day, one deed, one difference spirit.
Contact: Millie Keener:
The Ponder boys of Shreve Island Elementary are holding a book drive for Maggie Lee’s Closet and recruited Eden Gardens and South Highlands to join them. Benjamin Ponder did 10 good deeds on his 10th birthday: one of them was working in Maggie Lee’s Closet.
There is good being done in the world. Despite the sensationalism of the bad, rest assured that this generation has those looking beyond themselves and their phones to make a difference.
I am rich in fabulous women friends. Filthy rich. Like Fortune 500 and Forbes List have a baby named Oprah who marries Bill Gates kinda rich. Re-Itch. Today God sent a barrage of love notes to me in the form of these women.
During last night’s thunderstorm I raised the blinds, got a pillow, shucked my bra and watched the storms roll in. The lightening and rain were a glorious sight. The show reminded me of my Senior year in college when Jen, Gina, Stork and I would hear thunder, drop our homework, light taper candles in Clearly Canadian bottles and experience the storm. It didn’t take much to pull us away from the books and after a few moments of silence into deep discussions. Common themes covered were which one of us had the best shot at a Nantucket wedding with the Waspy J.Crew model and how Christie Brinkley could still look 18.
Our Senior year was all about cookie parties where we invited 50 guys and no girls and Scott Phegley’s guitar on the roof outside the storm-watching window. “Wow-this screen pops right out!” was my discovery the day I moved in and the screen wasn’t returned to its rightful place until the day I moved out after graduation. It took no time for us to designate the roof as the premiere hang out for us and 10 of our closest friends. We felt like such avant garde, naughty little hippie Baptists sitting on the roof of our condo drinking Purple Saurus Rex sugar free kool aid, singing and all. (and what I mean by kool aid is actual kool aid embarrassingly enough and not code for trash can punch. ) Our harmonizing at times warranted the broom banging from our first floor neighbors, a non-verbal request to ratchet our kum ba yah down a notch. There was a fleeting, unique texture to those days. Perhaps the texture of composite roofing particles embedded in our Umbro shorts.
I group-texted my three room mates last night as I remembered our roof times. Though once scattered half-way round the world, we now live within just 4 1/2 hours of each other. Last night’s message spilled over into today’s ongoing conversation: true status updates and prayer requests too personal to ever launch out there on Facebook. The disentangling of a relationships, concerns for our kids and the need for God’s specific intervention in medical conditions of friends we know. What began as a throw-away “I’m missing you women! I totally realized that I have a roof here and I want you to come sit on it with me when John isn’t looking” expanded into a deeper level of communication wrapped in echoes of encouragement.
I emailed my faithful 7th grade friend Colleen when sleep escaped me. I knew she would sew my concerns in the soil of God’s keeping and not leave them fallow in her Gmail account. Four years ago when tragedy struck, Colleen and each of my dear friends rallied around us in Jackson, Mississippi. When Colleen eventually returned home to Texas and we remained in Mississipppi, she stayed up praying for us all night long while I watched a ventilator breathe for my first born. She texted me Bible verse after Bible verse after Bible verse of hope. She said she was committed to go through this with me and she certainly did. Likewise just three years later I had the privilege of being with her in Houston the day her Mother died. I told Mary Grace that she looked sexy in her night-gown which evoked one of her last smiles on Earth. Colleen and I have walked down the intimate thoroughfare of loss with each other. We are sisters born for joy as well as adversity.
My friends are sweet enough to share their daughters with me. They encourage the girls to friend me on Instagram and engage in other potentially embarrassing-to-them behavior. They allow me to help with paint colors, encourage rainbow loom bracelet production and ask for my help with humorous monologues for acting competitions. One asked for prayer coverage for her daughter’s brain surgery and believed me when I said that God knows I can’t walk through this again so I’m sure she’ll be fine. And thankfully Kathryn has been.
As if this bumper crop of true friends slogging through the joys and pitfalls of life weren’t blessing enough, a brand-new friend came to help in Maggie Lee’s Closet today. Petite yet strong she hauled her weight in bags upstairs to Joe Cooper’s van. We get credit for the bags of pajama bottoms and leisure suits which kids cannot use but Goodwill can. This is a program my friend Tina made us aware of. Amy and I did the heavy lifting and then rewarded ourselves with a trip to Starbucks. She had my respect when she decisively picked a table outside while I aimlessly fiddled with my straw wrapper. I left feeling like I had been in the presence of an honest, caring woman the likes of which fill my life.
While we sipped passion fruit tea and solved the world’s problems, my phone was on silent. It so happened that during that hour I had missed calls from not one but two women asking if I still needed help with hauling Goodwill bags. Upstairs. Both of these women called between other obligations and told me that they could help on their lunch hour if I still needed them. These are women whose full plates do not outstrip their desire to serve the least of these. Both Peyton and Michelle stood ready to give of the little free time they had.
My day also included Lee carpooling Jack to football, a task which Stephanie, Ashley and I share. Mostly to eavesdrop, I’m not gonna lie. This freed me up to spend time with The Lighthouse Kids. Even though Jeremiah asked me disgustedly why I was wearing the same t-shirt I wore last week, I felt the love. After that I had an exchange of text messages with my wonderful Mom who is more tech savvy than I ever imagined. Let’s just say she’s got the selfie down pat and we rejoice that the era of the throw-away camera is a distant memory for Mimi. A second new player in my life, Emily, brought her two little girls to work in Maggie Lee’s Closet as well. Though her kids are only in second grade and pre-K, she wants them to be a part of something bigger than themselves. A virtue present in all of the significant women in my life.
I am ridiculously blessed with a group of secure and loving women, confident in who they are, faithfully living out the imperfect life which God has given each one of them. They voluntarily link arms with the likes of me down this yellow brick road which is sometimes flying-monkey-infested. They love me, correct me, believe in me and inspire me. And somehow, ridiculously enough, I do the same for them. Though life is not at all what I thought it would be on that roof 20 years ago, even still I am richly blessed with friends excited to watch the storms of life pass with me.
I get to work Thursdays at a job I love as volunteer coordinator for Maggie Lee’s Closet: a fabulous and free children’s clothing boutique in a basement room of The Highland Center in Shreveport, Louisiana. Renovations to the space began a year ago and even before the paint could dry, gently used clothing donations came pouring in. The closet is recycling in its most beautiful form; people give gently worn kids clothes to those who desperately need them. We fill in essentials like uniforms, socks and undies through monetary donations (the beautiful Briery girls on the left along with friends Georgia, Anna & Sally) held a lemon & loom stand and raised close to $60.00 for MLC!)Thanks to Moonbot Studios’ brilliant mural, clothing donations and hundreds of volunteer hours the place sparkles like a high-end boutique. And I get the glorious job of helping kids shop and watching deeply relieved parents check an item off of their burden lists.
Last Thursday a volunteer Maggieleesta and I had the privilege of outfitting two kids who had recently lost everything in a rental house fire. While Beth helped the youngest with uniforms and play clothes, I loaded up big brother with things he would need this Fall. I am acutely aware that a loud white woman holding up boxers and bellowing, “these gonna work?” may be seen as embarrassing to some so I try to be discreet with the undertreasures. Try. In this case I just pointed him in the general direction of the drawers and told him to grab what he needed. The eighth grader was humble, hesitant to take anything and truly grateful. Kids like that can have last penny. I LOVE serving polite young people and have met throngs of them in this endeavor.
After taking my client next door to Men’s Gear for khakis that would fit, (sometimes our eighth graders are grown men) I got to know the single Mom and hear a little bit about her story. She told me that the best clothes her kids had were the uniforms she had received from MLC during Khakifest last month. Then the fire happened. When I asked how the blaze started, she answered in a matter of fact tone. She plugged an extension cord into a rarely used bedroom outlet and went to the kitchen. When she returned the room was full of smoke. She grabbed her boys, called 911 and got out. With just the clothes on their backs. Now a few weeks into school her family was left with nothing. “We’re gonna make it though. We’re gonna make it.” She repeated in a calm, persevering tone like this was clearly not the biggest challenge she had ever faced.
While I listened to this woman who lost the little she had to begin with I was struck by her composure. In just a few days she had taken steps to find a new home for her children and replace some furniture. Today she would secure uniforms and wash those the boys had been wearing which still smelled of smoke. While I was enthralled in the survival story, Beth was on the other side of the closet having the real fun. In full-on personal shopper mode she stationed herself in front of the size ten tops, offered shirt after shirt to the younger brother and tried desperately to elicit feedback. Any feedback. Think: help me help you. The distracted little guy was tunneling through the clothes rack like The Caddyshack gopher when the next suggestion stopped him cold in his tracks. Beth took a plain red Polo and held it up in his direction. “Ok, how about this one? Can you see it? What do you think?”
Crooning his neck he popped out of the circular rack and offered a firm “No. M’am.” She thought he was simply being picky but his emphatic reply was quickly explained as he continued.
“No red. Red is for Bloods. I don’t want nothin’ red” The third grader stated as he dismissed the crimson shirt and burrowed on. Beth swallowed hard and persevered, suggested a few more items until little man found something he liked. She bundled up the uniforms, socks, briefs and street clothes and tucked them neatly in his bag.
They thanked us, left and as I filed away their application alphabetically in our client book Beth relayed the story of the red shirt. It was arresting to think that this child was already aware of the specifics of gang violence. At just eight years of age, he already knew that the wrong color shirt could cost you your life. Eight. What must daily life look like for this child? He is not in a dangerous foreign country but rather in my city where my child goes to school with no fear of mortal repercussions for his wardrobe choice.
I realize that I cannot solve the expansive litany of this city’s much less this world’s problems with gently used jeans and even the cutest of T-shirts. So many needs abound that it can be utterly paralyzing. But we can in this small way through lemonade stands, closet clean-outs and volunteer hours be somebody’s answered prayer. In this case the answered prayer of a determined Mother striving to protect, educate and provide for her children.
“Never believe that a few caring people cannot change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.” -Margaret Mead
In my last post, I wrote about the profound impact your donations to Maggie Lee’s Closet have had on children in our community.
I mentioned one girl who was on the brink of expulsion for removing her undies at school. This “discipline problem,” you will recall was the result of ill-fitting undergarments, not a disrespectful temperament.
Ms. Linda, the social worker who came to the closet seeking clothing, delivered the bag of undies, clothes & uniforms a week ago Saturday.
Our precious little friend was hysterically happy. She excitedly gathered the bag as if it contained the holy grail, asked Ms. Linda to stay in her home and bolted down the street to show the nearest neighbor her miracle.
The look on the precious faces of these children who receive a new uniform and a beautiful outfit is that of your child when they are chosen for All-Stars, win the talent show or are celebrated with a huge birthday blowout.
To those kids who do without on a perpetual basis, the simple gift of a new outfit is a miraculous thing. And I get to see this unfold every week.
How blessed am I?
Brad Russell of Faith Village wrote about Maggie Lee for Good.
Read more here
Gina Rhodes Carter is one of my Steel Magnolias. She was my roommate for two years at Baylor and two years at seminary. Beautiful and sweet beyond sweet, when John and I began dating and he would tell people that he was dating Jinny, they would say,”Oh, you mean Gina, the sweet one?”
For some reason sweet was preferable to stand-up comic for guys going into the pastorate….who knew? I completely agreed that Gina was indeed the sweet one and she has only become more so with age.
Gina is a wife, mom and works on staff at a church in Austin. Her MLfG project this past October was a cake walk. She rounded up her neighbors and church friends, collected brownies and cranked out cobblers. She raised money for greendoors.org a place where survivors of domestic violence can live until their children reach 18.
Pictured here is a friend of hers in front of her beautiful, safe home. What a wonderful ministry to the least of these.
Life is many times far from a cake walk but we have the time, energy and talent to help carry another’s burden. Will we?
Sometimes life is surreal in awful ways and sometimes life is surreal in just plain wonderful ones.
Maggie Lee for Good the movement turned paperback is proof of that.
Last Wednesday Night was one of those surreal moments. As I sat and listened to Lauri tell the story of losing her 12-day-old daughter and quote words from the book back to me, it was a wonderfully odd sensation. I was burdened by her great loss yet thankful that she found comfort this book.
It seems my main ministry bent in life has been reminding people how deeply God is in love with them. I felt in High School that God really just got a bad rap; like I had this secret which drew me into seeing God in a little different way. Not that I had earned that intimacy but that somehow God gave me this profound knowledge that He was real and actively loving me as well as those around me each day.
Like an inside joke almost was this relationship I excitedly shared, not to win people over to my way of thinking but just to express the profound truth that God is crazy about each of us. Mainly that if God could love someone like me then you are totally in like Flynn.
Jaimie, a friend I met through Maggie Lee’s Caringbridge site three years ago has been longing to express God’s love to a coworker of hers. She wrote this to me this week;
“I have a coworker who always makes sarcastic comments about Christianity. I’ve been praying for her and looking for ways to reach out to her with God’s love. Last night after work, she made a remark and I felt prompted to take out my Maggie Lee for Good book as the best way to start the conversation. I started reading and she immediately asked what I was reading. I began telling her about Maggie Lee and offered to let her borrow it. She started crying by page 3. I know that God will use His word to plant a seed in her. Maggie Lee for Good.”
Honestly there are millions who are sullied about Christianity and probably some valid reasons why they are. But, as the story we have unfortunately been entrusted with explains, God still loves us. Yes, God allows horrible tragedy. He doesn’t intervene to compensate for the poor choices we make as human beings but even that free will is a loving gift which in his generous restraint he gives.
Maggie Lee for Good was a labor of love for us. I felt an obligation to put down on paper the agony of losing part of my soul and the ecstacy of watching thousands of friends and strangers do a good deed on her birthday. Whether 100 or 1000 people wanted to read the book really didn’t matter to me as it was the only item on my bucket list when I began over 18 months ago.
To our amazement within a week, Maggie Lee for Good cracked the Amazon top 50 for Christian Living Hot New Releases. People like Jaimie have reached out to us to tell us how God has reminded them of his love through this little blue book.
Completely above and beyond expectation.
Bossier City Chick-Fil-A is again participting in MLFG this year and I wanted to encourage you to go by on Maggie Lee for Good Day on October 29th and Eat More Chicken.
For their good deed, they are spreading the word this week with MLFG “Bag Stuffers,” ( new term to me….apparently those slips of paper that come in your CFA bag) encouraging their devotees to do a good deed on October 29th.
Who knows, you may be one of the lucky souls who gets your meal free on Maggie Lee for Good Day!
Betsy Sone Jones was my Baylor roomate. She was the subject of my post, “Just Don’t Look at it, Betsy!” which referred to our Freshman 15 which she has now marathoned off of herself. I have done no such thing. It is good for a comic to have some flaws.
This MLFG Day her school, Annie Bell Clark Primary in Tifton, GA, will once again hold a food drive. While our son like many of your kids cannot wait for the weekened to play sports, have blow out birthday parties and go to the movies, over 100 of ABC students face homes with an empty food pantry. A few years ago, Northside B.C. of Tifton, was made aware of this situation and stepped in with a creative solution to this problem.
Every Friday, kids are discreetly given a sack of groceries to stick in their backpacks so that they will not go hungry until Monday morning. Things like Granola bars, beanie weenie and fruit cups. Because the need has increased so significantly, ABC is collecting food which will go directly to this program.