by Teresa Jackson on June 22nd, 2020

In a world filled with so many strong emotions, it is easy to become overwhelmed. When that happens people can experience burnout or compassion fatigue. I have been serving in a full time compassion ministry role for 21 years now. Some people have called me an empath. Perhaps that is true. I am not sure. I just know I feel the pain of others deeply. The last three months have been a roller coaster of emotions for me and I surmise you have felt it too. Sadness, anger, confusion, fear, grief, exhaustion, and even joy at the little things that make life special. In a time when so many people are sick and hurting, I deeply desire to respond in a meaningful way. Romans 12:15 has become a cornerstone for me these last few months. "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn." I have rejoiced with families who have celebrated graduations, welcomed new babies, and met their weight loss goals. I have cried angry tears at the senseless murder of George Floyd and so many others whose lives were ended unjustly. Today is June 19. Juneteenth. This day is the oldest celebrated commemoration of the day that ended slavery in the USA. It embodies the words Freedom, Emancipation, and Jubilee. I mourn for the countless lives that were lost because of slavery, racism, and oppression. I rejoice that on June 19, 1865 Major General Gordon Granger brought the good news to Galveston, Texas that the war was over and President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation setting free all who were enslaved. Today I rejoice and mourn. I grieve the horrors experienced by people of color. I rejoice that Juneteenth made all men and women free from the bonds of slavery. I grieve that we haven’t come as far as we should have in the last 155 years. I rejoice that we have entered a new era of recognizing that sin; and are standing side by side, hand in hand to combat racism and oppression. Lord, lead us.
Open our eyes and give us courage to do the next right thing.
May Your kingdom come and Your will be done. Amen.

by Teresa Jackson on June 12th, 2020

We are living in chaotic times. Each morning when I open my eyes, I have to reorient myself to this strange new world. These are the questions that go through my mind:

Is this a workday?
Am I sick?
Do I have a fever?
What will the death toll be today?
Will it trend down or up?
How many Zoom meetings do I have today?
What support do I need to provide to my stressed team?
How are my staff members, those who are people of color, doing?
How can I comfort, empower, love them better?

All of these thoughts -- in addition to the normal stresses of a typical workday -- fill my mind. Some days I am overwhelmed. I bet many of you can identify with my situation. I am so grateful that I don’t have to worry about paying my rent or buying groceries. My utility bills are paid and my car and insurance payments are up to date. My heart breaks for the people who have the added stress of lost income. If you have ever struggled financially, then you know there ain’t no stress like having no money stress. That is why I get up, get dressed, have my coffee, and get to work. Your support empowers us at Sharing Life to help people stay in their home until they can get back to work. To enjoy uninterrupted service of electricity, gas, and water. To have a pantry filled with nutritious food including meat, milk, eggs, fresh produce, and shelf-stable items. This summer, children have individual bags filled with healthy snacks, breakfast and lunch foods from our Nourish2Flourish backpack program. The Sharing Life team LOVES to serve our community by providing these services. We are grateful to each person who gives so we have the necessary resources to do this important work.

The book of Psalms tells us, "But the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love. (147:11)"  We see this hope come to life when we place a bag of groceries in a trunk or purchase a room air conditioner for a senior citizen with no HVAC. Your gift extends His steadfast love to people in need and gives them hope. Thank you for giving! We love you and are eternally grateful for the difference you are making in the lives of thousands in our community.

May the Lord bless you and keep you.

by Teresa Jackson on May 27th, 2020

Through the years I have met all kinds of people at Sharing Life. As you might imagine, I have known some pretty amazing individuals who gave their hearts and souls to make the world a better place. Fyve is one of those people. She came to us after a break in her career following the loss of her only daughter. When Fyve first interviewed for the job of volunteer manager, I thought she was over-qualified for the position as she had years of volunteer management experience at much larger organizations. I was certain she would decline our offer and continue to seek employment at a larger nonprofit. To my delight, she accepted our offer and went right to work! Arriving at Sharing Life dressed in bright and colorful clothing, Fyve began to personalize her office with similar décor. We loved her immediately and she fit in with our eclectic nonprofit family perfectly. She brought a wealth of information and experience to Sharing Life. She organized pot-luck “picnics” under our large canopy where semis drop off truckloads of food. She put candy kisses on the table and always made us laugh with the games she organized for us to play. Volunteer engagement increased significantly. She focused on bringing in corporate volunteer teams and truly loved our individual volunteers, treating them all as dear friends. We were all sad when Fyve started having hip pain and couldn't climb the stairs without great difficulty. She left us to work from home on a contract basis while doctors diagnosed her condition and treatment options.

Last week, Fyve requested that I come to her home for a visit. She explained that, after a two-year battle with cancer, her oncology team recommended she receive comfort care from hospice. As I sat next to her bed, Fyve told me that, when she learned of the open position at Sharing Life, she had been praying that God would provide an opportunity for her to work at a thriving nonprofit with about 250 volunteers. She wanted to be in a place where the work really mattered and the staff and volunteers were passionate about their work. She told me that, when she walked into the door, she knew she was home. She also said that working at Sharing Life was the best job she had in her whole life. We both cried. She cried tears of joy that God had blessed her with a job that made her happy while making a difference in people’s lives. I cried that she was leaving us and that the world would be deprived of her joy, passion, and integrity.

Fyve was a woman of deep faith. She knew God loved her and she loved everyone around her. She didn’t have a judgmental bone in her body.

We learned so much from watching you, Fyve. Our lives are already less colorful, less vivid, without your presence. Thank you, Fyve, for choosing to share your life with us at Sharing Life. The world is better because you were in it!

by Teresa Jackson on May 18th, 2020

I love to learn. According to the Strengths Finder Assessment test, my strong point is “Input”. No matter how many times I take the quiz, “Input” is at the top of the list. Because of that love for learning, one of my favorite hobbies is doing research on a subject. Back in the day, I would go to the library and check out as many books – all of them pertaining to the same topic -- as the librarian would allow. Sometimes, I’d throw in a novel just for fun. This was before I owned a computer or had AOL dial up. When the world wide web became available to me, I was ecstatic! Factual information was right at my fingertips, anytime, 24/7/365! Since then, I have learned there is also a great deal of commentary and opinions mixed in with the facts. Particularly when using social media. During this worldwide pandemic, I often ask myself, “What should I believe?” Should I stay home or can I have a meal at my favorite restaurant? (I really want warm chips and salsa.) Is it safe to get a haircut or should I purchase more pony tail elastics? There are opinions and data to support no matter what you choose. And, as we are bombarded with information overload on a daily basis, I encourage you to more closely examine all the information you read. As a guide, I suggest Rotary International’s “4 Way Test”, as follows:
  1. Is it the truth?
  2. Is it fair to all concerned?
  3. Will it build good will and better friendships?
  4. Will be beneficial to all concerned?
As a Rotarian, I recite this pledge most Tuesdays at lunch. It is a powerful reminder of the passages in Romans 12 that instruct us to live a life that worships God by placing the needs of others before our own.

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. 17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” Romans 12: 14-18  

Easier said than done! But, if we place the good of others before our wants and opinions, we will honor God’s call to love our neighbors as ourselves. Because that is exactly when we know that we truly love God and are called according to His purpose.

I pray you remain safe, healthy, and of good cheer! Today and always! 

by Teresa Jackson on May 7th, 2020

Most Americans live paycheck to paycheck. Almost 60% of us. There are many reasons for this trend, including low wages, high living costs, staggering student loan debt, medical debt, or living beyond our means. The 2020 COVID-19 Pandemic has provided a magnifying glass on many of society’s weaknesses, but none more than our economic fragility. Some of us have discovered that we haven’t saved enough, that purchasing that dream house should have waited, and that leasing a big SUV was a big mistake. Sure, we could afford all of those things with creative financing and a robust economy. But what happens if one of us becomes ill? Loses a job or has a reduction in hours and pay? Suddenly, almost 60% of Americans are less than a month away from walking the path to hunger and homelessness. My faith tells me, and I truly believe, that everything happens for a reason and provides an opportunity to learn something important. What can we learn from this unprecedented time in history?

The first Chapter of Proverbs is all about wisdom. Throughout history the writer of Proverbs, King Solomon, has been regarded as the wisest man who ever lived. This has always intrigued me. Beginning with the 20th verse it says, ”Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks: How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you.”  How cool is that? If we want wisdom, it is ours. Just look to the streets! What can we learn, collectively, from enduring and surviving a pandemic? Let’s look to the street near Sharing Life.

We have a bias when it comes to poverty in the USA. We believe there are “deserving” poor and those poor among us who are “unworthy”. Most everyone agrees we should extend grace to widows, orphans, single moms, the elderly, and the sick. Not so much when it comes to ex-offenders, addicts, and people who have made bad decisions in life or with their money. Because, after all, they got themselves into that mess and they can pull themselves out of that mess! One lesson I hope we all take away from this time of uncertainty is this: Everyone is vulnerable. People need one another. No one is immune from the threat of illness or loss of income. People all around us are driving nice vehicles with big loan payments. Loan payments they cannot currently sustain. They qualified for those loans based on income they received prior to being furloughed or let go due to a worldwide pandemic. Or before they entered the hospital for two weeks, hoping to recover from a virus that almost took their life.

The next time you drive by a local food pantry and see a shiny new car in line to receive grocery assistance, remember the pandemic of 2020. Before you pass judgment, ask yourself this question:

Do I know this person and understand their life story?

After the global pandemic is over, people will still experience personal crises that change everything in their world. You and I may not have the details of their personal predicament, and be tempted to judge. Before criticizing, remember the COVID-19 global pandemic. People with really nice cars and homes lined up to receive food because they had no other choice. It may not have looked like they needed help by looking at their life from the outside, but seeing their pile of unpaid bills and bank statement shows the real truth.

I knew of a young single mom with three children. Going through a divorce, she applied for and received Food Stamps. Now they are called SNAP benefits. She shopped for her weekly groceries and paid for them with the pastel coupons she received from the government. As she was unlocking the vehicle to help the grocery store clerk load her weekly purchases in the shiny blue sports car, the clerk asked her a question. “Wow. This is a hot car. Nice! How do you manage to afford this awesome car and still receive Food Stamps?” Feeling awkward and ashamed, she replied, “This is not my car. I am borrowing it. I don’t even have a car.” Embarrassed, she drove away. That young single mom was me.

Wisdom is crying out in the streets. It tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves. To withhold judgement and love one another without exception. To feed the hungry and clothe the naked. Pandemic or not, it also tells us the poor will always be with us. Worthy or undeserving? Grace wins! Remember that when the Covid-19 Pandemic is history.

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