Tag Archives: Inspiration

Memories That Last A Lifetime

20 Jan

The holidays are over, friends and family from miles away have all returned home, and we have a little time to rest. What better time, then, to reflect on all the things that make those people as special as they are to us? This season was among the most meaningful for us at Be a Number. After all the holiday parties, after the friends and the family were gone, and even before they arrived, we had a chance to share the joy of the Season of Giving with children in downtown Detroit, Michigan.

On December 24, 2010, we handed out 100 shirts to children at I Am My Brother’s Keeper Ministries, a ministry that had just suffered the sudden death of its leader, Pastor Henry Convington. His inspirational story is beautifully depicted in the book Have A Little Faith by Mitch Albom, and it is a story which absolutely inspired us to visit the ministry. This year, we learned the true meaning of the holiday season: to love, to give, and to cherish.

We saw the love the Pastor Covington had for those who only passed through the ministry, and also for more permanent members. We saw the love he had for the building itself, which has suffered many expensive damages over the years. Most of all, however, we saw the love he had for the children in the area. He set up family nights for children and their families to play games, enjoy a meal, and congregate. He made many sacrifices to help them, and took many under his wing.

We gave one hundred children a Be A Number t-shirt through the organization, but more importantly, we gave them our constant support and our hope for them to succeed in whatever vocation or goals they set for themselves. We gave them a few words that they can carry with them through good times and bad: keep working, never give up, and dreams really can (and do!) come true.

Finally, we learned to cherish. While each child we have seen over the course of the shirt drops has left an impression on us, with this particular one, we saw what it is like for us to make an impression on the children. We conducted the shirt drop within about two weeks of spending the night there, but only some of us were able to return. The kids, without missing a beat, immediately asked where the others were. Without hesitation, we called Matt, and put the kids on the phone with him so they could hear his voice and tell them what they had been up to since they saw him.

The smiles on their faces were some of the biggest we’ve seen. This was proof for them that we cherish the memories we have of them and we will always care for them. Matt instantly recognized their names and asked enthusiastic questions and was excited to hear from them. Just this simple phone call gave them the sound knowledge that they would never be forgotten. Not only do we cherish and truly care about the kids, they can cherish the message we shared because they had real, powerful proof that we would always remember them.

Below is the video of the shirt drop, we know you’ll enjoy watching it :)

Kids Helping Kids

29 Sep

Recently, we added a new line of shirts to Be A Number: youth sizes. Not only have we gotten many requests for children’s sizes, but it incorporates a whole new aspect of our mission. Now, not only are we as adults helping children around the world to feel a special connection to someone they have never met, but we are allowing kids to help their peers feel that connection.

We all remember a time in our childhood when we realized something wasn’t quite fair about the world. Whether it was being denied dessert for not finishing our vegetables at dinnertime, or that time when the oldest sibling was allowed to stay up late while we went to bed, we’ve all be there. Other times, we realized not only were our personal worlds unfair, but that some kids had it much worse than we did.

Kids are among the most passionate of people on this earth, and they have the energy and drive that adults comment on every day. “I wish I had that kind of energy” is a common statement at parks, beaches, or even living rooms. So why not let them help us? While they are so full of enthusiasm, they easily set their minds to a task and complete it, often surpassing our expectations of the result. They become excited to know that they have helped others, and revel in their own personal satisfaction at knowing they have made an impact on the world, however small it may seem to us.

For the children who have emptied their small piggy banks and donated all $8 in coins they have to the Red Cross, we have great respect. Others set up lemonade stands and give their rolls of quarters in profits to the Humane Society. Each year, elementary schools around the country band together to help families that may not enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner without a little extra help.

It is only natural, then, that we give kids in our communities an opportunity to help other kids. To us, children’s sizes are not just a response to customer demand, but they are a way to recognize the kids who help other kids, and their parents who have instilled in them such compassion.

If you haven’t yet,  check out this video of the first Be A Number video. You can see a child helping another to put on his new shirt!

A New Kind of Freedom

6 Jul

As the 4th of July weekend came and went, we celebrated our nation’s birthday with good friends and family, watching fireworks and enjoying some time at the local beaches. Across the United States, families packed up a cooler, sparklers, and the kids and headed to the local fireworks displays. In our 234 year history, Americans have seen war,  peace, and everything in between, but all under a beautiful shroud of freedom. After conquering our own forms of oppression and  inequality, both generations ago and more recently, it would seem we here in America are at the top of our game.

However, even now, some parts of our own country see an oppression that isn’t publicized often: hopelessness. Especially after the recent economic problems, more and more families are forced to choose between food and medicine, education and a small salary, or shelter and clothing.  A quick drive into the nearest inner city neighborhoods makes this point disturbingly clear.

Where does that leave our children? If it takes a village to raise a child, should we not at least give them a little hope? We think so. With every shirt we give to a child, we leave them with a special message: no matter what challenges life hands them, they are to work hard, never give up, and always remember that we care about them. Each shirt we give to a child is a match of a shirt that someone else purchased. To these children, the shirt represents hope for a better tomorrow because they have proof that they are not alone and will never be forgotten. As they continue to change our lives, we will continue to change the world.

While driving to New Jersey to visit the PKS Kids, this seemed like the light at the end of the tunnel

Think about it this way: if one child receives a shirt and clutches it dearly during the hard times, knowing that someone is rooting for them, even though the two have never met, and that child goes on to be the first person in his family to graduate high school, he is automatically given a better chance at a happier life. Next, he goes on to college and becomes a doctor, eventually saving dozens of lives during his career.  Multiply this impact hundreds of times over, and the world will be much different. Just a little hope goes a long way, and it could be the key to a new kind of freedom, the freedom of hope, and thus, the freedom of dreams.

As you go about your busy day, think about this quote we came across from Mitch Albom:

“The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.”

Giving hope gives us purpose, what drives you?

Driving Forces

18 Jun

Lately, many people have been asking what keeps us motivated to help as many children as we can, especially when we encounter set-backs or challenges in doing so.

Kindergarten children who were among the first to receive Be A Number shirts

Sometimes, it can be difficult to come up with a tangible answer. My immediate reaction has always been to attempt to explain the look on the children’s faces at Red Cloud Indian School in Pine Ridge, South Dakota when we handed the first 250 to elementary children there.

I quickly realized that explaining such an experience was nearly impossible. Words always seem so inadequate in describing their smiles that reached each ear or the way their step seemed to have an extra bounce during recess that day.

“Live simply. Laugh often. Love generously.”

On the surface, these fragmented sentences appear sparse, at most, in their significance. However, these phrases,  displayed prominently on the wall, are a sort of reminder that not everything has to be complicated. By enjoying the smallest moments, we can reach thousands, even millions of people. The snapshot above represents just that: in the moment that photo was taken, we were laughing with children who were content to give us “bunny ears” and sit on the floor with us. We left them with the promise that we would never forget them, and they have truly gained their own place in our hearts.

ur Founder and President speaks to children at the school in Pine Ridge, SD

Our message has been spreading farther each day, and we’ve had an incredible response from the public to our mission. Recently, a blogger in Michigan wrote an entry in her blog about Be A Number and spread the word through her Twitter account. Within moments, other users re-tweeted the blog entry and we received an email from a young man in Arkansas expressing his affinity for Be A Number.

Combining the experiences we’ve enjoyed while passing out shirts to children here in the United States (and soon abroad!) and the amazing response we’ve received from people just like you, it becomes more difficult to imagine being unmotivated. Our goal is not to live lavishly ourselves, but to help others live more comfortably themselves.

How do we find motivation? We simply look at the world surrounding us and to the people we admire most. With any luck, we’ll be able to inspire others to change the world in their own way, starting with one number.

The Simple Things

9 Jun

Today, the yellow sun shines brightly through the leaves of the trees, birds chirp happily from their nests, and butterfly wings flutter blissfully across deep blue skies. Today, the simplest things go unnoticed far too often. In a world of “high speed” this and “faster than ever” that, sometimes it seems the greatest luxury is to simply stop. To marvel at the wonders of how the world works is a pastime that has become far too rare.

It is an interesting paradox between inner and outer beauty in a world where the latest diet fads or who’s topping the Forbes income list is the focus of what seems to be the majority of youth when considering their futures. But what about the kids who are truly fighters–the ones who face each day with as much optimism as they can gather– who have faced a constant struggle and still find a way to smile?

Recently, we received news that we would be able to accompany several families with children with Pallister-Killian Syndrome (PKS) to New Jersey to learn more about what they face every day. PKS can present with deformities and mental delays, but the children it affects still find time to smile. Their beauty shines through in their ability to laugh and to overcome their daily struggles.

We are so excited to meet and talk to the children and their families at the conference, and, of course, hand them a Be A Number shirt of their own. We want to show them that they are so special to all of us and that they can change the world as well–with a simple smile and love for others.

Inspiration

2 Jun

Inspiration comes in many forms, a beautiful view, a close friend, or a even a good book, but often it is what we don’t see that has the most impact on us.

Recently, we had an opportunity to speak with middle school children at a school in Flint, Michigan about making a positive impact in their own worlds and how they could take small steps to make all the difference in their own lives and their community. The school was fairly typical, with kids’ artwork tacked to the hallway walls and posters next to the chalkboards with a few encouraging phrases. The kids were very attentive, and even came up with some business ideas of their own that would help those around them. Their response to the Be A Number movement was one of enthusiasm and wonder–they had so many questions and loved asking Kevin about playing football and where he gets his ideas. We were so impressed with how respectful and interested all the students were.

However, on the drive into and out of the area surrounding the school, we noticed many things that made us think about what many children don’t have. Thousands of families in the Flint area don’t know where their next meal will come from, shops were boarded up, and homes and businesses had bars on the windows to prevent robbery. What didn’t we see? A place for children to laugh and play and forget about the troubles of the world, a place for them to turn to when times were getting rough, a place to keep them off the streets.

As the rain spattered the windows of the pick-up truck we were driving, I couldn’t help but think about the kids without a roof over their heads, without a mother or father, and without a hot meal. These mental images are the driving force behind our deep desire to help as many children as possible. The children we reach will finally have material proof that we haven’t forgotten about them, though the world often overlooks them. The children in our own surrounding cities can be helped, and we are determined to reach as many as possible.

So as you go about your busy days, take a second to notice things that you usually wouldn’t, but also take the time to notice what you can’t see. It’s truly amazing how motivating it can be.