Posted by: joshjasper | May 18, 2015

Hold My Hand

I was driving to work when I heard Dick McGrane on Dubuque’s Super Hits 106.1 talking about the tragic fire that took place at Camp Albrecht Acres and the need for meat at the Dubuque Rescue Mission. He directed people to their respective websites and he quickly transitioned to some Hootie and the Blowfish. The guitar solo began and I waited for Hootie’s voice to break in while wondering if Dick meant to play this song after that news story.

“With a little love and some tenderness. We’ll walk upon the water, we’ll rise above the mess. With a little peace and some harmony, we’ll take the world together, we’ll take ’em by the hand. Cause I’ve got a hand for you…”

It was just the other day when we received a request for the community to support a woman who had became pregnant due to a sexual assault. I thought about it for a bit and suggested we organize a community baby shower for the mom. “This was going to be easy,” I thought. The community will most definitely respond in a very positive way for this woman. The baby shower is tomorrow and I would bet by bottom dollar that she will be absolutely overwhelmed by the generosity of complete strangers.

It’s going to be like Jim all over again. Remember him? He’s the guy that lost his electricity three years ago due to his house burning to the ground and just a few months ago the community rallied behind him and got him back on his feet.My guess is that it’s going to take 2-3 carloads for this mom to get all of her presents back home.

Hootie’s lyrics are coming back to me now and I’m reminded about the last time I met with Jim. He was happy to receive the additional donations, but was most excited to see me and to meet my son Isaac….”with a little love and some tenderness, we’ll walk upon the water, we’ll rise above the mess. With a little peace and some harmony, we’ll take the world together, we’ll take ’em by the hand.”

The food, the clothes and of course getting the electricity turned back on were life changing for Jim, no question. But if you ever get the chance, ask him what meant the most and what helped him “rise above the mess.” He’ll tell you it was the personal contacts he made throughout the process.  Jim would talk about the hope that once again fills his heart, not the donations that fill his camper.

I can tell you with absolutely certainty that the woman who receives all of those gifts tomorrow during that baby shower will be overjoyed. It won’t make sense to her. She may feel a sense of support that she has never experienced before. My hope for her though is that she also receives what she most desperately needs.

Don’t get me wrong, the donations that Jim received and the gifts that this mom will get tomorrow are important. They’re critical. But they are not enough. She needs more. You know what she needs?

She’s needs a handful of Stacy Raap’s. Do you remember Stacy?

Maybe you remember the single mom with four kids that was living in their car on White Street. Once again, the community rallied beyond comprehension for this family. But something really special happened that I didn’t see coming. Stacy Raap happened. Stacy and a few other women became friends and mentors of this mom in need. They stayed long after myself and many others dropped off their donations. They helped her move forward and reminded her that she wasn’t going to be alone again. Ever.  I think those women saved that mom and those four kids lives. I really believe that.

“Yesterday, I saw you standing there. Your head was down, your eyes were red, no comb had touched your hair. I said get up and let me see you smile. We’ll take a walk together, walk the road awhile, cause…

Cause I’ve got a hand for you…Hold my hand.”

Posted by: joshjasper | April 29, 2015

Baltimore is NOT an anomaly.

For four years I believed that I was one of the toughest SOB’s on the planet.  I was/am a United States Marine.  My first two years I was stationed in southern Maryland on a Navy base responsible for guarding assets vital to national security.  Every single day we were reminded that today could be the day.  Today could be the day that terrorists take over our small base and try to steal an airplane.  And we ate it up.  Hook, line and sinker.

Each Marine had a 9mm pistol holstered to their leg and a Mossberg 590 shotgun on their shoulder. The Marines that guarded the fence line carried M-16’s.  We also carried pepper spray, a gas mask and had gone through countless hours of hand to hand combat training.  Should someone make the mistake of traveling to the sleepy town of Lexington Park, Maryland with the intentions of taking an airplane that they would never be able to get off the ground, we were ready to unleash hell on Earth without a moment’s hesitation.

After fulfilling my two years in Maryland, I was relocated to 29 Palms, California.  I was a machine gunner and this is where Marines went to train for war.  Temperatures would sometimes reach a smothering 130 degrees on the desert floor. We didn’t care though.  We eagerly waited to see the black flag raised on our base.  Black flag days meant that it was too hot to train outside and all work would be done at night.  For us though, that flag represented an opportunity.  We would sneak out after lunch during these days and go for a 3 mile run with our flak jackets on.  We ate nails and broken glass for breakfast.  Each morning we would dress in our military fatigues, ride out to the training area in our Humvees and fire thousands and thousands of rounds through our weapons of mass destruction, while sometimes secretly hoping that some day we would be asked to use our specific skills outside of the training area.

(the Marine standing on the right holding a M-16 with K-Bar in his mouth is me)

Marines 29

Every Monday morning in Maryland and in California looked the same.  Fellow Marines received consequences for starting fights in a local bar or even with each other, for damaging property and for domestic and sexual assault.  But I mean, what did they really expect?  You can’t be a life-taker and a heart-breaker just during the week, right?  Some of that is bound to spill over.

That’s what they created.  That’s what they wanted.

As I watch the local law enforcement in Baltimore enforce a nightly curfew driving Humvees with rifles in hand, I am reminded of my days in the Marine Corps.  I have some great memories.  I am incredibly proud of being a Marine.  But for a period of time, I lost my identity.  I became someone I am not.

I wonder about the men and women of the Baltimore Police Department.  When they signed up they probably envisioned days and nights of protecting and serving the communities they love most. They joined to be a peace officer, not a warrior.  I doubt anyone dreamed of learning how to drive a tank through their neighborhood or how to identify civilian targets through the scope of a sniper rifle.

What have we created and why?  Who are we at war with?  The consequences for this transition are obvious and will most definitely continue to spill into every community across the country.  Baltimore is not an anomaly.

Posted by: joshjasper | April 23, 2015

Car Seats, Cash and Connection.

Creed called.  I could tell by the tone in his voice that he was upset.  I asked what was wrong and he told me about what his wife had experienced the night before.  My heart began to race and I could feel the blood rushing to my face as he described how she came across a lonely six-year-old child wandering the streets, lost and alone.  He was scared and disconnected from everyone.  She couldn’t understand how anyone could let this happen and was determined to get him back home.

It was the same night that a couple of teens were found firing guns at one another in a local park.  “With children lost in the streets, why is anyone ever shocked when those same kids years later are trying to get the attention of anyone; willing to do whatever it takes to get noticed?”  I was upset now.

I met with Jennie from Reach and Rise the very next day.  I turned in my application to become a mentor and answered a few questions about my background.  She shared with me that there are nine young men waiting to be matched to a male mentor.  Not one of those young men had a father figure in their lives.  I don’t know any of them, but in a way I do.  I’ve worked with enough kids in that position long enough over the years.  They desperately longed for a connection that most of us have had, and have taken for granted, from day one.  They were robbed of that incredible gift early on and have been paying the price ever since.

Over the course of the last two days I have provided 24 thirty minute presentations to all 500 Sedgwick employees.  My objective was to get everyone well versed in Resources Unite’s mission of connecting individuals and businesses to volunteer opportunities and to reinforce our philosophy.  “We know that at the end of the day, everyone wants to get involved, make a difference and feel connected.  Sometimes though, we just don’t know where to start.  Resources Unite is that starting point.”

I then provide examples of how when our community is connected to one another, we can accomplish incredible feats.  The greatest resource we have in our community is one another.  Every time, over and over again, that truth is reinforced.  I tell the story of Jim.  Eyes start to well up when they hear of a man in our community that has gone without electricity for three years.  It’s hard to fathom.  Tears begin to stream though when I share how the community rallied for a man they will never meet.  In ONE HOUR after sharing JIm’s story months ago, Boyle Electric committed to repairing his damaged electrical line and after 48 hours, thousands of dollars worth of goods were donated by complete strangers to help get Jim back on his feet.

Jim’s doing pretty good now.  I actually visited him tonight.  As I pulled up to his place, I noticed this sign hanging on his home.  I felt such pride in what our community had done and continues to do for this man.  We have so much potential, I thought.

thank you from jim

An anonymous donor reached out to me yesterday, asking how Jim was doing.  He shared with me how he was moved by Jim’s story months ago and how he decided to save some money each pay period to give to him.  It felt good giving Jim the $471 donation from a complete stranger.  He once again didn’t understand why someone he would never meet would be so generous.  I shared with Jim how good it made that man feel to help.

cash money

My son Isaac was with me when we met with Jim tonight.  As we pulled away he asked me if there were others in need and how they were getting help.  I told him about the woman this morning that needed a car seat for her 18 month old baby.  Heather had sent us a message asking for help for this woman.  “I’ve tried every resource.  I’m at a dead-end,” she said.  I told Isaac that I shared that message with a friend of mine while I was waiting for my protein shake and he immediately gave me $30 to help the woman out who was also fleeing an abusive relationship.

shake money

I posted the need on our Facebook page and within just a couple of hours, the team at “In the Zone Nutrition” raised the $100 needed to buy that car seat.

Then an amazing thing happened over lunch. I was sitting at Carlos O’Kelly’s talking with Kari when I received a message from Sara at “Steve’s Ace.”  It turns out that she and her sister are a car seat check at their store and they have access to FREE car seats for people in need.  Tomorrow the woman desperately trying to start her life over is going to get a free car seat and more than $100 to buy any other resources she and her baby may need.

The amount of success and happiness in our lives depends heavily on the connections we have with one another.  I’m fortunate.  I have a phone filled with contacts that I can reach out to 24/7 if I need to get immediate support. Others are not so fortunate though.  There are countless people in our community that desperately need someone to reach out and to offer a helping hand.  They have been forgotten and are roaming the streets lost.

This support though doesn’t always have to come in the form of car seats or cash.  Jim would tell you that he would give back every nickel of the donation he received tonight for people to just come out and sit in his yard with him and talk.  It’s the connection he misses most.

Posted by: joshjasper | March 19, 2015

Spring Training

In the last couple weeks I’ve presented to six different Major League Baseball teams during their spring training, from the New York Yankees to the Chicago Cubs. Unless you’ve been living under a rock over the past year, you’ve heard about a number of professional athletes who have physically assaulted the people they claim to love the most. The conversation that I’ve been facilitating with professional athletes from NASCAR to MLB to the WWE is leadership based with the objective of compelling the attendees to challenge the varying forms of abuse that exist in our culture and to realize the incredible influence they have over so many.

After defining leadership, we talk about what it means to be a bystander. Too often, when in the position of the bystander, we opt to take a very passive role for a variety of reasons. “It’s not my business,” some will say. Others talk about how they are afraid to get involved. “What will they think of me if I say or do something that no one else will?” Invariably, though, it comes down to people believing that someone else will do something. This cultural phenomenon is known as the “bystander effect.” In other words, extensive research shows that the probability of help is inversely related to the number of bystanders. The more bystanders present, the less likely it is that any one of them will get involved.

Before we can get into specific strategies of how these athletes of significant status can get involved and make a difference, though, we make sure we’re on the same page about men’s violence against women in our country. We talk about why domestic and sexual violence is serious. Men will share examples from their childhood when they watched as their fathers abused their mothers. Other men share how they are bombarded with examples of violence in the media. It’s at this point that I offer the first and only statistic in this conversation.

A number of years ago a study was conducted in the United States that had nothing to do with domestic violence. The objective of this research was to determine why people go to the emergency room. What they found was quite striking. The number one reason why women and girls ages 15 to 44 are admitted to the emergency room is because of domestic violence they experience from the men in their lives (skull fractures, broken bones, lacerations, burns, etc.).

You can feel the air get sucked out of the room when I share the results from that study. I let the room remain silent for a few extra moments before I ask the men how they feel about this. Some report being sad. I can see the anger in others’ eyes as they imagine a woman or girl in their life that may someday be impacted by this reality.

Indians Photo

“Given the fact that everyone in the room agrees that men’s violence against women is serious and that you now know the severity of this major public health issue, why do you suppose so many men remain silent in the face of this ugly truth? Why do we find it so impossibly difficult to challenge other men’s degrading and abusive behavior towards women?”

The answer to that question is why I am sitting here outside my hotel between training sessions, writing this post. I’ll admit that it is a surreal experience when first walking into a room with people who get paid millions of dollars to do their job and who are idolized by even more people around the globe. The men in the room have a certain amount of status and privilege that is only bestowed on a select few. They are undoubtedly special.

Cubs photo

But at the end of the session, when the men are trying to answer why so many remain silent, it occurs to me how they are just like the rest of us. They struggle with accepting the responsibilities they have as leaders much as we would. The difficulties in challenging our peers is the same as for someone who we watch during the big game on Sunday afternoon; the same as it is for the guy sitting next to us in church that same morning. Throughout each and every session the men in the room talk about how they care about the thoughts and opinions of others. More specifically though, their fans. Remember, these guys are human too.

I recognize that this is probably the first and last time that I may ever be in front of this group of people talking about this issue. I’m only one voice for a mere 90 minutes in their lives. I have to wonder though how much more effective this conversation would be if each of us as fans were more of an active bystander in the lives of these men, letting them know how we feel about men’s violence against women and the expectations we have for them as leaders.

Cardinals photo

Posted by: joshjasper | February 9, 2015

The Humane Way

I sat at home this past weekend scrolling through Facebook, watching the anger of many turn into hate. Countless people attacked a local organization and the individuals entrusted to carry out their mission.  It was evident that many were not interested in having a conversation.  For reasons probably only known to themselves, their only interest was to hurt others.

It was hard to watch.  I wanted to jump in and tell people to stop.  I wanted to remind some that what they were writing was hurting people.  I’ve been in those shoes before.  I’ve had that kind of hate dumped in my lap too many times.  I would not wish those sleepless nights and anxiety on anyone.  Ever.

Come to think of it, my first experience with this kind of hate happened exactly four years ago to today’s date.  I had created a tv commercial and some fellas at an organization called “A Voice for Men” got a hold of it and were not happy, to say the least.  Take a look: Josh Jasper’s hate campaign and what to do about it

You see, their mission is to “promote an end to chivalry in any form or fashion and to push for an end to rape hysteria, domestic violence hysteria and false allegations.  Yeah, these guys are some VERY angry dudes. I remember early on thinking that I could reason with them. Surely they would understand my perspective once I gave them all the facts. No deal. Providing them with the information they requested only enraged them more. They wanted a fight.

I never did fully understand the venom that these men spewed toward me from across the planet, but I did learn that I was not going to change their opinion of me or my work. Sadly, there are some people out there that want nothing more than to hurt others and bring them down. It is so easy to get angry and defensive when on the receiving end of this type of vitriol.

I was relieved to see how the local organization handled this recent firestorm. They shared their side of the story in a professional and thorough manner and never got defensive. They didn’t fall for the bait.

Don’t get me wrong, people have the right to voice their concerns and should do so whenever they feel so inclined.  What needs to stay out of the conversation though is the other stuff; the stuff that has nothing to do with what is presented and everything to do with their misplaced feelings of hurt and anger. Filling our hearts with compassion, tenderness and sympathy for others will help ensure the best and most effective way to be heard.

Posted by: joshjasper | January 28, 2015

Thank YOU, Jim.

There are times in my life when I wish people could see through my eyes and hear through my ears.  Today was one of those days.

I was excited to get to Jim’s house today.  My car was jam-packed full of donations from the floor to the ceiling and the trunk lid barely closed.  Jim was sitting outside when I pulled up.  He had just taken a break from splitting firewood and was resting his sore back.  We shook hands and Jim took me over to the severed power line in his yard.  He explained to me how the line got cut three years ago when his trailer burned to the ground and offered some ideas as to how an electrician could run a line from the junction box to his camper.  I caught myself feeling a little annoyed that he was taking his time explaining everything while we were standing out in the cold.

“Well, enough about all of this, come on inside and we can chat.”  After Jim’s trailer burned down, he bought a camper to put in its place. A few years later someone gave him a used RV that didn’t run. Between the camper and RV, Jim had created a porch like area that was walled off by plywood, canvas and a number of tarps. “Don’t mind Big Puppy. She just likes to hear herself bark. She’s a good girl.” I wasn’t worried about the dog. It was the half a dozen cats I saw sitting around. I was sure the cat dander was collecting in my lungs as we made our way into the camper and wondered how he was going to carry me out when I collapsed from an epic allergic reaction.

“Don’t worry about me, Josh. I was an Eagle Scout. I’ll get by.” I asked about his life and Jim told me about his 14 years working in commercial flooring. He traveled the globe remodeling Target stores. “I’ve been to Middleton to Burbank and up to Seattle working in Targets.” He then told me about the day he was working and heard a young girl screaming for her life. He looked out the window and saw a massive dog on top of a 6-year-old girl, “tearing her to pieces.” Without hesitation, Jim ran to the girl. He successfully tore the dog away from the little girl, but unfortunately was mauled in the process. Jim almost lost one arm and the other was nearly as bad. The physician treating both Jim and the little girl said he never saw anything like it before. “She shouldn’t have lived,” the doctor stated. “You saved her life.” 225 stitches later, that little girl walked out of the emergency room and Jim was unable to go back to work because of his life threatening injuries.

“After that accident happened, Josh, I had a string of more bad luck including my trailer being vandalized and being burnt to the ground. After awhile you just don’t understand why it’s all happening. I didn’t want to leave my home for a few years.”

I took Jim back down to my car and told him about how hundreds of community members flooded our Facebook page wanting to help. “That would be so nice to have an extra blanket or jacket,” he said. Oh Jim, I thought. You have no idea. I opened the door and he peeked in and looked at me like I was crazy. “Is that all for me?” Yes sir, I said. “Why? Why would anyone care?” We walked back toward the camper with bags in hand and I could tell Jim was stunned. He was trying to make sense of what was happening. His entire world had been turned upside down. He had convinced himself for so many years that he was all alone and now complete strangers wanted to do everything in their power to help a man they would never meet.

Bag after bag of pants, sweatshirts, coveralls, jackets, blankets, food, dog food, denture glue, and so much more was stacked inside of his camper. I told him that an electrician was on his way to survey the damage and that people were going to start bringing firewood to his home. We sat down again to soak it all in. We talked some more.

“I was watching 60 Minutes years ago and a 9-year-old inspired me. So I can’t take any credit for the idea.” Jim took me back into what should have been his shower/tub in the camper and here he had converted it into a shelving unit. “I saw this little boy create a Pet Pantry and thought, I’ll do the same thing. A lot of people go through rough times, but their pets shouldn’t go without food because of it.”

I stared at the bags of dog food and cat food in his bathroom as he told me how he calls companies, asking them to donate food for his pet pantry. Jim talked about his love for his volunteer time at the Humane Society. Here’s a guy that has gone without electricity for three years in his home and is logging in more volunteer hours than most and giving up his own food when necessary to feed the animals in the neighborhood.

Walking back to my car after saying goodbye, I felt a little sad. I could tell Jim wanted me to stay. He was overwhelmed and brought to near tears with the outpouring of support, but what he wanted most was someone to talk to. He yearned for connection. We take so much for granted with our personal belongings and luxuries, but what we minimize most is our inherent need to connect with others. Take that connection away and we are lost. Everything else is a mere distraction.

Posted by: joshjasper | December 28, 2014

Rest in Peace, DeMarkel

We had just gotten out of church this morning and I was waiting for everyone to get buckled in when I got the message.  It was from Michelle from Jefferson Middle School.  She was one of the first persons to reach out to me when we shared the story about DeMarkel, the 13-year-old boy who had been recently diagnosed with cancer and lost his leg.  “If you could let me know what specifically they need or would like, we can make this happen,” she confidently wrote.

DeMarkel was doing everything in his power to get discharged from the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital, but he needed help from our community. In just a few short days, volunteers were assembled to build an accessible wheelchair ramp for a young man they would never meet.  Gifts for the family began to pour in.

Michelle’s message to me today was an update as to what the team at Jefferson was able to do for DeMarkel and his mom.  They raised nearly $700 and showered the family with gifts on the Friday before Christmas.  Michelle went on to tell me that on Christmas morning DeMarkel began to struggle with his breathing and had to be taken to Iowa City.  The 13-year-old that aspired to be a mechanic passed away a day later.

My heart sank. I remembered the hug that his mom gave me after we finished the ramp.  It was one of those kind of hugs that you never forget. She held me tight and said thank you in a way that is rarely expressed with such sincerity. She couldn’t understand why people she didn’t know would do so much for a single black woman and her son living downtown on Jackson Street.

Sitting here now I find myself rereading the last sentence of Michelle’s message. “Our Jefferson family is grieving, but we are so fortunate that we had the opportunity to provide DeMarkel and his mom the gift of knowing how much the Jefferson family cared about them.”

The gift that Michelle wrote about is exactly the reason why DeMarkel’s mom held me so tight in her kitchen that afternoon. Over and over again she said it when I was on the phone with her while they were still in Iowa City. “I don’t get it. I just don’t get it. Why would so many people care?” Our community was making a lasting impact on that family well before the first nail was hammered or the first Christmas gift was delivered.  She will never forget what so many have done for her family.

When we finished the ramp, Shawn asked me to help him carry a couple of gifts for DeMarkel into the house. They were beautifully wrapped and ridiculously heavy. Shawn got wind of the fact that DeMarkel wanted to be a mechanic when he grew up and went out and purchased an entire tool set for him. I can only imagine the excitement he must have felt opening up those gifts on Christmas morning.

Imagine though how he and his mom must have felt that Christmas morning surrounded by gifts from complete strangers. They undoubtedly felt the outpouring of love from our entire community. DeMarkel felt like someone believed in him. Someone out there wanted to see him succeed and an entire community was hell-bent on making sure that happened.

There is no greater gift.

At the end of the day we all want to get involved and make a difference. Sometimes though we over think it. It’s not about curing a life threatening disease or helping someone off the ledge. To make the greatest impact we must simply be present for one another and be ready to step up to do what we can when needed. Each of us have extraordinary gifts to share with one another. Identify what they are and share them with the world. Because believe me, if you do, you will do more than make a difference.

You will change the world.

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Posted by: joshjasper | December 22, 2014

It’s been a “great” year. Thanks for being a part of it!

I’ve glanced at how Facebook would review my last year and I have to say, it looks pretty cool.  There are photos of me doing what I love to do.  You can see me emceeing the Make-A-Wish fundraiser and presenting to professional wrestlers.  A bunch of us are at the local homeless shelter serving meals and there’s some great family photos mixed in throughout the year. I even managed to get a pretty cool award along the way.

What you don’t see though is the pictures of me sitting in my basement looking and feeling completely lost, trying desperately to find some direction in my life. I must have forgotten to post the pictures of when a partnership had eroded or when I opened the mail only to find yet another rejection letter from a grant that was written for Resources Unite. The Facebook year in review didn’t capture the emotional and physical pain that followed after tearing my Achilles tendon again. Thankfully the pounds that I packed on from being in a cast and from eating my stress away was also omitted from my timeline.

Truth be told, the last year has been the most difficult time in my entire life.  No other year in the last 40 comes even close.  I left Riverview Center certain that Resources Unite would soar with me finally investing all of my time and energy into our mission of connecting people to resources and volunteer opportunities. Instead of overnight success though, I was met with resistance. And a lot of it. There were some in our community that were going out of their way to derail our efforts. It’s been hard for me to not personalize every misstep and failure. Really hard. Like some, I focus on my shortcomings and minimize and often times totally disregard success. I am my own worst enemy.

One of the things Lila and like to do is to listen to music together. Sometimes we listen to our favorite songs on YouTube. Our absolute favorite is Shinedown’s remake of “Simple Man.”

“Be a simple kind of man.  Be something you love and understand.  Baby, be a simple kind of man. Oh won’t you do this for me son, if you can.”

We both have our own favorite parts of the song. She loves finding the little girl in the video and I love it when the lead singer begins to close the song with one last emphatic plea for us to find a simple way of life and to let go of everything else. We listen to the song a few more times and I’m able to better understand the last twelve months. I’m not ready to admit that everything has happened for a reason, but I’m starting to see what I am supposed to learn.

My life was far from simple in the past. I had lost sight of what and who is most important. I can’t please everyone. I will only disappoint. Instead of keeping everyone at an arm’s distance, I need to hold the people who I care most about close to the chest. They need to be my focus. People fail. It happens all the time. It’s what we take away from that experience that matters most. I’m not the only person that struggles. We all do. It’s selfish for me to think otherwise. And rather than keeping my struggle to myself for fear of showing weakness, I need to share it, knowing that my vulnerability will only strengthen my bond with others.

simple man

Posted by: joshjasper | December 9, 2014

Just Breathe

It was after my meeting today with Ermina that I found myself sitting in the car feeling angry and then so very sad.  I turned the radio on hoping to find a song that would help soothe the pain.  Pearl Jam’s “Just Breath” came on and I was convinced the DJ played it just for me.  Eddie Vedder’s words struck me right in the heart and I started to cry.

“Oh I’m a lucky man to count on both hands the ones I love.  Some folks just have one, yeah, others they’ve got none, uh uh…”

We talked today for nearly two hours about the people who fall through the cracks and how they are so easily dismissed and forgotten.  I thought about when Kip and I sat in the Dream Center last night watching the boys play basketball.  Sitting there I couldn’t help but think about the hate that some people have toward these young men.  They’re just kids, I thought.  I think about the mom we are helping right now.  Sometimes she feels completely alone.  I can see it in her eyes.

“Under everything, just another human being, uh uh.  Yeah, I don’t wanna hurt, there’s so much in this world to make me bleed…”

There isn’t a day that passes anymore that I don’t receive a message from someone who is struggling and feeling hurt by others. They talk about being judged and shamed by individuals and organizations. They don’t want that life. And now they feel obligated to prove to me and others how hard they are trying to pull themselves up and to never have to ask for help again.

Yeah, under everything, we’re just people. Rich, poor, black or white. It doesn’t matter. We all struggle and we all need help from time to time. I believe with every fabric of my being that we don’t want to hurt others. But sometimes we do. Sometimes, we hurt people in ways we never realize.  We’re better than that. We have to be.

“Did I say that I need you? Oh, did I say that I want you? Oh, if I didn’t I’m a fool you see. No one knows this more than me.”

I am a fool so very often. I really struggle with admitting that I need others. But I do. Imagine how difficult it must be for someone who feels beaten down and oppressed to reach out. I’m amazed that they ever do.

Stay with me…let’s just breathe.

Posted by: joshjasper | December 3, 2014

We Are the Same

I’ve got 3 or 4 different blog posts rattling around in my head.  It’s been hard for me to organize my thoughts with everything that’s been going on with Resources Unite and with everything in Ferguson, and now New York City.  The more I learn, the more I don’t understand.  Everyday it seems like I’m reading another article that reinforces that reality that black lives do not matter or that I’m meeting someone who has fallen through the cracks and is in a state of complete despair.

It’s hard for me to comprehend these realities.

But I’m trying.  I’m really trying to empathize with what it must be like to be black in America.  Would I too feel the hurt and rage that so many others feel right now?  And if so, why would I feel that way?  What brought me to the point in which I no longer trust or feel compelled to riot and loot?

I also imagine reaching out to Resources Unite requesting basic needs and feeling so completely hopeless. Call after call and Facebook message after Facebook message, one thing is abundantly clear:

There a lot of people in our community that are not getting the help they need and are feeling completely alone, while being judged by so many.

In both scenarios I feel disconnected. I don’t feel part of my community. It’s obvious that the majority doesn’t care. If they only would take a moment to see life through my eyes. I see the endless online comments that judge people like me. You don’t want me here. I get it. There’s so much hate.

Take a moment though. Please. Imagine what it must be like for people who are not like you. What you will find is that the people we all find so easy to judge and condemn are just like you and me.

We are no different. We are the same.

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