How much do we all need hope right now? Every day I tell myself I am going to stop scouring print news for hopeful stories. The scouring only leads to a scowl and a low grade depression. I imagine, my obsession to unearth hope is much like what most are experiencing right now — a need to know that progress will continue to evolve towards equality for all.
Perhaps, I needn’t look any further than the bright light of hope emanating right under my nose. It might not be the global answer we need right now, but it may well be the beginning of a ripple effect.
A little over 2 years ago, a random act of kindness led to my spouse and I, to create a nonprofit A Sense of Home (ASOH). We have trained the youth we serve to completely build, operate and lead this movement for change. ASOH is run by an all aged-out foster youth staff. “Aged-out” youth are a mostly unknown group who face the greatest of odds. These are the kids that enter the foster care system but were never adopted. There is up to 35,000 youth who "age-out" each year in the US and have to “exit” fending for themselves without family nor community. They are the most disenfranchised population in the country. A Sense of Home, with a vibrant volunteer force, armed with donated items, create the first ever homes for aged-out youth. The youth then pays it forward. It is an exquisite example of how we can come together to empower a disenfranchised population to become leaders in building healthier, more unified communities.
It’s a powerful way for community members to step outside of their bubble, be a part of building a new beginning for someone deprived of basic resources, and to work alongside individuals they would never ever imagine meeting. This opens up dialogue and understanding between people who previously didn’t understand nor trust one another. It affords diverse groups the opportunity to sit in a circle and listen and empathize with struggle and the causes behind so many social crisis (homelessness, incarceration, unemployment, PST, the sex slave trade, and lack of access to education). It is an opportunity to reveal our humanity in simple, practical acts that affords others dignity. It emboldens recipients to be the stewards of the solution and unearth the best version of themselves (and therefore ourselves). It builds bridges between disparate communities. And as we do it, we sing, dance, connect, and revel in a humanitarian high.
A Sense of Home harnesses everyone’s connection to needing to feel at home in the world. But at its core it’s a paradigm where community can show up to be the change. I hope we can inspire others to create paradigms to heal, build bridges and healthier, more loving communities. Imagine what the world would like if we ALL spent an hour a day or even an hour a week volunteering outside of our bubble, with nothing but love in our hearts and being the hope we seek.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if news outlets focused as much energy on solutions as they did exposing humanity at its worst? Earlier this year, CNN generously honored A Sense of Home as a CNN Hero in this profile. I am now humbled to be amongst a fine collection of human beings they call Top 10 CNN Heroes and profiled during a live tribute show on December 11th. I embrace this honor on behalf of all aged out youth everywhere and for those wanting to make a difference. I look forward to others joining CNN in expanding such coverage so as to present a true reflection of hope in the world today and thereby attract a broader audience who might normally digest news from a silo. We ALL need hope.