The Microcosm of Birthing New Ideas for a Grieving Community

Last week I attended a piloted event co-sponsored by the United Way of Metro Atlanta and the Atlanta Promise Neighborhood Initiative.  The gathering was exclusive to adult men from the community and its purpose was to discuss ways on improving our neighborhoods.  The initiative is funded by the U.S. Department of Education which seeks to improve the educational achievement and healthy development of underserved children and families in northwest Atlanta.

Close to twenty men from all backgrounds, careers, and various generations came together with a feeling to take action that night.  As we assembled together at a day care center for an evening of food, fellowship and fatherhood, we kept the focus on Child Education.

The moderator of the evening distributed a United Way’s Fatherhood Café Newsletter; the main article opened up like this…

“Fathers and other male role models who are consistently involved in their children’s lives help them grow up with a strong sense of self, a feeling of security and other positive characteristics.  Research by the National Center for Education Statistics shows that children benefit from their father’s involvement in their schools.  Male involvement has a distinct and independent influence on a child’s success.  When a father (or other male figure) is actively involved in school, their children:

  • Learn more
  • Have fewer discipline problems
  • Perform better in school
  • Exhibit healthier behaviors
  • Take part in extracurricular activities
  • Enjoy school more
  • Model positive adult male behavior
  • Show an increase in problem solving skills”

For me, it was helpful to hear what was on the hearts of each brother.  The pressures of work, family expectations, finances, spiritual direction, and other challenges were all earnestly expressed.  It’s interesting that we all felt something common among ourselves – it was the future and outlook of our kids.  The court verdict of the George Zimmerman trial and the recent murderous crimes made by African-American teenagers highlighted in the front pages of national news are heart-wrenching and troublesome.  It became more obvious that these situations stem from the breakdown of the family.

Through the course two hours, we supported the idea of doing more in a child’s education.  And since we were meeting in a day care center, it was a good start to volunteer our time by reading books to the toddlers, helping them with their work curriculum and interacting with them through songs.

One of the men in the room recited a statement that appealed to us.  He said “We need to prevent the transfer of our kids from the school yard to the prison yard!”  I extend my own thoughts by stating that our kids shouldn’t meet the graveyard too!  Also, my hope is that we prevent our kids from being locked-out from educational and job advances; and also prevent our kids from being locked-up by unequal sentencing laws throughout the country!

On a positive front, we have come a long way…

1)      This country has seen its first African-American U.S. President

2)      This country has seen its first African-American U.S. Attorney General

3)      This country has seen its first Hispanic woman Supreme Court Justice

But we still have a way to go…

1)      The highest levels of prison inmate of men of color in a century*

2)      The highest unemployment rate for men of color

3)      Lowest college entries for men of color in twenty years

The exchange of thoughts and ideas continued in the small meeting room.  We believe that most of our “next step” ideas will come into fruition, but baby steps are needed as we gel together as a team.  It is amazing how just a handful of men from all walks of life and soon coming together to meet a common goal!  When a community is in dire need of help, the core of individuals from that same community should find time to resolve matters.

Initiatives like this create a movement to build purpose and empower a community.  And as we celebrate the March on Washington fifty years ago this week, I DREAM for equality shared by all, freedom for all, justice approved by all, and peace to all.

Let go people and do some good!

*U.S. Bureau Department of Justice – Prison Inmates 2009/Statistic Table

The Benefits of Dreaming Big Dreams!

Promoting a Big Dream of yours is a good thing…but are you sure the ‘big dream’ will turn out to be good for you and others? Will the outcome of your ‘big dream’ produce an impact you hope for?

As you put in motion for your “Big Dream” to become a reality, I’m certain it’ll change your life! I’ve been reading a book entitled “Exponential” written by Dave and Jon Ferguson – two brothers planting church ministries throughout Chicago. The book is based on creating an idea and turning it into a movement. In this book, the brothers shares four ways how Big Dreams will change us:

    1.   Big Dreams Change your Questions

The size of your dream will come with a different set of debatable questions. For example, let’s say you have a small dream to grow a vegetable garden in the back of your home. Some set of questions might be: (1) Do I have enough space to grow several kinds of vegetables? (2) How much time will I need to tend a garden? (3) Can I build a protecting fence to distract animals from eating my produce? Sounds simple huh?

Now what if you have a large dream to develop a farm and grow vegetables for an entire community? A different set of questions might be: (1) Do I have the funding capital or should I apply for a loan to put together my dream farm? (2) How much land should I acquire and what kind of farming equipment should I possess? (3) How many people will I need to hire to tend my farm?

[Me] Your Big Dreams requires the right set of questions to gain the right set of answers. 

  1. Big Dreams Change your Prayers

The greater the dream you have, the greater need to depend on God for further answers. I found that when you pray, you should be specific in what you desire as long as it is in the Will of God. As your dream moves into reality, it’s good to remain humble prior, during, and after the process.

[Me] Your Big Dream requires the essential ingredients of fasting and constant praying.

The closer you draw near to God will give you strength to carry on. 

  1. Big Dreams Change Others 

The brothers write that ‘big dreams are contagious.’ Big dreams generate excitement, and they attract those who want to follow your example and step out in faith. I often see many examples of Mother/Fathers working in their business profession and later find their children eventually all grown up working in the same or similar occupation!

I’m also encouraged to see some of my friends who several years ago told me of their big dreams and now they have followed their desire to make it come into reality! You see a determination in their spirit to stay focus and build on their success.

[Me] Your Big Dream requires steadfast commitment to see it all the way through – it then encourages others to mimic or use your effective game plan.

  1. Big Dreams Change You 

In the book, Dave Ferguson stated that your big dream defines your identity, your relationship with God, and your relationships with those in your close circle. He also mentioned that our dreams are often too small and we need to dream dreams that match the hearts of our teachers, leaders or mentors. Our ultimate teacher [God] definitely has big dreams for you – if you believe He lives within you, trust your heart and follow His transformation methods to dream Big!

[Me] Your Big Dream demands your attention; it will help you to grow and achieve even more!

Let’s go people and do some good!