A few months ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Uganda and Kenya where I visited with two organizations doing incredible work with orphans and poverty-stricken families. My prayer was that God would allow me to give what I could give and that I would receive what I needed. One of my expectations was that I would feel overwhelmed by the abject poverty to which I would be exposed. A fear was that I would move into “fix-it” mode, which is part of my nature—to help fix things. I was surprised to discover that my expectations and fears did not come to fruition. I was not overwhelmed nor did my mind want to start fixing anything. Instead, what struck me most was the beauty and resiliency of the people who were living in poverty. The people I interacted with were doing everything they could to move forward. Mothers were taking food to sell at the market. Children were wearing backpacks and walking to and from school. People were running small businesses to make ends meet.
I did, of course, witness things that were heartbreaking and yet hopeful. For instance, I spent some time with a young man, Patrick, who lost both of his parents to AIDS, which continues to ravage parts of Africa. Patrick told me that he was orphaned at 12 years old and that he took it upon himself to build a house at that young age. Ultimately, he found his way to an organization that housed him and gave him an education. Today, Patrick is at the University in Kampala where he is studying law. He has great hope for the future and I know he’ll be a great success.
Toward the middle of my trip, I started to think more about home—about Los Angeles. My heart broke more than ever for the thousands of people who are living on the streets of the City of Angels. My mind was filled with questions: How did we get here? How do we get out of here? What is it going to take for our city, all of us, to take urgent measures to become part of the solution? What will it take for compassion to increase? What is my role?
In the coming months, we will be reaching out to you to invite you to discuss these questions with us. And I am convinced that together, we will develop some good answers and we will do more than we’ve ever done before.