Like so many of my days at The Heritage Foundation,this particular afternoon found me incredibly busy. Meetings to attend, reports to write, phone calls to make, projects to complete ? it was a crazy day. When one of my colleagues asked if I had a few minutes to meet with an unexpected visitor, I must admit that my first instinct was to want to ?just say no?. However, when he briefly explained her research, I said, ?OK, I?ve got about ten minutes.? I?m so glad I took the time to meet with Barbara J. Elliott - it turned out to be among the most inspiring ten minutes in many months.
Why? Because Barbara briefly shared with me her experiences from eight years of visiting with and interviewing more than 300 people around the country whose lives are marked by their service to others. She?s met everyday heroes who understand that helping to lift the burdens of our fellow citizens is one of life?s highest callings, and that the love, care and targeted help individuals provide those in need is far better, more effective, and more humane than any government program.
Barbara has written a fabulous book about her experiences that is as inspiring as she is. Street Saints: Renewing America?s Cities (www.streetsaints.com ) is recommended reading for anyone in need of proof of the decency and kindness of Americans, or ideas on how to contribute in our own communities.
Although I prefer to describe books in my own words, I found the words on the inside cover of the book to be superior to any description of this important work than I could draft:
?Street Saints takes you through the streets of America's cities to meet people of faith who are renewing America, one heart at a time. These unsung heroes are putting an arm around abused grade-schoolers and teaching them to read, facing down drug dealers, and giving bullet-pocked neighborhoods hope. They are working creatively as social entrepreneurs, turning gang members into computer programmers, and equipping former drug addicts with job and life skills. They are touching the least, the last, and the lost with love. And they are discovering that the transformation is mutual.