Labor of Love By Larry Willis
Good Evening Fellow Toastmasters and honored guest:
This evening I would like to take you on a journey or better yet a quest. For the next few minutes I will introduce to some and remind many of you of what you heard many times as you were growing up. The golden rule…”Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. The title of my speech this evening is a Labor of Love. You might be curiously wondering what this Labor of Love concept is. Where did it originate? How long has this particular organization been in existence? Finally, where does this event take place? I will answer all of these questions during my speech this evening.
This Labor of Love concept began for me when I was a young boy growing up in Alabama. Here I am approximately 5 years old and I notice an old man by the name of Mr. Shook come to my grandparent’s home and sit down on their front porch. I heard the squeaking sound of the old fashioned porch swing, so I peek through the window and notice this older gentleman sitting as content as if he was at his own home. I did not know him personally, so I ran and found my grandmother and told her “Mr. Shook is outside sitting on the front porch. My Grandmother assured me it’s just Shook and he is ready for something to eat. My grandmother stopped whatever she was doing, went into the kitchen and began preparing Mr. Shook’s meal. The meal was large enough for a lumberjack and good enough for a king. When she was finished preparing the meal, the only words spoken were ‘your food is ready, come in and wash your hands’. After that day, the vision of my grandmother opening her home and sharing whatever she had, never left me. Mr. Shook was an older gentleman that was slightly mentally challenged and somewhat homeless. I did not realize this until I was approximately twelve years old. He would do different odd jobs around the neighborhood for food and pocket change, but not enough to keep a roof over his head. My grandmother never received a reward for her Labor of Love, but to visually see the “golden rule in action” over and over again …Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, was buried deep inside of me beginning at the tender age of 5 years old.
Keeping with the golden rule concept, fast forward to April 2004…the beginning of Labor of Love…the credo is “Love ought to show itself over and above words.” This organization began with people that have hearts full of love, and a willingness to help those that are down trodden and destitute. Husband Tony, his wife, Shirley, with their son Kiko and a shoestring budget had an idea: if we could make a few bag lunches with a sandwich, chips, a piece of fruit and a bottle of water, we could make a difference. This was the beginning of the first Labor of Love Event, with a very humble beginning. We raised approximately $50.00, and this was great, we anticipated 20 to 30 lunches, but we were able to prepare close to 120 sack lunches. The target group was the homeless people in our area. Because of this influx of money ($50.00) and, if we maximize our efforts, we will be able to feed more people. My wife and I led a two-car caravan to down town Los Angeles, where the bag lunches were given out almost before we could stop the cars. We realize there was such a need, and we only had a limited amount of food, that it caused a slight problem for us, there were so many people left wanting.
We make sure we always speak words of hope and encouragement when giving out the food. …. (Don’t give up, we love you; you are not forgotten). We return to our cars dejected and saddened because we just did not have enough. As we return home we began debriefing and realized we could have done so much more, if we would have begun soliciting for donations sooner and thought there must be more people with similar desires of giving, sharing and working to help those in need. We continue to ask for donations and encouraged our relatives and friends to participate. We come together for this Labor of Love event two times per year…. two weeks before Christmas and two weeks before Resurrection (Easter). The Event began with approximately $60 .00 and 10 people. Five years ago we prepared approximately 400 sack lunches with a total of 30 volunteers. Our Labor of Love event in December 2014 has grown to approximately 80 men, women, and children. We collected cash donations of $ 400.00 and food donations worth approximately $300.00.
Presently, our preparation began almost two months prior to the actual event. We have a relative of Shirley who has developed our own web page. We have also improved on our lunch menu. We now have boxed lunches with hot fried chicken, potato logs, chips, fruit, water, yogurt and juice and a very important small note with words of encouragement. We now have an assembly line to prepare the lunches. We were able organize and stretch the donations and feed approximately 800 people in need 3/28/15. We now have a caravan of 10 cars descending on Los Angeles –Skid-row area. Each car is stocked with approximately 80- 90 box lunches. And because of safety precautions, we work in tandems only, and we only open one car at a time. We all work as one team; no other car is open until the present car is completely unloaded. We venture into areas that are truly undesirable, and the people are there for a multitude of reasons…such as mental health, destitute, loss of job, spouse died, doubled crossed by a so call friend or relative. I remember my grandmother would make a statement that I did not understand at the time, but I do now….”the harvest is plentiful, but the labors are few” ~Matthew 9:37. There is work that needs to be done, but we don’t have enough labors. Who knows the reason for their demise, but it really does not matter, we are not there to judge or condemn, we are only there to up hold the “golden rule and to exercise our credo” Love ought to show itself over and above words”.
Thank you, Larry Willis