Last Wednesday, The Lawton Rotary Leadership Institute and Mayor Stan Booker hosted an event honoring the men and women who have devoted their lives to serving people in our community: leaders of churches, non-profit organizations, and service groups. Everyone shared a meal and fellowship, and many reconnected, but many more met for the first time. The unity of service and faith, however, knit them together instantly.
We all feel like we are fighting losing battles at times in our jobs, but men and women who devote their lives to ministry have made lost causes their mission in life. Lawton is full of people who have devoted their lives to feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, and healing broken hearts. The volume of desperate needs and situations they face regularly would overwhelm most of us, but to them, it’s a joyful calling. Many are bi-vocational, serving in ministry in addition to their so-called regular jobs, and many are simply volunteers who have essentially added full-time jobs to their full-time jobs. I cannot comprehend the breadth, length, depth, or height of the love affirmed throughout Lawton-Fort Sill by these men and women.
In addition to affirming and appreciating their work, however, the Mayor had another message: Lawton-Fort Sill needs you and your special service to the community more than ever. Where would so many of our teen moms or elderly or marginalized turn? Who will raise so many out of poverty, training them to work and to further their education? Who will visit the infirm, and who will give hope to the hopeless? Our community has endless potential, but we also have severe challenges. We need our churches and our non-profits and our civic groups more than ever before, because as Mayor Booker said, “Sometimes, government does not have the answer.”
Schools certainly do not have all the answers, either. Much of what we face is insurmountable, but we serve every child who enters the schoolhouse doors, no matter their backgrounds or needs. We only have them for a fraction of their day, however, for most of their lives are spent outside of schools. Even if every child spent 8 hours each day in school, that only equals about 15% of their total year. As meaningful as schools are in children’s lives, their families and communities have much more impact on their lives. Our staff do as much as they can do, but nothing would be possible without parents and the community. Churches, non-profit organizations, and service groups fill in critical gaps for many of our students. Our kids need you, and while we can never fully understand all you do, we know our schools would not be successful without you. Some of you know my story, and my mom did all she could to raise the seven of us after my dad died. She was fiercely independent and as stubborn as they come, but she had all she could handle keeping a roof over our heads. I can remember key times when churches, non-profits, and service groups filled critical gaps for us. Of course, I never knew the organizations, I only knew the friendly face, the encouragement, or the track shoes I could not have otherwise afforded. I firmly believe that all parents give their very best to their children, but my Mom occasionally needed some help, so thank you to those who fill in such gaps. We need you more than ever in our schools and in our community, so I join the Mayor in thanking you for proving there really are no lost causes. I also join him in thanking you for filling so many needs in the 85% of our students’ lives. We all need you more than ever, so thank you once again for praying for the safety of our children this second Sunday of the month.