Children’s Charter for Compassion

Compassion is no foreign concept to the children of Family Scholar House. Even if, as is true for many of them, there has often been a lack of it in their lives, they still possess hearts very open to expressing their desire that the world be a more compassionate and kind place. They’ve known hunger and violence and lack of safe shelter and other effects of generational poverty–they know what it looks like when compassion is missing. And we can almost always count on them to also have a vision of what it’s like when compassion is present, all the time, every day.

And it’s important to us at FSH that our children are given opportunities to express that. First, we got involved with Compassionate Louisville. Then, we wrote our own Family Scholar House Charter for Compassion. A couple of months go we had our children participate in the Peace Postcards project. And now, this spring, our children are invited to “sign” (via hand print) a Children’s Charter of Compassion.

You can read more about the Children’s Charter for Compassion here. Our children will be signing a simple version of this beautiful charter with their hand prints–unique to them, and an indication of how special they each are in their own right.

Our children are showing the way–and we know that listening to them will help us all have a better future.

Letter to Himself

Christopher, a teenager, was asked to write a letter to himself in the future.  His letter will be one of several included in a time capsule at Stoddard Johnston Scholar House (SJSH).  A link to the letter Christopher wrote is included below as a time capsule “preview”–and as example of how absolutely awesome and creative our FSH young people are!

Christopher is the son of Mary, a resident of SJSH.

Letter to Himself

 

Something Beautiful

We are blessed here at Family Scholar House to be welcomed into Amelia Place  (the official residence of the President of the University of Louisville) every year for a gigantic Halloween Party, and we’re grateful to Dr. and Mrs. Ramsey for their gracious hospitality.  It’s quite a scene, this party, and you can’t help but leave with a buoyant spirit and twinkling eyes. For this fun evening for our families, we are thankful.  And out of it, as you’ll read below, can come some amazing things.

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Imagine, if you will, masses of children running around a lovely, historic and spacious home.  These children are all in costume and so you’re just as likely to see Buzz Lightyear dash by as you are Rapunzel or Spiderman.  There’s pizza galore, accompanied by trays of cupcakes and cookies and candy corn.  Fabulous decorations–right down to mechanical rats and a talking witch–adorn the walls and fill up corners, and in one room a magician works to pull a flower out of the ear of a particularly brave five year-old while her peers look on in amazement.  Laughter is abundant, as are squeals of delight.  And even the littlest ones offer shy smiles at the happy chaos all around them. Moms and dads stand back, grinning at their children and catching up with one another.  It’s loud.  And bright and wild and messy in the way children’s parties always are.

In a front room, next to a wide window looking out over the Amelia Place lawn, sits a baby grand piano. And around it are children vying for their turn to bang out quickly constructed and jangling melodies.

Into this fray comes one of the FSH single dads.  He smiles at it all and then leans over the child currently at the piano bench–his son–and his big and gentle frame sort of takes over the scene. As he places his hands on the keys, it is apparent something more than banging is about to happen. And it does–suddenly over all the noise come lush notes.  Intricate harmonies.  Music that makes anyone within hearing distance stop what they’re doing and turn towards this something so beautiful.

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Spend any amount of time at Family Scholar House, and you’ll know that within its walls dwell the remnants of broken lives.  The families who live here have survived some of the very worst life can mete out and are headed into new and more whole realities–but the ghosts of what has been are always with them.

And then, sometimes, an unexpected piece of music–the kind so beautiful it makes your heart ache–comes working its warmth among us all, and in between the notes of it arrive new ways of doing and living and being.  Out of despair comes hope.  Out of desperation comes confidence and determination.  Out of pain comes healing.  Out of not knowing where to turn next comes a community to lean into and to trust.

Out of all the darkness comes something beautiful.  

And in these moments, we breathe a collective “thank you,” for everything that makes the something beautiful happen.

Therefore, be it resolved!

“What does compassion mean to you?” the intern asked.

The resident thought for a minute and asked, “Can I get back to you on that?” A few days later, came this response, “Here’s what compassion means to me,” the email began, and attached, the intern found a picture of the resident’s children, sitting together, being brothers, reading.

It isn’t world-changing, but then again, maybe it is.  After all, domestic violence is an all-too-well-known reality for the majority of Family Scholar House residents.  Add to this the experiences with homelessness, poverty, inadequate medical care, and food insecurity that many FSH participants have known, and it’s no wonder that for this resident, her two boys sitting quietly and safely and kindly in their home, on a couch together, is an expression of the compassion at work in her life.

Compassion is part and parcel of who we are, what we say, and how we act here at Family Scholar House.  And although this has been true since our inception, the FSH Board recently took things a step further, approving an official board resolution as a sign of support for the Compassionate Louisville movement.  The resolution is below.  Our tremendous thanks to the Board for making such a public statement of who we are at FSH.  And our even deeper thanks to the families of FSH, who are, so very often, personifications of compassion themselves.

Now, therefore, be it resolved!

Family Scholar House Resolution for Compassion

A word from our kiddos….

We’re starting a new feature here at Our Stories Matter–an opportunity for our FSH kiddos to get a word in edgewise.  FSH Campus Coordinators have been working with Our Stories Matter to “interview” some of our children, and last week, brother and sister Wyatt and Alyssa offered up their answers to some interview questions.  We hope you’ll enjoy their inherent playfulness as children, and also be challenged by their very important answers to what they wish was different about this world we live in.  Meet Wyatt and Alyssa!

What’s your favorite food, Wyatt?

“Mac and cheese!”

“Mine’s supreme pizza with all the veggies!” his sister chimes in.

Alyssa, what is your favorite thing to do with Mommy?

“Going to the mall!” she says, while Wyatt’s answer is, “Riding my bike.”

What do you both like best about living at Family Scholar House?

“I like Miss Linsey the most, and the playground,” says Wyatt.  Alyssa says that she likes best that she has met new friends, and that she gets to go to school with some other children from Family Scholar House campuses.

What do you want to be when you grow up? 

“I want to be big!” Wyatt says with a grin, and Alyssa adds, a little more seriously, “When I grow up, I want to be a physical therapist, and I want to go to Morehead State University, where my big sister goes.”

(Somebody better go ahead and clue in the admissions folks at Morehead State–Alyssa is on the way!)

Ok, one more question, what’s one thing you wish was different about the world?

Wyatt: It would be a non-smoking world.

And Alyssa: No crime. No gangs. No smoking.  And no littering.

Children like Wyatt and Alyssa are the heartbeat of Family Scholar House.  They are our present and our future both.  And they have a great deal to teach us about this world we live in.

They Can See The Future!

Anyone who’s spent much time at all at Family Scholar House knows that when our children speak, it is best to listen.  The children who are FSH are some of the strongest, brightest, most resilient, imaginative and amazing children you’ll ever know.  They’ve seen some of the worst life can hand a person, and yet, still, they are able to envision a future full of the BEST life can offer!

Recently, one of our FSH kids, Deveric, and a few friends, got together and a made a little video.  We thought you’d like to see it.  And we dare you to watch it without a huge smile breaking across your face!  Please follow the link below:

Our children–they can see the future!  Can you?

Pet Show!

July 11th brought both a break in the triple-digit temps we’ve had here in Louisville lately, and a fabulous child-centered event on our Stoddard Johnston Scholar House campus sponsored by our good friends at Texas Roadhouse.

The Family Scholar House/Texas Roadhouse Pet Show gave cause for FSH kiddos to come together for an afternoon of games, snacks, crafts and activities.  Participants were invited to choose a stuffed animal from home or “adopt” one from donations provided to FSH, and then name their “pet,” write a story about their pet if they so desired, and bring it to the Pet Show to show-and-tell about.  There were stuffed orangutans, leopards, exotic birds, dogs, wolves, kittens, bears and fish galore!

Andy the Armadillo, Texas Roadhouse macot

Andy the Armadillo, TR’s friendly mascot, was on hand as well to take pictures with the kids and hear all about their pets.  There’s nothing quite like giant Andy hugging a little stuffed fish to his chest while the fish’s three year-old caretaker squeals with glee!

Even those who couldn’t be physically present found a way to be part of things.  Zanee’ Ja couldn’t be at the event, but she wanted her stuffed animal, Pinky the Pig, to be part of things, so she wrote a story, and sent it along to the Pet Show with an FSH staffer.  Here’s what she wrote:

“My pig’s name is Pinky. When I first adopted Pinky, I knew it was love at first sight.  And I knew I would never let anything happen to her. Pinky has been a good friend to me, and I will always be a good friend to her. Pinky has comforted me when I go to sleep.  When I wake up, she is smiling in my face.  Pinky makes me feel safe and warm.  She loves the color pink. I love you, Pinky!”

We were also privileged to have on hand the youth group from Buechel Park Baptist Church–these amazing volunteers sang songs, played games and provided supervised playground time for FSH kids as they came and went from the Pet Show.  It’s safe to say both the youth group and our kids had a great time together!

For strong community partners like Texas Roadhouse, we’re grateful (it was legendary, ya’ll!). For mission-minded groups like Buechel Park, we are also thankful.  Way to go, everyone!  FSH children were ALL winners–celebrated, empowered, and entertained, every one of them!

Pet Show participant–“Bear Bear”

The Holidays: according to our youngest scholars….

When instructed to "draw or color a picture that represents what the holidays mean to you," these pictures are what some of our FSH children--our youngest scholars--produced. For these children, and their understanding of community, generosity and thanksgiving, we are thankful. We know that among them are fine future leaders, and we're lucky to get to be a part of their beginnings.

 

All of Us Together

Imagine, if you will, somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 children (plus Mom or Dad) gathered at Cochran Elementary School (a wonderful FSH partner!) for the annual Family Scholar House Resident Holiday Party.  There’s pizza (plenty of it!).  Cookies (lots of those, too!).  Juice boxes, water, veggie trays.  All the sorts of food things you might need for a party.  There’s also art supplies for a coloring contest.

Mrs. Claus comes to the FSH party, too, smiling beautifully and with such care for all our kiddos, her lap wide enough and arms strong enough to welcome as many children as will join her for a picture, or just a sweet whispered, “Merry Christmas.”  The line to see her is long and any one lucky enough to observe the visits of the children to Mrs. Claus is privy to some incredible smiles and giggles and laughter.

Mrs. Claus brings presents from folks in the community who care about our kids–new pajamas and a book for each child.  This year, the bags that Mrs. Claus delivered the pajamas in were decorated by the children of a local faith community–their stickers and glitter and crayon drawings testament to their love for other children, even ones they don’t know.

Volunteers of all sorts welcome residents to the party and work hard behind the scenes.  FSH staff serve dinner and escort kids to Mrs. Claus.  It is, truly, a team effort, born of the collaboration of many hearts, minds and bodies.  And for many FSH families, it IS their family Christmas party–their family Christmas meal.  It is, as FSH CEO Cathe Dykstra often says, “no accident” that “Family” is the first identifier in our organization’s name.  Because at FSH, we ARE family.  Always.

And so it shouldn’t surprise anyone at all that the winner of this year’s coloring contest drew a picture communicating just that–that at this time of year, we are reminded in some really wonderful ways that we truly are all in this together.

There are in this world far too many who feel alone, who feel hopeless, who feel as if there is no way forward.  At Family Scholar House, we know that not a one of us traverses this life successfully without the support of a caring community.  We’re all in this together–this we know, and this we strive to be about as we work and live and be together.  For EVERYONE who is part and parcel of our community, we are thankful.

Happy Holidays.