I have been ruined for life.  It all started in 1995 when, as part of a group of ministers and educators from Milwaukee, I traveled to the Working Boys Center in Quito, Ecuador.   Meeting people, who had a dirt floor, cooked over an open fire, used an outhouse and had a pig as their most valuable worldly possession ruined me. Building relationships with people who were living in abject poverty meant I could never be the same.  To return to my previous life would betray them and what they shared with me.  How I understood wealth, family, faith, justice, human dignity and my call was changed forever.  Knowing that there are people who do not have their basic needs met influences my thinking to this very day, even when (especially when) I fail to live simply or conflate the value of material items in my own life.

4 of the members of the Global Educators in Mission who journeyed to Quito, Ecuador in 1995.  I am second from the right.

4 of the members of the Global Educators in Mission who journeyed to Quito, Ecuador in 1995.  I am second from the right.

Being immersed into the life of others has a transformative effect.  This is the motivation for 12plus1, Inc.  Service is merely a tool to bring people together, allow them to tell and listen to their stories, break down stereotypes, build relationships and unity. This experience will have the power to "ruin" the participants for life.

Maybe it is time for all of us to be “ruined.”  Our current culture seems to have overwhelmed us.  The fast pace, over-programmed, accomplishment oriented, image conscious focus in society has led to a loss of patience and tolerance, basic kindness and decency.  Humans are created for relationship with one another.  Unfortunately cell phones and the isolation of social media have undermined this instinct. It is time for us to listen and be present to one another again.  12plus1 will provide that opportunity through service immersion and dialogue with a community of other servants.

A mutual exchange of gifts through service immersion will allow participants to see how, regardless of socioeconomic, racial, gender, age, religious differences, we share a common humanity.  A humanity that becomes less vulnerable when we are united.  Service becomes the vehicle, which will allow participants to become their best selves, learn about the importance of community, grow in faith and experience the joy of life-changing love.  Jesus is explicit that he will be found in the faces and lives of the poor and vulnerable.  (Matthew 25:35-45).

Years ago Robert Fulghum wrote a book titled: All I Ever Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.  This book of contemporary wisdom reminded us that the basics of what it meant to be a good person were learned when we were young. Participating in 12plus1 will be a commitment to a particular way of life. Through service, community, faith and love 12plus1 will reinforce those virtues, which we learned in Kindergarten, and for so long accepted them as a guideline of what it meant to be a good person.  A person who is ruined for life will:

·      Be present + live in the moment  

·      Listen

·      Accompany others with compassion and empathy when they are hurting

·      Value diverse experiences and see our common humanity even when we are different.

·      Simplify and slow down

·      Serve others

·      Pray

·      Laugh

·      Love