Guest Post: An Open Window

20 Jun

Today’s guest post really doesn’t need any introduction. It’s no secret to my regular readers that my main man puts the spring in my step and can make people laugh like it’s his job. By day, he’s changing the world, one child at a time, as the state recruiter, graphic designer and social media dude of AmachiWV. Check them out on their site, Facebook or on Twitter. Enjoy!

–C


Hi guys, while Carly’s out of town, she asked me to write a couple of quick posts that she could put up in the meantime. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m “E”, Carly’s husband. Though my name, and occasional picture, appears on these pages, this is the first time that I’ve had the opportunity to share my words. When Carly mentioned that she wanted a guest post from me, I was excited. It sounded fun and creative and (maybe most of all) EASY. I mean, it’s just blogging, right? But when I was faced with the themes of Live, Laugh, or Grow, I started to think more about what I planned to write and for whom I would be writing. Suddenly I gained immense respect for all the bloggers I’ve read so nonchalantly! I worked over different ideas and takes on those three terms, but a combination of inspiration and situation lead me to this particular topic:

Most of my life, I’ve been a little “different” from my family, friends, and those around me. I grew up in rural West Virginia in a town of less than 5,000 people. Starting out pretty early, I had a different streak. At 4 I became a magician, by fourth grade I was a vegetarian (for a few months), in middle school I started growing out my hair (and never stopped), and by 20 I was in art school with a huge beard and back to my no-meat ways. I read about politics and social equality and I spoke about saving the world while listening to indie rock. I never really did any of the world-saving, but I felt pretty good about things. I mean, my dietary choices had a positive contribution towards a cause I believed in and I made an effort to spend and live in a way that have little to no negative effects…I was doing good!

In time I graduated college and found a job that seemed too good to be true: I would be a graphic designer for a company regularly on the 100 Best Companies to Work For! I had a group of colleagues that I really liked. I certainly wasn’t getting rich, but the benefits were the best in the nation and I made enough to pay the bills. I enjoyed what I did and felt good doing it (we worked in a field of the medical industry that changed lives DAILY). But truth be told, I wasn’t working there to change lives. I worked to make a living, and it was a nice result that our products improved peoples’ quality of life immensely. Either way, things were good and I started thinking about growth, mainly that of my career and paycheck!

However, in the fall of 2009, during a weekly update meeting, we were told that our department had been eliminated and that most of us would need to transfer to lower-level positions within the company or leave entirely. I wrestled with that choice for weeks, weighing the pros and cons of each. Staying meant keeping the benefits, the pay, and some semblance of stability, but I would be separated from the people I enjoyed working with and my cushy design gig would be replaced with long, hard shifts in a factory. The chances of being able to pursue my plan were slim, if existent at all. Leaving, though, would probably mean the loss of great benefits and an unsure future. I wasn’t sure where the growth was, anymore.

An opportunity came along to work with a non-profit agency in another part of the state that just happened to be interested in setting up remote workers in my area! The program was new, but sounded interesting and the job I had my eye on paid almost as much as my previous position! I figured with good results, I’d get a nice raise in no time. I figured I’d found growth!

Long story short, I got the interview and really hit it off with the agency. Unfortunately, though, I was under consideration for a job that would involve no benefits at all, long hours, a 25% pay cut , and a very unsure future (our program had only months to prove itself).

I took the job.

It seemed like the right idea at the time, since I needed a job, and I figured I’d be pretty good at it. I had no idea what I was in for.

I had joined a brand-new start up program that provided mentoring to children who were at risk due to having incarcerated parents, living in a high crime neighborhood, or growing up in areas of significant poverty. Our budget was tight, our staff was small (all two of us), and we had an immense challenge in front of us. I looked forward to fund raising, making marketing campaigns and networking with people through social media. You know, the fun stuff. As the first few months came and went, much of my time went towards those sort of activities. We needed a brand, and I made it. When we decided to have a website, I designed it. I looked forward to those projects and enjoyed every minute of it! It was taking longer than expected to make our matches, but our Facebook page was growing, as was awareness of our program.

As time went on, we started scheduling meetings with incarcerated parents to talk to them about their children. I met men and women that had last seen their children as toddlers, but wouldn’t make it out in time to see their college graduation. It was sobering.

After those meetings, we had completed the infrastructure work that we had needed, and the time came to meet the communities that needed our help. As I called churches and civic groups I began to hear stories about kids in need of our program. Some warmed my heart and others broke it. But more than anything, I was blown away by the sheer volume of them right here in our city.

I’ve substituted the fun design work with meetings at local churches and in “rough” neighborhoods and as I meet with these pastors and children, I feel a connection to them…and to my program. Today I sat with a local reverend in the living room of a house that was the site of a brutal quadruple homicide only a few short years ago. Today that same building is being converted by a local church into a Hope House that memorializes victims of violent crime and provides mentoring for children in the neighborhood.

As I sat there, overlooking the driveway in which four teenagers were gunned down after high school prom, I realized that this was growth. This faith leader was working on the growth of his neighborhood, our partnership could lead to the growth of our two programs, and that this awareness of the people in my neighborhood with real problems was helping me to grow. In the words of Hope House, it was turning tragedy into triumph.

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