Love Letter to Maggie Lee
My precious Maggie Lee,
Your 24th birthday is next Thursday and it is still an outlandish thought that you are in Heaven and not here with us. Time marches on and even the movie Legally Blonde turned twenty this year! Speaking of which, Elle Woods Henson was particularly excited by her prominent placement in this year’s T-shirt graphic. She’s so extra, just like her mommy.
It is always so amazing to see the kindness people perform in your name by many who knew you and even more who never did. I cannot wait to see you again and watch you watch the video roll of all of the good deeds your spirit inspired in people. Who knows but that the box of groceries in Detroit or the simple hand-written note in Phoenix was just the touch God used to restore someone’s broken soul. As you know, kindness is not wimpy and sentimental but rather a force both fierce and transformative.
What began as a simple seed to carry on your legacy of love has grown and next Thursday photos will pour in from different parts of the country where your spirit has spread. Four West Point Grads are having a golf scramble in Las Vegas to raise money for Wounded Warriors, crossing guards in Frisco are being assaulted with showers of Little Debbie’s and children in Jackson, MS are being treated at Batson Hospital because of donations someone made in your name. How wonderful is that?
Amid the celebration, however, there will always be an empty seat at our table. Time forever demarcated before 2009 and after. I suppose this is the frightening risk of loving a soul; the possibility that one day it will be gone. Our insides swell at the thought of love, enlarged by the fulfilled presence of another, but desperately deflated should it be taken away. How miraculous to feel the flat disappointment of grief eventually give way to the infilling of God’s grace? Life can almost kill us and then we least expect, catch it being beautiful once more.
I treasure what we had in you, Maggie Lee. Your sparkle remains like glitter found in the baseboards of an old house years after the craft project has wrapped. Your essence is both impossible to remove and ever present. You will always be the undercurrent in my soul when I react out of love and patience when I have the choice to be selfish. You will always be my inspiration to pull up a chair at the lunch table to make room for one more. You will always be one-half of the best things I ever did in my life on Earth and I cannot wait to celebrate you next week!!!
To join the world wide wave of kindness on October 29, simply go to fb group
Maggie Lee for Good
or email email@example.com
#maggieleeforgood #onedayonedeedonedifference #godsgrace #kindnessmatters #grief #daughter #hope #brokenhearted #mourningintodancing #butgod #parenting #parentingtoday #dylandreyer #grievingparents #love #lifelessons #god #help #why? #encouragement #overcoming #thebestisyettobe #motherslove #busaccident #seatbelts
Khaki Fair DO Care
STILL ON A KHAKI HIGH
Over 200 North West Louisiana K-8th graders received school uniforms, a fresh haircut, string pack, book, shiny nails and community services for free at MLC’s Khaki Fair August 4th.
Since the air conditioning units failed the day before, we kicked it box fan and body odor style this year. We may have all sweat like a Ryan Lochte at the Rio de Janiero Police Station but the little people who brought their best manners and grateful parents made me wish I had a billion dollars to buy everyone in the world a uniform.
THIS IS HOW WE ROLL
Clients entered the registration / air conditioned chapel and were seated in rows of ten (the system developed for The Highland Blessing Dinner on Thursday Nights.) After watching the Baby Ella video highlighting the importance of loving words to infant brain development, folks walked to the toasty gym and their children received a uniform in a nifty string pack. This year, The Doctor’s Travis Stork donated those packs to our families.
LEAN ON ME
After uniforms, just to the left of shorty-pants alley was resource row: our blessed community partners including SPAR, Early Steps, Head Start, Early Head Start, Step Forward and Ocean Dental. The back wall was lined with a book give away sponsored by Church for The Highlands which led to a reading wonderland. The Bossier Library showed up hot but happy as kids crashed on the air couches surrounding the magical Tee Pee of Happiness.
YOU’RE SO FANCY
The final leg of Khaki Fair was the favorite of most of our kids. Two stylists and a barber cranked out some fun and fabulous back to school hair. For our girls who did not opt for a trim there was the Super Nail A Team who polished with precision. Super Nail. Upon exit the little people received a drink and a snack and one more admonition to have a great year.
THE REST OF THE STORY
Khaki Fest / Fair is typically around August 2nd, the anniversary of Maggie Lee’s passing. The busier my hands are the happier my heart is at the beginning of this month. The real truth is that all of the Maggie Lee for Good activities for me are nothing short of a Heavenly collaboration. I am inspired by who she was and still is even if she does have a different address.
Five Years of Maggie Lee for Good
Five Years of Good
Maggie Lee for Good Day 2013
Duck Dynasty’s Sadie Robertson Threw out a pitch for Shreveport Little League’s Maggie Lee for Good Invitational in early April. This event raised clothing donations for Maggie Lee’s Closet a free boutique for underprivileged children in Shreveport, LA.
Maggie Lee for Good Day began five years ago after the First Baptist Church of Shreveport bus accident in July 2009. Several of those headed to Youth Camp in Macon, GA were seriously injured and Brandon Ugarte and Maggie Lee Henson were killed as a result. MLfG Day was launched as a way for friends and strangers alike to bring good out of tragedy. So far over 25,000 people have celebrated Maggie Lee’s birthday, October 29th, by performing a kind deed for someone in need.
Each MLfG Day brings heartwarming sights in the Shreveport-Bossier area. “Happy Birthday Maggie Lee!” shoe polished on cars, throngs of kids in MLfG t-shirts, bake sales, school events, and Chick-fil-A Signs encouraging good deeds. Each School in Tifton, GA participates in MLFG Day and last year I was honored to spend their MLfG Day (October 16th,) with them and meet those so passionate about this event honoring someone they had never even met. It was absolutely incredible and thousands of dollars were raised for the Ronald McDonald House in Macon, GA.
Maggie Lee for Good Events once more spanned from Houston to Chicago, Seattle to New York and many locations in between. There were food drives in Tifton, GA, a Doucet Family hot chocolate stand in Flower Mound, TX, FBCS Cheerleaders in MLfG Shirts with Kelly & Michael Show in New York, N.Y., Jessie Keener’s fun run in Fayetteville, North Carolina, senior bingo for The Carters in Dallas,TX, a bake sale in Escuelo Campo Allegre in Carracas, VN and a food drive by students of Mary Hardin Baylor in Belton, TX just to name a few.
Fast-forward to Spring: Community Renewal International’s Maggie Lee Henson Celebration of Caring brought Shreveport’s first flash mob (yes I danced and whoa… was it ever ugly.) The Caring Angel Award was presented to Shalon Lewis and hundreds of Shreveport-Bossier Residents from every walk of life enjoyed a free picnic courtesy of Red Ball Oxygen.
This Spring a year-round opportunity for good was birthed: Maggie Lee’s Closet. Last Fall John noticed children in dire need of uniforms as he officed in The Highland Center. Some of these kids only had one set of clothes to wear Monday through Friday. Starting with just a $500.00 donation of uniforms and a passion to clothe kids, Church for The Highlands volunteers renovated a basement space in The Highland Center to house Maggie Lee’s Closet. Academy-Award Winning Moonbot Studios painted a beautiful mural, a donor gave the mirror, John and our son Jack built the runway stage and uniform and clothing donations came pouring in. MLC is currently open on Thursdays from 3-6 pm to correlate with the Highland Blessing Dinner (a free, hearty homestyle meal).
Maggie Lee’s Closet is a learning experience for the many different children who give their time to straighten racks or Lysol shoes. There has been a tremendous response to the positive benefits of hands-on kindness, perspective-enlarging service which happens in Maggie Lee’s Closet each week. Volunteers from Church for The Highlands, Cathedral of St. John Berchman’s, St. George Greek Orthodox, King’s Highway Christian Church, St. Marks Episcopal, Noel UMC, First Presbyterian Church , FUMC Shreveport, Bel Air Baptist Church, Asbury UMC, Broadmoor United Methodist, St. Joseph’s School, Church of Latter Day Saints, Southfield School, FBCSchool, Caddo Middle Magnet, Byrd High School, Broadmoor Middle School, Eden Gardens, Youree Drive Middle School and Alpha Chi Omegas from LA Tech and others have donated their clothing and time organizing the closet. Cosse-Silmon had a clothing drive for MLC as well. Nearly 500 children have been served in this free children’s boutique where children find love and self-esteem not just a new pair of jeans.
Shreveport Sports Icon Tim Fletcher and Duck Dynasty’s Sadie Robertson threw out pitches for the Shreveport Little League’s Maggie Lee for Good Invitational in April. Clothing donations were collected for Maggie Lee’s Closet.
The book Maggie Lee for Good which we wrote 2 years ago tells the story of loss and God’s ongoing redemption. One night I was struggling to write the closing for a book whose story was ongoing I was stumped. I went to bed and dreamt that Maggie Lee and I were sitting in a closet just talking. She kept interrupting me and saying, “Jesus is so awesome.” When I awoke, I knew that was the one message I needed to communicate. And it still is. Both time and The Holy Spirit have brought healing beyond anything I could ever imagine. Though there are still bleak days there are far more grateful ones as we try to communicate Jesus’ awesomeness through service to the least of these. Please join us…for good.
Please like the face book group https://www.facebook.com/MaggieLeeforGood
for the latest information.
“I Don’t Want Nothin’ Red”
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
The Rest of the Story
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?