Don’t for­get kids

It’s up to us to change lives

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - VOICES - BRYAN MCDOW­ELL Bryan McDow­ell is a pub­lished writer, Chris­tian the­olo­gian, and or­dained min­is­ter with the As­sem­blies of God. He cur­rently serves as the chil­dren’s pas­tor at First As­sem­bly of God in Pine Bluff.

As In­au­gu­ra­tion Day fast ap­proaches, there is a great deal of ex­cite­ment, par­al­leled by an abun­dance of anx­i­ety. No mat­ter which side you tend to lean to­ward, there will be a new pres­i­dent on Jan. 20, and that does not change our own re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to our lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties.

Our fo­cus should not be on what Wash­ing­ton can do to make a dif­fer­ence in our com­mu­ni­ties, but on what we can do to bring last­ing, pos­i­tive change to our own neigh­bors.

—————— Ac­cord­ing to re­search con­ducted by the Barna Group lead­ing up to the 2008 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, “the over­all care and re­sources de­voted to chil­dren” was con­sid­ered “ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary for the U.S. to ad­dress within the next 10 years.” I am not go­ing to try to as­sess whether or not I be­lieve there has been enough fo­cus on this im­por­tant is­sue, now eight years later. Nor do I be­lieve we should look to the new ad­min­is­tra­tion in spec­u­la­tion as to whether it will do more or less to reach out to our com­mu­ni­ties and chil­dren most in need.

The only way we will see real change hap­pen in our com­mu­ni­ties is if we the peo­ple work to bring about that change.

There is too much at stake for us to wait on oth­ers to in­vest in the lives of our chil­dren. Whether you are in lo­cal gov­ern­ment, a school­teacher, a con­cerned par­ent, a pas­tor, a Sun­day School teacher, or any­one else, you have the abil­ity to make a dif­fer­ence in the life of a child.

Saint Teresa of Cal­cutta once said, “If you can’t feed a hun­dred peo­ple, then feed just one.” In honor of that adage, I would say if you can’t help a hun­dred chil­dren, help just one.

Visit com­mu­nity af­ter com­mu­nity across our na­tion, and it is im­pos­si­ble to deny the ne­ces­si­ties count­less chil­dren go with­out on a daily ba­sis. Some of these are phys­i­cal needs such as food and cloth­ing. But very of­ten the most over­looked of these is a child’s need to sim­ply know that some­body loves and cares for them.

As a fa­ther my­self, it breaks my heart to think about the many, many chil­dren who spend day af­ter day with no one to hug them, read to them, en­cour­age them, and teach them ev­ery­thing they will need to know to face the world as an adult. It is our re­spon­si­bil­ity to fill that gap.

Ichal­lenge every­one to join me in mak­ing out­reach to our chil­dren a pri­or­ity, not just this year, but for years to come.

There are nu­mer­ous ways you can make a dif­fer­ence in a young per­son’s life. If you are not sure where to start, reach out to your lo­cal church, Sal­va­tion Army, or 4-H of­fice and vol­un­teer. Even just a few hours a week can make a big dif­fer­ence in the life of a child. Short on time? Con­tact your lo­cal schools and ask if they have a food pantry you can do­nate to reg­u­larly.

There are count­less ways you can make a dif­fer­ence, but the first step is to de­cide you will not stand by and wait for oth­ers to act. Let’s make this the year ev­ery child in Arkansas has all the love and re­sources they need to suc­ceed!

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