Live Love's Origins
People often ask me how Live Love began. For a while, Live Love was deeply personal for Paul. It was a lifeline he grasped onto during a dark and challenging time in our lives in Guatemala. It was inspiring to watch him struggle through that period and emerge with truths from God's Word that he could apply in his daily life.
A Transformative Trip to Malawi
Live Love became an integral part of my daily life in 2007, following a trip Paul and I led to Malawi, Africa. Instead of focusing on completing projects and ticking off items on a mission trip checklist, we spent our time genuinely connecting with people and walking alongside them. We learned how to listen, practiced how to love, and immersed ourselves in their lives. It was a challenge for many of us, but it was also incredibly rewarding.
The Essence of Live Love
Upon returning from Malawi, I felt a renewed sense of purpose for what I needed to do back home. I began asking myself:
Who are the unseen individuals in my own community?
Who are the people silently enduring hardships they don't have to face unless we make a conscious choice to engage with them?
Just like in Malawi, where problems remained hidden until our paths crossed, I knew there must be people in Chandler whose struggles went unnoticed simply because I wasn't aware of them yet. I realized that sometimes, learning to Live Love with someone starts with understanding their story.
Unveiling Hidden Realities
To truly grasp someone's story, one must immerse oneself in their life. This approach to service is fundamentally different. It shifts the focus from mere projects to the individuals involved. I yearned to connect with the people in my community, those I might never encounter unless I made a deliberate effort to reach out.
I started seeking answers and guidance. Someone suggested I speak with Judy, who works for the City of Chandler Neighborhood Programs. I reached out to her, posing my questions:
Who are the hidden people in Chandler? If a group of individuals dedicated their time to walking alongside those in need within our community, who would they be? Where do they reside?
I could sense her initial hesitation, but upon realizing my sincerity, she embarked on a tour of Chandler, revealing areas I had never explored before. This experience was profoundly eye-opening.
She introduced me to neighborhoods harboring stories of families striving to provide for their loved ones, both parents diligently working despite limited or no support. Neighborhoods where a few residents harbored fervent hopes and dreams for their families and community, yet resided in areas where making a difference seemed almost impossible. People with aspirations like mine, but without the support to achieve them.
Embarking on a Journey of Connection
That's where our journey began. Accompanied by my then four-year-old daughter, we ventured into the streets, knocking on doors, engaging with neighbors, and asking questions:
Share your family's story.
What are your dreams for your family?
What projects would you like to accomplish but lack the resources or support to undertake?
What are your aspirations for your neighborhood?
If someone offered assistance with a project, what would it be?
I sampled countless tamales, consumed multiple cups of coffee, and crossed paths with some truly remarkable individuals. I quickly became known as "the cute white girl who spoke Spanish," a title I wore with pride.
The Power of Shared Stories
I firmly believe that most pain stems from isolation. Battling challenges alone, without someone to walk alongside us, often exceeds the difficulty itself. We are inherently communal beings. Sharing ourselves with others, being known, and knowing others foster our well-being. Sometimes, our circumstances remain unchanged, but our perspective shifts. Investing time and energy into one another's lives cultivates growth, stemming from the realization that we are not alone. Our stories possess the power to make a difference.
The Essence of Live Love
Live Love, for me, revolves around our stories. How do we integrate our stories into a community setting? Engaging in another person's story demands more time, energy, and compassion.
The Messiness and Beauty of Live Love
Live Love can be messy and painful. It can also be excruciatingly wonderful. It encompasses a myriad of experiences, but without dedicated time and intentional action, it remains dormant. Live Love is about fostering strong communities, connecting individuals, and engaging with neighbors we encounter daily or those we might never notice unless we consciously open our eyes and seek them out. I am often surprised by the commonalities I share with individuals who seem so different from me. And this is what drives me forward. This is what Live Love embodies for me: living intentionally and loving others unconditionally. It's not easy, but it's always worthwhile.