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The hospitality of North Texas has been my joy for four years living in Gainesville. It is a continuing encouragement. That hospitality and a remnant of a strong-hearted people committed to family living, personal responsibility, moral integrity, and community accountability encourages me.
In the same years my joy is complete living in my other two cities, Oklahoma City and Crowder, Oklahoma on Lake Eufaula. Few get the joy of such a life. Diligent work has afforded me ten bedrooms where I can lay my head any day, while some have none.
In the face of a disunity and discontent across our nation and in our local neighborhoods, some must take a stand for a new vision. In 2011, at the dare of 25 members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives. I locked in my cabin and finished research and editing on Time To Lead. While studying leaders in business, government, community, religion, and education, who led cultural change, a few principles became evident. 26 actions of one of the greatest world changers, Hezekiah, turned up in other men and women through history. Hezekiah lived all 26, the others like Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther and Mother Teresa lived a few. Hezekiah at age 25 alongside his friends overturned a nation steeped in violence and abuse and self-destruction. The new norm became moral integrity, personal responsibility and community accountability. Given nothing but bad example by his father the king and that family, his course became set through faith and diligent study of national and relational principles that have stood the test of over 2700 years.
In 2012, I made the journey from corporate management and community engagement at city-wide levels to community engagement at the face to face level full time.
It is not my wish to replace Hezekiah in history. It is my wish to influence our national and neighborhood ripples. Ripples make change. Research in cultural change tell us that it only takes 10% of an area strongly adopting a philosophy or action to effect total change. That is the tipping point.
The challenge of a life well lived from personal mentors like Dr. Ken Canfield, founder of the National Center Dr Fathering, and advisor to presidents and Dr. Frank Tunstall, international leader in missions, writer, university president and bishop, speak to me daily. One person can make a difference. You can be that one person. I can be that one person. Someone we don’t know yet can be that one person.
In 2014, that journey brought me to Gainesville alongside our other endeavors.
In our four years in this community, we have seen 307 graduates of 90 day workshops on congruent thinking and behavior, goal oriented life, strong and safe relationships, and resiliency under trauma. Each goes back and changes their world. 20 hours and 90 days with weekly homework, discussion, action oriented is enough to build a different direction. These are those on adult probation, juvenile probation, caregivers, parents, and some struggling with dysfunctional lifestyles advances enough to have children in foster care. We work with the struggling and the wounded. And we see results.
H is the daughter of one participant. Mom took the life lessons home and reconnected with H. H worked with me for 6 months across the glass in County Jail and built a new future. She spent a year in rehab prison and is successfully living in Ft. Worth in a halfway house making a life transition. Three boys relate to their grandfather for the first time in their life. Four families are changed for good forever in the county through one mom taking what she learned to her daughters and ex-husband.
D lived addicted to meth for 14 years. Through a workshop he changed his direction. He is now 4 years clean and works side by side with me encouraging others every week. He has a good job and is being an involved father to his young daughter that she never had. 3.5 years later.
J came fresh from prison and was living in the Brother’s House. In a workshop, he grumbled and struggled. Then he connected. He began living principles of responding to the anger of others in such a manner that it changed the environment in his life. He is four years sober and has helped countless others get and stay sober. He has a good job and contributes to the community 3.5 years later.
W is married with three children. Some came from his wife’s prior relationships. He is connected to his children. Drinking has stopped. Staying home is important now. His family is doing well. 2.5 years later.
R came from 30 years in prison and a life sentence for murdering his best friend. At 52, he was alone on a bicycle. After six months living with me and working alongside, he worked a good job, bought and paid for a vehicle, reconnected with his family, and is saftely living back in Arkansas, a new man.
On and on I can tell you stories in Cooke County, Texas of lives changed forever. This is what we do. This is what you do when are a part of the SOLUM Community.
Let’s skip forward.
There are four issues in our neighborhood and national community. SOLUM works as a chaplain to 3000 legislators across 34 states. Pray and encouragement and information on family and child issues go from us regularly. We are a voice for change. SOLUM works across hundreds of churches and ministries doing the same. Leaders need leaders. The issues we address are not just local, but they are certainly local.
Our nation has become ASOCIAL. Books like “Bowling Alone” talk to our pain. Social media has stormed our communications and only recently become face to face. I do bible studies weekly linking people in Mexico and multiple states in the USA. Something is moving to change that.
Here in Gainesville, families take their children to neighboring cities for education, while some of the greatest educators in the nation lead our schools. Why? Why leave the community of concern and competency to go somewhere less connected to my neighborhood? Is it part of that ASOCIAL thought train? Something else?
Pablo De Santiago reported to me that last week 110 showed up for Watch DOGS at Edison Elementary. Committed to show up, promote families with both parents engaged, display fathering as fashionable, make a difference. That is huge. Trust me. We have over 3000 Watch DOGS programs nationally, and 110 is big news. Wow. Attendance in our Gainesville schools has been climbing year over year under the watchful guidance of Dr. Brasher. We have a future.
Our churches are losing attendance nationally and locally. It is a group of 77 churches with a heart to change the new urban/rural communities that sponsored me to come here in the beginning. Our community groups are losing connection locally and nationally. We need a community connection.
Our nation has become AMORAL. Since 1960 the ASOCIAL trend has also become a lack of moral center. There is little community standard. Our standard today for business and community is “stay legal” or find a way around it. That is not much of a standard. Hammurabi had a code. The English had the Magna Carta. We are vacant. Church attendance, a good measure of moral center has gone from 60% to 15% and is dropping. East Coast is less than 2%. Our own high school is less than 4% and headed down. My pastor friend in Franklin, New Hampshire was ecstatic recently. This town of 15000 in a county of 45000 is one of the 2% areas. In Franklin there is the Catholic Church and his church, not many more. Certainly, not the hundred we have here. Another church started. He is happy. We work with him on community impact. We need a moral standard. It comes from a 10% adherence to a standard and a vocal discourse that puts it in front of others. Right now, we can’t even agree on a national anthem.
Our nation and neighborhood has become AMARITAL. It is not about the definition of marriage. It is about marriage at all. Two weeks ago in a teen group I lead I asked about goals. Where do you see yourself in relationships? One 14-year-old responded, “I want a normal relationship. I’m not going to get married.” I work with her mom also. All the teens in the room nodded approval except 2. 7 out of 9 of our future believe marriage is not normal. 41% of children today are born with no marriage. That is unheard of in history. What have we become in Cooke County and beyond? Thank God for men and parent and teachers like Edison that declare a difference. Get fathers in the game. Get them visible. Get them committed. We don’t need sperm donors, the normal name I get for fathers among adults on probation, we need men, fathers, dads, committed and connected.
Our nation and neighborhood has become AMESS. The violence is incredible. Our young men in their 20s and 30s make up the highest group involved in domestic violence. Our teens at 30% carry weapons with intent to use them. See me about the research. This is reality. The preponderance of death in youth is violent accidents and suicide in that order. Men over 55 are making up a new suicide trend. Opioid addictions are escalating and heroin in back with a vengeance as a cheaper alternative to prescription pain killers and neuropathic drugs for anxiety and depression. We are a mess.
Gosh, Phil, don’t you love me? How can you point out all this? What do we do?
Stay with me. There are great solutions in motion and we can invent more. To deny this reality however is to emulate an ostrich with his head in the sand. It only takes 11% to break the cycle and move a different direction, but they must be adamant, not just interested. That is only 1600 citizens of Gainesville or 4000 of the county. It is enough.
While I was online in a FB Radio Live interview based in Oklahoma City in the Black community last week, a young woman from Gainesville asked online, “What can we do?” Let’s talk about it.
SOLUM works on four fronts alongside other organizations, education, community, government, and churches. The promotion of personal responsibility, moral integrity, and community accountability in a family environment can bring us a different day for our children and grandchildren and great grandchildren. Sure, we’ve made a mess of it. It is our mirror into which we must look. It is our leadership that must step up and stand out.
Our first thrust is with Community Education for sensible thinking and problem solving. All three areas are addressed. Good thinking skills, good relational skills, and good problem solving can promote a great life. Evidence and research based training over 90 days helps settle skills into a potential lifestyle change. We work with Community Supervision (probation officers) and the courts to make a difference.
Alongside the THINK workshops we do parenting in the same audience and with couples where the state has taken custody due to abuse and neglect. Get the families stabilized. Promote family unity. We’ve seen several families reunited and some that ended in termination. We will pursue.
Our second thrust is among juvenile probationers. Through relational and thinking and trauma sensitive evidence and research based workshops, we affect the toughest family situations. A teen in trouble is a family in trouble. It usually has many extensions into other families. Yesterday one of our grads came proudly up to me at his job and talked about his future. He was on probation every year one year at a time from age 11 to 16. He is off probation. One day in the Walmart parking lot someone was yelling. Eventually I discerned it was my name they were yelling. It was a teen grad six months out. She came and gave me a hug along with her mother. She had been on probation for attacking mom and almost killing her. Now they were friends. She told me she used her workbook at least once a week at high school to help her make decisions. We work with the parents that will work with us also. They attend parenting. There are some great stories here and some heartbreak.
Our third area of thrust is Mental Health First Aid. As a certified trainer with the National Institute of Behavioral Health, we promote the most accepted response for depression, anxiety, ptsd, suicide, self harm and other pains. In our lifetime, 42% of adults will have a diagnosable mental health issue, blip, incident, challenge. That is either me or you and if it affects you then it affects me, too. You are my neighbor. Mental Health First Aid is the initial help offered to a person developing a mental health or substance use problem or experiencing a mental health crisis. The first aid is given until appropriate treatment and support are received or until the crisis resolves. You can be trained. I believe every adult in the United States should be trained. I can bandage a cut, I need to be able to apply salve to a wounded heart or mind.
Our fourth area of thrust is direct intervention. Through onsite personal encouragement and mentorship across the glass at county jail and onsite as a pastoral counselor, we make a difference. Through developing other pastors and church planters across the nation to do something and engage their ministries in life developing patterns, we make a difference. Through working on that 10% tipping point of engaged belief that fathers are significant and families count, through talking to you and legislators and other groups and asking you to action, through authoring books and building insight like Time to Lead and By Grace and Manage Well, we make a difference. Through blogging and teaching via social media, we make a difference.
I want you to be a part of that difference.
- Go to solumcommunity.net and browse. Sign up for mental health first aid. That is the first step to becoming a mentor. Cooke County needs mentors for every Life Skills class both adult and juvenile. Cooke County needs mentors for parenting. Coaches. Trained to do the right thing. You are the difference.
- If that doesn’t fit right now then click under Be a Mentor on Life Foundations and let’s talk.
- If that doesn’t fit, then be a financial supporter. We are an authorized 501 c 3 since 2002 helping individuals and organization build better futures.
- Maybe you have a fresh idea and approach that needs implemented. Talk to me.
In the last few weeks our state and local community have suffered unspeakable loss. After the May 20 tornado hit Moore, my husband and I both leapt into action, each according to our own talents. We talked openly about our activities in the presence of our 3-year-old daughter, but not always WITH her specifically. Several days after the storm the inevitable day came that we were running errands in Moore, our hometown, and we drove by our beloved Veteran’s Park.
Since infancy, this park has been the favorite destination for countless play-dates and snow cone treats, and it was the last place of devastation I wanted our daughter to witness. I wanted to shield her from this ugliness, so unrecognizable I held out hope that she might not realize where we were. Not so! She first clarified that this was indeed “her” park, and that it was indeed broken, and when we thought she might cry or become angry she announced “I want to help!” Despite our many attempts to explain that much of the helping is a “daddy” job, she has relentlessly pursued us over the next several days to let her help. It finally sunk in, that while I had been shielding her from what I thought was too much to handle, she responded in the most natural way she knew.
Turns out, the best thing I can do for my daughter is not to shield her from the devastation, but to be with her as she experiences it, talk about it frequently with her, and process our reactions and emotions together as a family as much as she is able to participate.
Certainly, she is not ready for everything; none of us can process all of this information at once. But God knew before He formed her that this day would come, that it would be a part of her life experiences, and He’s had a plan all along to use this to mold her into the woman she will become. We’ve prayed and discussed what God has to teach us as individuals, a couple, and a church body through this experience, but God’s plans aren’t only for adults! He has a special plan for my child, and your children as well!
Lord, let me not stand in the way of your teaching moments with my daughter, but give me wisdom to step back when necessary and to step in when needed with a wise word and loving heart. Thank you for humbling me, for reminding me that this incredible little girl is yours first, mine second, and your plans for her are greater than my wildest imagination. Give me wisdom to walk with her and teach her, but most of all to point her to you as she experiences both the wonder and the devastation in this life.
When painful things happen, I encourage you to prayerfully consider what God is doing in your children’s lives as well as your own. Take specific time aside to talk on their level about the experience, even if they are mostly experiencing it vicariously (through you, or the media, or friends’ accounts), give them constructive ways to express their emotions, positive or negative (art, music, and role play are a few suggestions). For our daughter, we’re going to plant flowers to help re-grow what the winds blew away. We’ll start with pots in our yard for now, as the devastated sites really are not appropriate or safe for young children, and then we’ll find a way to make her efforts a part of the public healing process as it is appropriate. Who knows, maybe one day she’ll take her own children to the very spot we plant those flowers and tell the story of what God did in our community!
Angela Fashimpaur – Ready To Help: Leading Your Children