When Little Girls Have Big Dreams

This is my oldest.

She reads all the time.

In the grocery store.
In the middle of the day on a Saturday.
I’ve even found her in the kitchen reading cookbooks.

The summer of 2013, Kayla had asked for a very expensive doll. We made a plan for her to be able to earn the doll. The plan was that if she would read twenty chapter books, our family would take a day trip to purchase the doll she had been wanting. It was the perfect plan and Kayla executed it with style!

Looking forward to this summer, we knew it was going to be a big one for our family. My younger daughter would have major surgery and we would be home most of the summer. We are an on-the-go tribe and this new home-all-day-every-day would not be easy. A new plan for Kayla’s summer reading goal was brewing.

We are part of a church which has a great outlook toward our community. (It’s one of the reasons we love our church family so much!) Our church leaders are constantly thinking of ways to engage those around us with the love of Christ. Many times throughout the year, community pastors will speak to our church family about what God has laid on their hearts for our area.

On one such day our church was commissioning a couple to begin a new ministry in Atlanta. This ministry would be located in a foreign land; a place I could not have located on a map; an area I had never spent time in – – or would have ever chosen to for that matter. They talked about their new ministry area with such love and concern, passion and urgency. (You can read about what they are doing at the Vertical Church website.)

This “foreign land” (only about 40 minutes from my driveway!) has very little green space, consisting vastly of concrete and asphalt and dilapidated buildings. There were very few options for grocery stores. The homes were unlivable, yet families were living there. There were schools with no books… Wait! This caught our attention. No books? We could not even put our mind’s eye to this picture. We talked about this over lunch that day. The topic came up over the next several weeks. Soon, the topic dropped out of our conversations, but still lingered in the backs of our minds.

Fast forward to the summer reading challenge for 2014. As parents who are trying really hard to help our children along this journey become people with character who will make a difference, we wanted this challenge to be about something bigger than just a doll.

The Lord, in His sweet way, reminded me of the Boyds and the work they are doing with Vertical Church. What if Kayla could read for a cause? What if people would sponsor her reading so that we could fill that school library? That’s exactly what she set out to do. I contacted the Boyds to see if we could help this school fill their library.

They had a terrific suggestion. Each year they reach out to their community by doing a Burgers & Backpacks event. They give away back packs, feed the community a complete meal (can you picture an ice-cream truck handing out FREE goodies?!), bring in bounce castles, have arts and crafts for the children, offer a prayer station with bibles to give away, offer a station where kids can get a back-to-school haircut for free, and so much more. This year, why not give away books to the community? How wonderful! We knew that they planned to give away 500 backpacks. We made it our goal to give away two books to each child that got a backpack. That would be 1,000 books!

We made a reading chart with a personal reading goal so large, we were unsure Kayla could reach it. 60 books in three months. That goal was triple what she had done the previous summer! We began contacting friends, family, and even professionals at offices that we frequent. We asked friends to make a pledge for each book she read. Some gave books. Some gave money. So many played a part. One friend of Kayla’s even joined in the challenge and began reading and spreading the word. These girls began working together, side by side, to do something. They wanted to make a difference.

Kayla began sorting through her own books to give what she could. Boxes and boxes of books came off of our shelves.

As donations started coming in, we were able to go out and buy books to give away.

It was a lot of fun explaining to the cashiers why we were buying out the whole children’s book section!

Hiram Bookstore even donated a large amount of books to the cause. Thanks Hiram Books!

All along the way, Kayla kept reading! She read to her little sister while she was confined to her bed. (This one was all about bats!) She read in the car. She read in bed. She read on the porch. She read out loud. You see where I am going with this.

Finally, just days before the deadline, Kayla made her goal! 60 books! She amazed us all!

The time came to begin sorting and packing up the books that had been purchased. When we combined the books we had and the books Eliza gathered, we had an overwhelming amount of books. Our scope had widened from our original goal. We now had toddler books, picture books, middle school books, high school books, readers, elementary chapter books, parenting books, SO MANY BOOKS! People were turning out left and right to give books to this cause.

All in all, the girls collected 2,559 books! Yes! 2,559! As we kept counting and doing all the math, we realized that we probably weren’t going to be able to fit all the books and both our families into our two cars. We made the all call and even had help packing and transporting books! I’m still just so grateful at the way people responded to these two girls and their call to action!

On the day of Burgers & Backpacks, we all very excitedly arrived and began setting up. Pastor Boyd started the day out with prayer and introduced our two hard working girls to everyone.

Kayla and Eliza were able to meet Vertical Church members, community leaders, and others who had worked hard to prepare to serve others this day.

One o’clock soon signaled the beginning of the event. People began standing in lines for the backpacks. The bounce houses were full all afternoon, the ice-cream truck stayed so busy, and people were pouring over the books. Kayla and Eliza had great joy in helping children pick the perfect books. We even had some children say “You mean I can really have more than one book?!” in disbelief that someone was just going to give them something.

Two excited girls. Two proud mamas.

These girls make my heart swell. They’ve already tossed around ideas for next summer. (I might need to rent a storage unit for this one!) Giving to others feels so good and really is contagious. When you see a mission, develop a passion, and invite others to join you, God can make something wonderful happen.

The wonderful transformation I saw in our family as we were working together toward a goal really makes me want to be “on mission” all the time. It gave us a focus, a mutual goal, an idea that we were going to see someone else and ourselves better on the other side. All the unknowns melted away as we interacted with moms, siblings, men from the community, and children who were just like our own. Each one of us was able to step beyond ourself that day and extend a hand, make a connection, and grow our hearts bigger.

This effort that started as something small has stirred something in me that I am happy to cultivate and explore. Does your family have a mission? A vision? A common goal with others to reach people?

***

Hi, I’m Valerie. Mom of two beautiful daughters. I love writing (some of it ends up on threeoclockshop), eating dark chocolate, and relaxing with a nice hot cup of coffee.  I hate talking on the phone, dusting, and filling out paperwork. I am married to the hunkiest, most wonderful man on the planet.  Together, we are doing our best to honor God through our worship, family, and friends.

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Here at Middle Places we LOVE a good story. Everybody is making their way through the middle of something and we'd love to hear about yours. Please send an email to editor@middleplaces.com or check out our Contact page if you'd like to share your story with us and our readers.
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