Their refrigerator is covered with artwork, homework, drawings and special notes. Scattered about the house are toys, craft supplies, and evidence of completed and uncompleted school projects. The yard is not much different. Sports equipment, and more toys, are constant reminders of the kids. But the kids are not the Paddock’s biological kids. They’re neighborhood kids they’ve learned to love and respect and the feeling is mutual. If you think the days of sending your kid down the street to borrow a cup of milk, an egg, or some sugar are over, think again. Through The Dream Campaign, a non-profit, in Savannah, Georgia the idea of neighbors helping neighbors is making a comeback.
The day after Glenn and Morgan Paddock married, they moved to Atlanta to serve an inner city homeless mission. Rather than wedding gifts they had requested friends and family financially support their new adventure. It was through that experience that the Paddocks realized many kids, especially those within proximity of the mission they were working, weren’t dreaming like many kids, or that their dreams were limited. When they’d ask kids what they wanted to do when they grew up most would answer what they knew by referring to working in fast food or at the local skating rink. The Paddocks quickly realized these kids weren’t dreaming because they either found it pointless, or they have never been exposed to anything outside a few miles of where they were living.
But Glenn and Morgan hadn’t been in Atlanta long before their service opportunities there suddenly ended and they found themselves searching for new ways to serve and live out their faith. Their nagging burden for teaching kids to dream bigger never subsided and so they began pursuing the notion of helping kids dream and quickly began searching for the right spot to do it.
The Paddocks prayed for direction and landed in Savannah, Georgia which was surprising but made sense as they already had a built-in support base of friends and relatives there. While some may have been dissuaded by local talk of crime, shootings, and gang related violence, none of that scared Morgan and Glenn away. In fact, it confirmed for the Paddocks that this was the perfect spot to help kids dream, so they moved right in the middle of it.
Research indicates that when kids aren’t taught to dream, or feel unloved, hopeless, or unimportant, they often turn to violence or cycles of poverty. After all, according to Morgan Paddock, “It’s difficult to dream when you’re worried about your basic needs, and you can’t really talk about college or careers when your life experiences are so limited—some of these kids have never even ridden a bike, seen the country, or experienced a vacation.” So the Paddocks base their vision and their focus around Ephesians 3:20.
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us–” Ephesians 3:20 NIV
They founded their non-profit with 95% of their financial support coming from individual contributions and supporters, as well as the support of a local mega church that bought into the vision early on. They remind us that they have been called to walk with kids, share hope, and create a safe place. The Paddocks maintain that what they’ve done is special but nothing that can’t be duplicated. They encourage families everywhere to consider being a good neighbor. Talking with them or following them on social media is uplifting and I have to say I’ve learned a ton just by following their neighborly journey. So here are five things I learned from the Paddocks and The Dream Campaign.
Be an Intentional Neighbor. The Paddocks hold fast to the idea that they’re not out to save the neighborhood. They just want to be a neighbor. Just by following God’s command to love others unconditionally, they’re making a huge impact that could someday pay off in even bigger ways and could possibly save a life. Morgan explains they’ve not been without their critics. They’ve been scrutinized and criticized for their open door policy, and for always being willing to give local kids in the neighborhood what they need or ask for. But they don’t mind the criticism. According to the Paddocks, “If a kid comes to the front door asking for an orange, they’re going to give them an orange. They point to the future, “Someday, that same child may be older, and will really need our help, and she won’t just be asking for an orange, it will be something much bigger, and she’ll know she can knock on our door and ask for our help and we’re going to open the door.” Through being a good neighbor to the kids and others in their community, they’re becoming a part of something greater. The Paddocks emphasize the importance of building relationships. Not because they want to get something out of it, but because that’s how communities are built.
Dream bigger. I have to admit I’ve asked myself since I’ve met the Paddocks, what I could be doing to make an impact in my own community, and I’ve found myself considering the size and scope of my own dreams. When we dream bigger, our results are going to be bigger. When others know we’re dreaming bigger, it holds us more accountable to our pursuits.
Encourage others to dream bigger. The Dream Campaign and the mission to help others dream has made me consider my own level of encouragement. How am I helping others in pursuit of their goals and dreams? One way the Paddocks and the Dream Campaign does this is by meeting the needs of kids in their neighborhood in their pursuits of education and employment. They regularly take kids to work or school and pick them up, and neighborhood kids know if they need help with school projects, the Paddocks can help with that too. They have birthday parties for kids who’ve never had birthday parties and they take photos of kids at those parties or working on school projects and put them on their refrigerator. The kids are thrilled to find their faces, homework, or artwork on the fridge, and the Paddocks are thrilled just to be there for them. Neighborhood families are appreciative for the assistance getting kids where they need to be so they too can work or take care of other things and the Paddocks are just happy to lend a hand. When the kids feel that extra support, and encouragement, and when they’re able to get those school projects completed it goes a long way teaching them to pursue their dreams.
Start Now. It’s simple. We can start being an intentional neighbor right now wherever we are. Caring communities don’t have to be a thing of the past. The positive impact of The Dream Campaign in such a short amount of time not only underscores the need for more meaningful neighborhood communities, but it also emphasizes the importance of beginning now. There’s no time to waste. People need to know their dreams can come true, and people need encouragement.
Don’t Let Financial Need Limit Your Success. The Paddocks will readily tell you, you’re not going to become wealthy by becoming an intentional neighbor, but the personal payoff is worth it. Encouraging others on their life journey and in chasing their dreams or dreaming bigger doesn’t have to cost of lot of money either, and you don’t have to form a non-profit like theirs to show people you care for them in tangible ways. At the same time, while our own finances can serve as barriers in our own pursuits, they don’t have to be. The communities around us and the people we come in contact with everyday can help, but we have to be willing to ask. The Paddocks have found their local community to be incredibly supportive overall and new opportunities are opening up every day because of the personal investment they’re making in the lives of people around them. When we invest and dream within our local communities, our communities are more likely to invest and dream with us. We’re all in this together.
This article first appeared in the Huffington Post.
Who is Chester? A leader in education, non-profit advocacy, parenting issues, access, policy, and blogging culture, Chester has been quoted in major media outlets such as CNBC, Yahoo, the Washington Post, Forbes Leadership, and others. He is a contributing writer for the Huffington Post, The Good Men Project, and Edutopia. You can learn more about Chester and his Amazon #1 Best Seller at www.purplepeopleleaderbook.com or www.chestergoad.com. He and his wife live in Tennessee with their teenage son.