It’s only a gift if you give it away…

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For some reason, people draw a natural connection between Santa Claus and me. Of course, over the years, I have come to embrace that connection. 

Santa is known for his work with children…so am I.
Santa is jolly…so am I.
Santa is successful because he works with and for amazing people…same here.
Santa likes to give gifts to everyone…so do I.

But…the gift LifeWorks offers is not something you can toss in the air, operate with batteries, try on or drive around. Our gift is the deep belief that the youth we serve do not need to be changed – they do not come to us to be changed; they are already okay, and our only job is to keep them safe and offer them a caring relationship. This alone has the greatest potential to make a positive difference in their futures. With this belief guiding my work, I am humbled to be honored as a White House Champion of Change. 

For the past 42 years, I have worked to help youth and those helping youth learn that the kids are not the problem – the problem is the problem – and if we can work at fixing the problem everyone will win. Of course, tackling the issues of youth homelessness or child abuse is not a one-person job. But, if we as a community can come together and start addressing the issues, work collaboratively, be innovative in our approach and, most importantly, genuinely listen to those needing help, then we can certainly make headway and one day…who knows.

My passion for helping youth has been shared by my lovely bride, MaryLou. She and I have opened our home as foster parents to 56 youth over the years.  I have seen youth excel and go from hopeless to home-owners, from middle school-drop outs to college graduates and parent-less to being great parents.  Of course, I have seen others that have not yet experienced the success that lives inside them. This unrealized potential is what inspires me each day and has my team working 24/7 to help each youth discover the precious gift that lies deep inside. 

At LifeWorks, we believe that everyone deserves at least one person who is fiercely and unconditionally devoted to his/her success. David Taylor, a cherished colleague of mine that has passed, helped put into words what I firmly believe.

“Deep in their heart of hearts, youth long to be known, to be seen as they are and to found to be okay. Most are afraid they are not OK, having been told so over and over again. The more they believe they are OK, they better they are able to access and utilize their own resources. There is nothing that will have a bigger, or faster payoff than the realization that they are not flawed, but whole, intact, and completely OK.”

So…as I don my red suit each holiday season, I am reminded that like Santa, the road is long and the work can be tiresome but the smiles, the laughs, the hugs and successes make each day a truly wonderful gift.

Steve Bewsey is the Housing and Homelessness Director at LifeWorks, a non-profit dedicated to creating generational change in youth and families by providing the most comprehensive safety-net of support services in Austin and Central Texas

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