What motivates you to be the leader of Meadows of Hope?
American author John Steinbeck once said “Perhaps it takes courage to raise children.” When I heard that quote I thought of what type of courage it must take to raise someone else’s children. It’s a type of courage that is uncommon. It’s a type of courage that sees a child that has been hurt by the very people that were supposed to protect them and says “You’re safe with me sweetie.” That type of courage draws me in, and makes me into a better person. When I am around foster parents that are saying yes to providing a safe home to children I just can’t think of anywhere I would rather be. They see an impossible situation and are willing to be part of the solution. They can’t do it alone. They know they can’t do it alone. They know others will have to join them in the journey, but they are willing to take the first step believing that someone (hopefully many someones) will join with them to care for the children that need them.
I believe that the love of a family is the medicine that heals a hurting child. I also know that they need a team to support them. There is no one person that has the solution to heal a hurting child, but when caseworkers, board members, volunteers and donors work together we have a darn good chance at success. There is no greater feeling than seeing this team of people come together and make an impact on a child that truly reaches into generations. It’s why I do what I do. And the best part about what I do is best summed up in what happened two nights ago at our annual swim party at a local pool. A little blonde haired girl ran up to me as I welcomed families into the swim party and hugged me with a hug reserved only for grandpa’s. She looked up into my eyes and said “Will you go down the slide with me!?!” I said of course of I will. Well…about an hour and half later after talking with all the foster parents and volunteers that also came to the swim party this same little girl informs me that we hadn’t gone down the slide yet. She takes me by the hand and walks up the stairs and down we go, not once, but twice! I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be.
If you could travel anywhere in the world where would you go?
If I could travel anywhere in the world I would love to spend a month or so in Germany, the land of my ancestors. To walk the same streets, visit the same local establishments and get to know the locals. Knowing my history is important to me. It makes me feel connected to the all the people of the world. It makes the world feel a little smaller to me. It gives me hope that maybe if each of us could take the time to get to know the people around us, share a meal, a beer, a laugh, that maybe there would be less hurt in this world.
What is your favorite song?
When it comes to music I’m pretty eclectic. I love most music styles from the latest pop, to 80s hair bands, to James Taylor. However, if you happen to be sitting on my back porch late into the evening you will likely have to endure one of my favorite songs: A Boy Named Sue, by Johnny Cash.
What are some small things that make your day better?
Being the director of a foster care agency can often be very weighty. The work we do is often full of immense sadness. I have made a commitment to allow myself to feel the fullness of every horrible feeling I face. I have seen the impact of closing off your heart and I want nothing of it. In order to fulfill the commitment of feeling every feeling that we face as a foster care agency I also must commit to fully feeling the good feelings too. My day is made better by walking down to our caseworkers, Kyle & Jamie’s office. There, in that little office, we can cry and laugh, often to inappropriate things. We can be exactly who we are and feel exactly what we are feeling without judgement. Knowing those two people are on my team makes each day exciting and fun. I couldn’t do what I do without them.
How do you relax after a hard day at work?
You’ve probably heard the saying “You can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself.” I believe that with all my heart. My day is often finished off by joining my friends at Red Dirt Crossfit where I sweat and nearly die about 5 to 6 times a week. I have so much fun with those guys almost everyday. Believe me, when you are running and rowing and lifting weights and just trying not to die, it’s hard to think about anything else!
What is something everyone should do at least once in their life?
My wife and I attended a fundraiser several years ago in Stillwater. At our table was also the pastor of my church. The conversation eventually came to foster care (as it often does around me). As we discussed the sobering reality of child abuse and the failing system that is tasked with caring for those hurting children the mood at the table started to wane (as it often does around me). At that point, I assume in an effort to lighten the mood, my pastor said: “Well…I just choose not to think about that, ha ha ha.” It was at that very moment he stopped being my pastor. My recommendation to anyone is to look the reality of foster care square in the eye. It is a problem too big for you to solve alone. It will take you and everybody you can scrape together. But, if you have the courage to look, you can make a difference. But my challenge to you is: LOOK!!! You don’t have to take every child or any child home. You can just support someone else that has said yes to bringing a child home. Not everybody can be a foster parent, but everybody can say yes to foster care!