When the Savior commanded that we love our neighbor, I think it's easy to define that in a more narrower term than he intended. Really, we are admonished to look out for everyone and it's sometimes troubling to watch some of my fellow elected servants turn their heads to the issues around us and quickly label one group or another as if we don't have a responsibility to them all. This last week however, in doing some extra service, I had a couple of rewarding experiences that I wanted to mention, if for no other reason than to remind myself why I got involved nearly fourteen years ago.
Before I took office, back in the mid '90's, I participated in a United Way Funding Review panel on Homeless agencies. After spending nearly two months reviewing different agencies each week, I came away from that experience knowing that the creation of transitional housing is the real key to the success of helping those in need. Over the years of my public life, I've participated and been part of the creation of over 1,000 units of housing for low income families, with hundreds being set aside for those coming out of our shelter at The Road Home. In fact, for the last four or five years, I've participated as a board member of Shelter the Homeless, which owns the shelter in Salt Lake City and Palmer Court, a new transitional housing complex. I've heard personally many heart wrenching stories of those who have suffered on the street for decades, who now have a chance to be off the street and finally have a place to call home. My friend Pamela Atkinson told a story once of her outreach efforts and how she once gave a hug to a homeless man and he had relayed that it had been years since he had ever received a hug. It's not uncommon for someone who is homeless to have had some tragedy or act beyond their control, leave them out on the street and yet I find myself guilty at times, judging them without knowing them. It really isn't my place to judge, it's my responsibility to give.
Fast forward to this week and I was answering phones for the Annual Road Home Holiday Fundraising Drive and a caller called with a lot of emotion in her voice and said, "I don't really have any money to give, but I wanted to thank you for this housing in which I live, I am so grateful to have a place to call my own". Later that night I was then helping to serve a Christmas Dinner at a transitional housing for Veterans, Freedom Landing in my district and a Vet, who had served our country and now was suffering from some extended medical problems, reached over to me and said, "If it weren't for this place, I would be down at the shelter with no place to live." Both projects mentioned, were ones in which I had to work a little to make sure they got funded, but maybe in a little way, were making a difference and hopefully moving me a little closer to the charge given to me by my Savior, Jesus Christ.
Today I celebrate my 46th birthday and I am ever so grateful for my parents, who chose to have me in their later years of life Both of whom have had a profound impact on my life and my desire to do good. I am equally grateful to my wife and children who have always been gracious in responding to my requests to help and were helping at the phone bank last night and playing the piano for the 100 Vets Wednesday night. This has been a good week.
If you've gotten this far, take a moment and donate to The Road Home at www.theroadhome.org to make a difference youself in the life of thousands in our community.