Our Community Blog: Claas Ehlers, President, “Giving Thanks and Hospitality”

November 23, 2016

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When I travel to visit Affiliates, I am often invited to stay in the home of a board member or director.  Even though I have a hectic schedule and can use the evenings to catch up on work, I eagerly accept those invitations.

For one, I am cheap—and they save Family Promise money.  (And, I am less likely to get bitten by bedbugs, as I have on several occasions choosing discount lodgings!)  But the primary reasons are that it gives me an opportunity to fellowship, to get to know people better and to experience our core tenet of hospitality.  I am truly grateful for all three of these elements.

In some of the homes I have stayed, Fox News plays; in others, MSNBC.  Some of my hosts, I am sure, were ardent Trump supporters; others were lifelong Democrats; some felt the Bern.  Last week I had dinner with Dr. Robert Marbut, who served in the first Bush White House and supported Jeb, but also served as chief of staff to Henry Cisneros, the Democratic mayor of San Antonio and President Clinton’s Secretary for HUD.

That is one of the wonderful elements of Family Promise; we bring people together from every imaginable faith tradition (and those with no tradition at all), every demographic background and from all across the political spectrum.  No one wants to see children and their families homeless.

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Celebrating Thanksgiving with Family Promise of South Palm Beach County.

We now come upon Thanksgiving.  We all know its roots and certainly its meaning.  It was fixed to one specific day to be celebrated all across the United States in 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln.  This was done at a time when our Republic had never been in greater peril.  Human beings were still enslaved, soldiers were dying and communities were torn apart.

Amid all that, on the same date, Americans shared meals, conversation, family, faith.  They gave and experienced hospitality.

The other major event this November was, of course, the election.  A new administration brings changes and we do not yet know how this will affect the work we do, the need, the resources, and the congregations and volunteers who serve.  Part of the purpose of my dinner with Dr. Marbut, along with conversations with other leaders in the field from all sides of the issue, was to prepare us for this next phase.  But at this point, no one is sure what the future will bring.  And truly, we never can be sure:  family homelessness is complex and has many contributing factors.

What we do know for certain is that hospitality is tremendously powerful.  It connects us.  For the more than 57,000 people we serve each year, and the 180,000 doing the serving, it changes lives.  As our tagline states, Family Promise builds community.  It takes all of us to ensure that children and their families can have a home.  Working together, we will continue to make that happen.

This has never been more important.

With gratitude for everyone who is part of Family Promise.

 

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