Tag Archives: give

Listen & Respond


We sang a cute little song in church when I was a child about rains coming down, floods coming up, and houses that went splat. The splat was easily the most fun part of the song, but when I experienced that reality as an adult it was far less entertaining. Victims of Hurricane Harvey are facing that same reality today.

My hurricane experience came at the same time of year as Harvey, and it was Labor Day weekend when the first large group of heroes arrived to give us hope. I suspect that has been the same experience for many in Texas. 

We only had a few negative encounters in the aftermath of the storm. Like a group bringing a personal photographer to document their own kindness. And like another insisting that we needed their massive clothing donation immediately even though we had no homes, much less closets. Oh, and every encounter with every level of government and insurance company was its own disaster.

But the biggest flood of all was the beautiful flood of kindness from individuals and churches from all over the world. It was overwhelming in the very best way, and it was our salvation. 

So I have two pieces of advice to share from personal experience:

First, although “news” is ever-changing by definition, remember that the needs will not go away quickly. Join in for the long haul. I love the first responders so much. And I have a unique respect for those who still came months later.

Second, give freely. Find an organization or individual that you trust, and then trust them. The victims know what they need. Listen first. Respond second. 

Losing everything in a hurricane is in retrospect, but only in retrospect, a strangely wonderful time in the history of our family due to the love that we witnessed and received. I pray that many in Texas will be able to look back with similar fondness someday.

Future Friends


hk4I fiercely disagree with Donald Trump’s assertion that the firestorm surrounding his 2005 remarks “is nothing more than a distraction” and strongly believe that the resulting conversations on misogyny and sexual assault (not to mention presidential choices) are significant and important.

Same time, somewhere in the neighborhood of a thousand people are dead in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, and as a survivor/veteran/victim of Hurricane Katrina who was a beneficiary of intense public attention and the resulting flood of love and support, my thoughts are especially with those grieving families and all who have suffered from the storm.

Last week, as Matthew grew in intensity, our good friend, Hung, shared a sweet Facebook post that featured a picture from 2005 of cute kiddos working a lemonade stand at Pepperdine University for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.  It touched my heart since the cute kiddos in that picture eventually became friends, classmates, and youth group buddies of our youngest daughter who lost the only house she had ever known in that storm two thousand miles away.  Who could have imagined that years later those same kids would be fast friends?  I am certain that the money collected that day did not specifically rescue us from our homelessness, but as I looked at that picture, in my mind it was as direct a connection as if they had hand-delivered the cash seen sitting in that Tupperware container.

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the great needs in this world and the inability to address them all.  As a recovered victim with the luxury of looking back, I can say that the sentiment expressed in both the Quran and the Talmud that whoever saves one life saves them all rings true.  And if we ever need extra motivation to take action, imagining that your pocket change will directly benefit someone you will come to know and love just might do the trick—even more so if you can sense how it will touch the heart of your Future Friend.


Better to Give (but Receiving Is Often Pretty Great, Too)

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

I’m not sure what lights Otto’s fire, but if I could bottle it I would sell it—and drink it, too.

The first time I met the dean of our law school, she asked me to locate the best programs in the country at connecting law students to practicing lawyers. Elon Law’s “preceptor program” was one of the best, so as soon as possible, and with permission, we started our own. In the years that followed, what began as a voluntary opportunity for our first-year students has now grown into a required first-year course component that has extended to create mentor matches for interested upper-division students, too. We now have 150+ practicing attorneys and judges giving their time to mentor students with more on the way.

And then there is Otto. Otto was a fill-in preceptor (read: mentor) during the first year of the program. He was named Preceptor of the Year during the second year. For the third year, we named the award after him.

We give Otto a mentee or two each year and then he goes and collects more like baseball cards. I have no idea at this point how many students—and graduates—now consider themselves one of Otto’s “kids.”

Here are the sorts of things students said about Otto in the past:

“From allowing me to use his office space to study for finals, to taking our mentor group out to dinner every couple of weeks, to giving me thoughtful career advice, he has done so much to make my law school experience both enjoyable and comfortable.”

“Most importantly, he represents everything that Pepperdine stands for: a person who overcame the odds and does good things for people on a daily basis. He is truly one of the most unselfish people I know.”

I attended one of Otto’s dinners for his “kids” last weekend, and as expected, there were first-year, second-year, and third-year students in attendance alongside those not even in law school anymore. It was a family gathering: relaxed, lively stories, laughter, and lots of smiles.

Otto would say that it’s a toss-up whether he or the students get more out of these relationships, but it appears to me to be a tie ballgame.

To be candid, I know exactly what lights Otto’s fire and am convinced that it presents itself as a potential source of joy for all of us, and that is pouring oneself out into the lives of others. But on the flip side, being loved is a pretty great thing, too.