United4Hope and The Gift of Presence

Jenny and I often reflect on the things we are hearing as we spend time listening to different schools around MNPS. One common theme we’ve noticed this year as we talk to school administrators and liaisons is their observation that community is more valuable than charity. They are thankful for the in-kind donations they receive, as there are in fact requests for material items. But one thing that research is making abundantly clear is that people heal in relationship and community.

These realizations have led to some creative, exciting brainstorming sessions between United4Hope churches and schools recently. A couple of our churches whose membership consists mostly of working professionals wanted to figure out how to come around their partner school in community, when they don’t have a lot of time during the school day. Their plan? Show up at school sports and fine arts events in the evenings. Cheer for the kids on the field as if they were their own kids. Because those are in fact our kids. When we live in community, we all belong to one another.

One of our churches has a significant population of men recently released from the correctional system. As we honor laws and best practices, we are not coming to send these men onto the school campus. But we are going to ensure they are part of the United4Hope community! They are each going to “adopt” a teacher at their partner school and write to the teacher pledging encouragement and prayers. My heart swelled as I sat in a school meeting where both the church coordinator and school liaison committed to finding a way for these men to serve and be a part of community.

As you seek to support your partner school and as MNPS embraces a community schools model, don’t underestimate simply showing up! Show up for sports, fine arts, cultural nights, or PTO programming. Or, write a note letting a principal, lunch room worker, or bus driver know they are seen. We are all better when we live in community.