Changing perspective on life as we know it
By Russell Chiles - Guest Column
April 19, 2017 at 4:12 p.m.
On March 3, my life was forever changed: I was let go from a job that I loved.
You see, this could not have come at a worse time for me and my family. We find ourselves halfway through the construction of our dream home, but now we wonder if the reality of owning it will come to fruition.
During the last month, I have lived in a state of despair and hopelessness, spending every waking hour networking with peers and long lost business contacts, endlessly filling out applications online for my next career adventure and feeling sorry for myself every minute in between.
April 6, something inside me has now changed - all thanks to my 11-year-old daughter, Audree.
Audree, a fifth-grader and softball enthusiast, and her friend, Sophia Balmer, started a project at their school a couple of weeks ago that they named "New Water, New Hope," to gather donations of bottled water to help restock the local homeless shelter.
When Audree first asked me about this, I was apprehensive but told her that she had my blessing. Yesterday, they were featured on the front page of our weekly local newspaper, telling the community about their project and asking for donations.
I thought about the panhandlers that I used to see at the overpasses on my way to work and how hard I tried to avoid making eye contact with them. I guess I have held a false sense of entitlement, seeing them as beneath me and writing them off as just another burden to society. After all, why in the world would my smart, driven 11-year-old daughter of successful, degreed parents want to help people who did not want to help themselves?
Today it hit me. I was able to now see what Audree saw.
I now currently make the same wages as those homeless people I tried to ignore before. I, too, need help, have felt the same helplessness they do and do not know exactly how to navigate this chapter in my life. I need that same encouragement and a hand up.
As I pulled into the drop-off line at Audree's school this morning, I saw something amazing that I have never noticed before. Parents were walking their kids into school today just like they do every day, but I saw that some of them were carrying in cases of bottled water. I also noticed that most of the parents bringing in the water unloaded them from vehicles that were aged between Audree and myself. Most of the people donating to her cause were also those on the lower rungs of the socioeconomic ladder. I was floored. Those with the least donated the most.
I drove away in silence with tears streaming down my face. My daughter and her project taught me a valuable lesson about what really matters in life: Loving and caring for all people regardless of who they are, where they are in life or where they come from.
I now have a new perspective and truly understand what Jesus meant when he said, "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."
We should make it our daily mission in life to see the world through the lens of our children and share our blessings that God gives us with those who need a blessing.
I know that God has a plan for me. I have faith that I will soon find a position with a great organization where I will continue my career growth and fulfillment, and my life will once again resume to a sense of normalcy. But, I will always keenly remember exactly how I feel in this moment: grateful that I have a family that loves and supports me, blessed by an eternal and loving God who has a plan and future for my life, and a new passion for helping those around me who need it, regardless of how different our lives may be.
Update: We were overwhelmed when we walked into Edna Elementary School on April 7 to pick up the donated water and saw exactly how much had been collected. We loaded up a total of 1,870 bottles of water that lined the hallway, and purchased an additional 896 bottles with cash donated from groups from First United Methodist Church of Edna. We delivered a total of 2,766 bottles to Mid-Coast Family Services, Women's Crisis Center, Matagorda County Women's Crisis Center and the Food Bank of the Golden Crescent.
Russell Chiles is a GIS (Geographic Information Systems) evangelist with over a decade of experience based in the Houston suburbs. He is a husband, a father to three daughters, a blogger and considers himself to be a "tech junkie." He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.