Tag Archives: poverty

Seize the moment: In Dog Years, I’m Dead!

October 28 is my birthday!  Now, I’ve reached that point where that really doesn’t excite me anymore.  I guess the good thing is that I’m having another birthday.  If my years of life were expressed in dog years, I’d be dead!

In years past, a birthday meant cake and ice cream!  I absolutely love a birthday cake covered in that wonderful lard and sugar icing!  Now, just the thought of that drives my glucose level to dangerous levels and requires an extra dose of insulin!  My childhood birthday always meant blowing out the candles to start the celebration.  Today, the first row of candles has completely melted by the time the final row is lit.  Presents then were always exciting and fun to play with.  Presents today go right into the sock or underwear drawer. 

Like an old dog, I’m reaching that point where a nice meal, a full tummy and a warm place to nap really makes the day!  And, when my wife scratches my back its just that much better. Unlike my dog whose leg bounces as you scratch his back, I’ve not quite gotten to that stage.  Thats most likely coming in future years!

Birthdays for me have become more about insuring that the world is a better place when your life comes to an end some day.  To that point, I’ve taken on the CharityWater cause.  Several months ago when I learned that 4,500 kids die daily from water related illnesses, I decided to try and make a difference.  My family and I established a fund at www.mycharitywater.org/potterfamily.  Our hope is to raise funds to help this organization put freshwater drinking wells in Africa.  My birthday is not about me, it’s about helping people who do not have clean drinking water.  This is something I absolutely take for granted.  I’m asking you to consider making a contribution to this fund.  100% of all gifts go directly to projects in Africa providing for clean drinking water!

Thank you for reading my blog!

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Seize the moment: This Sucks!

While in Chicago today, I had time to enjoy the beautiful weather, Millenium Park and the overall flavor of this place.  Chicago is a glorious city with incredible history, sights, sounds, smells and great people!  I took the opportunity to walk down Michigan Avenue today washed in sun and cooled with a delightful breeze from the lake just two blocks east.   A caffeine supplement  was in order at the local Caribou Coffee.  Everyone inside exhibited that wonderful midwestern friendliness not found in many of the large cities around this country.  For a moment it felt like Winston-Salem.   As I started my leisurely walk down Michigan Avenue with that coffee, I noticed the sign.  It said, “This Sucks.”  The sign was held by a 18 or 19 year-old homeless kid sitting on the sidewalk at the corner of Michigan and Madison. 

 Across the street sits Millenium Park, a beautiful example of urban art and development promoting community and fellowship.  My moment of calm bliss was broken as I looked at this kid and his sign.  He was clearly no older than my eldest son James.  Something told me to stop, watch, evaluate and try to understand this kid. So, I perched myself on a tree planter bordering Michigan Avenue about 50 feet away and proceeded to watch him.  This act embarrassed me.  Was I enjoying the plight of this kid?  Why did I have the curosity to watch as he begged for money using a sign with the handwritten message, “This Sucks?”  It was clear to me that he was homeless.  His clothes were tattered.  A bath is something which he most likely had not seen of recent.  He had tattoos on both arms, piercings in his ears and unkempt hair which was in need of both a cut and shampoo.  He had a backpack next to him which contained whatever his worldly possessions might be and a hat flipped upside down on the sidewalk in front of him.  He appeared well fed, but who knows for sure.  I smiled a few times as his strategy of positioning the sign was more prominent for any female approaching.  When he saw women walking either north or south on Michigan Avenue, he would angle the sign so that it was directly visible to them.  He was less aggressive when men approached his position.  I was ashamed of my many thoughts about this kid.  Why are you begging when you could easily clean yourself up and get a job at McDonalds or any other place needing someone to do basic work?  Are you just trying to look pitiful and play on the emotions of those passing you?  He was quite successful in that area!  Then, it hit me.  If he had  parents or extended family, why would they not intervene in his life?  Maybe they cared, but he rejected their efforts or they might have rejected him for whatever reason.  At one point, an older man stopped and asked him where he lived.  His youthful smile as he responded reminded me of my son’s smile as he might respond to any casual or funny situation.  I overheard him say, “I sleep wherever I can find a place in Millenium Park.”  My son goes to bed every night in his own room, in his bed surrounded by a loving family.  This boy, for whatever reason, does not.  This just sucks! 

My curiosity consumed the next two hours.  I watched any number of people respond to his plight.  Two guys dressed in costumes advertising Hershey chocolates stopped and filled his hat with pieces of candy.  He quickly pocketed this and anything placed in it so that no one else might take what was given to him.  I watched as various people stopped and provided a few dollars. The disdaining stares of many bothered me.  But, a city the size of Chicago is full of those seeking help.  He just happened to be one of the youngest I have seen so far.  Some purposefully walked very close to this boy and gave him a hateful stare.  A few even taunted him and his situation.  He just smiled everytime.  I could see that he noticed me.  He occassionally looked my way with a question in his eye.  I could tell he wondered why I was sitting on that planter facing his direction.  I felt a great sense of not knowing what I could do to help him.  Should I hand him money, offer my hotel room for a shower and a hot meal?  These and many other thoughts went through my head.  As the afternoon progressed, the chill in the air increased.  He was getting cold and pulled on a hoody to shield himself from the breeze while continuing to hold his sign.  At one point, I looked away to watch a comotion in Millenium Park.  When I turned around, he was gone.  I had done nothing to help him. 

At this moment, I am writing this blog from the comfort of my 4 star hotel one block away from Millenium Park.  I’ve had a great meal and enjoying the comforts of the historic Palmer House Hotel.  I can only imagine this kid is trying to find a place in the park to sleep where he might not be bothered by police or other homeless people.  Somewhere away from the cool lake breeze.  Definitely not on one of the many park benches which have been fitted with petitions making them impossible to use as beds. 

Why am I writing about this?  Maybe its the guilt I feel for not taking more action to help those who cannot help themselves?  Maybe its a guilt of worrying more about what I have and how to keep it?  Maybe its the guilt, I have as a Christian,  for not understanding the meaning of sacrifice?  At dinner tonight I reflected on the concept of sacrifice.  What is real sacrifice as a Believer in Christ?  Is it fasting and giving up a few meals, is it a mediocre contribution to my church or is it taking one day out of the month to work on behalf of others?  Or is it, taking personal  risk to champion issues for those who cannot standup for themselves, giving my personal financial resources at a level which require me to lower my many “wants” to meet other’s needs or just sitting down next to this kid, praying for and with him, showing him the love of Christ.  At the very least, I should have done this and to heck with those walking by who would have thought I might be crazy. Many reading this might explain away the issue of homelessness.  Its there, its real and many issues contribute to the problem.  But, should Christians explain away the problem as one that those impacted should bear the burden?  I think not!

Not long ago, I was talking about health equity issues with a church friend.  He smiled at me and said, “you sound like one of those radicals.”  That comment shocked me since I have always been somewhat of a right winger politically.  But, when you think about Christ and His time on the earth confronting the issues of this world,  He most likely would be classified as a radical.  Maybe each one of us needs to think about how we can “radicalize” our faith to make a difference.  Our hope is not in this world today, but in the eternal life which Christ offers each of us.  Thanks for reading my ramblings!

Seizing the moment…..must they continue to die?

Mother Teresa once said, “It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.” 

 I hope we would never intentionally do something to cause the death of a child by the way we live our lives.  However, our inaction to understand the challenges children face globally leads to the poverty Mother Teresa speaks of.  Until recently, I did not fully comprehend the challenges children face globally because of the lack of clean drinking water.  According to CharityWater.org, 4,500 children die every day as a result of illnesses from poor drinking water.  This is a significant problem facing children throughout Africa.  As I read the statistics and saw the images of children drinking and playing in filthy water, I made the decision it was time to make a stand. 

Problems like this can seem overwhelming to us as individuals.  How can I possibly make a difference?  But, I found a solution where, with the help of others, a new well can be drilled in a village somewhere in Africa.  This well will provide safe, clean drinking water for 250 people.  And, the cost to do this is only $5,000!  CharityWater.org has made it possible for me to begin a campaign over the next 90 days to raise those funds.  I’ve made the first contribution which has been added to by several friends.  Please take a look at: www.mycharitywater.org/potterfamily

I hope by the end of October we will celebrate reaching this goal…seizing the moment and saving the lives of children!

Thanks for reading my blog!

Thanks for another donation to our campa

Thanks for another donation to our campaign to raise funds for a new fresh water well in Africa! http://www.mycharitywater.org/potterfamily

4,500 kids will die today….

Yesterday,  I made the decision to start observing how much water I used.  Water to brush my teeth, make my coffee, wash clothes, take a shower, cook meals, wash dishes, and swim in a pool.  Thats just the beginning.  And, I didn’t have to think one second about the quantity available and its cleanliness. 

Now look at the picture above.  Thats the reality for millions of people around the world.  Can you imagine making your coffee with that water or giving your child a drink of water you can’t see through!   Well, thats the reality and we take clean water for granted as we wash our cars, our pets and fill our pools with water that people in developing countries have no access to.  The title of this blog is accurate!  I am working with Charity Water to make a difference in this global problem.  4,500 kids will die today and everyday around the world because of illnesses associated with filthy water.

My family and I are trying to make a difference and need your help!  Rather than receive gifts for my 54th birthday, we are asking you to consider going to www.mycharitywater.org/potterfamily.  You will be able to see more information about the problem and a means to help fund one new well which will support 250 people.  Thanks to those who are starting to contribute!  We have 91 days to raise $5,000.  Even if you can’t make a financial contribution, but believe in this cause, I am asking that you consider posting this website on your facebook, twitter, linkedin, or other networks to make others aware of the problem!  We can turn this into a major online victory if you will forward this message out to others!  I have already contributed $510 to the project.  As you will read on www.mycharitywater.org/potterfamily, my family will splurge less on eating out and Starbucks (I still love you guys!) during the campaign and contribute equal amounts to the fund.  In fact, I added an additional $10 which is equal to our nightly visit to Starbucks since we did not go last evening.

At the end of our campaign, I am hoping that we will be able to announce the funding of one new well which Charity Water will place in one of its global projects.  We will plan a celebration in Winston-Salem at that time!  I hope you will consider making a contribution and posting this link on your social media sites!

You will save a kid’s life in some village somewhere!

Thanks for reading this blog!

Momma, why do we always give those old people our food when we don’t have much?

This past week I had a working lunch with a man who I greatly respect and consider a friend.  He is successful in business and government.  My friend is called upon to solve problems for well known individuals and corporations.  And, as I learned that day, an incredible philanthropist whose humility does not accept that title.  As he and I talked about his global efforts to help people, I asked him what had been the defining moment in his life to inspire his efforts.  The answer was not only emotional and humbling, but inspirational.  It was an incredible example of God working in someone’s life at an early age, allowing him to overcome significant obstacles, providing  the means to be successful in all aspects of business and having a keen sensitivity to the needs of others.  His sensitivity flows into a personal commitment to help a  bad situation in any possible way. 

My friend was raised by his grandmother who he called momma.  Momma did’nt have much, but as my friend said, she always had a pot of beans on the stove and some cornbread in the skillet.  Many days momma would call my friend into the kitchen as she scooped out some beans and cut pieces of cornbread up for him to deliver to one of their  needy elderly neighbors.  When  he was about the age of 9, my friend asked momma, “why do we always give those old people our food when we don’t have much?”  He said that her response to that question has stayed with him for the last 60 years and changed his life forever.  Momma looked at my friend and said, “just remember you can never out give God.”  “We might not have much, but haven’t you always had something to eat and a place to sleep?”  He said, “yes momma.”  She went on to say, “God will always make sure we have something to eat and a place to sleep, so we can always help someone else.”  She finished by saying, “just remember that everything we have is a blessing from God and we should use it to help others.”  My friend grabbed my arm and said, “Norm, I can remember that day as if it just happened.”  The look in his eyes and the grip on my arm told me who this man is and what truly motivates him. My friend went on to say, “I have been all over the world and seen some of the most horrific things impacting the lives of people.  It is at those moments I know God expects me to own the issue and use all I have to try and deal with it.  Norm, it is my passion!”

All of us have too much whether its time or resources.  We want more for the sake of having more and we might cast a momentary glance on that person struggling in some way.  We might feel a sense of pity, but just move on to whatever.  My friend has been richly blessed in so many ways, he sees the struggles around him and he owns them.  All of us can help someone else no matter what our worldly blessings might be.  My lunch last week inspired me to ask God for forgiveness for those times where I could have made a difference and did not.  You and I have a duty to help those who cannot help themselves!  I hope this blog about my friend inspires you as it did me! 

Thanks for taking the time to read it!

“Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor. ”  Proverbs 22:9