As we look back on the year that was and hold our breath for the year to come, it’s always important to do two things: ask ourselves what we learned and with what we’ve learned, try and plan ahead. The Dream Center’s number one talent has always been its remarkable ability to act in real-time, ready to hit a curveball at any given moment. Metaphorically, that ball was 2020. Little did we know that just shy of the first quarter closing, we would have to redefine our goals and find new ways to be of service to the people of Los Angeles…practically overnight. Here are 5 things we learned from 2020 that I believe will encourage you as you stand on the home plate, waiting for the pitcher to throw the next ball: 2021.
- When The Need Arises, It Doesn’t Give A Heads Up.
Wouldn’t it have been great if 2020 had called in advance to let us know what was about to happen? That would have been a courteous thing to do, but no. COVID-19 struck so hard and so fast that it caused a tectonic shift-like panic just as contagious as the virus itself. School closures were implemented and for the Dream Center, that meant feeding thousands of students and their families as they would no longer have access to the free meals LAUSD schools provided. What it also meant was running out of supplies, and possibly having to shut down our operations, too. But with any disaster or crisis, you’re alerted the minute it strikes, and all you have control over is how you respond.
- When The Need Calls, You Answer.
“If we go down, then we go down serving.” It sounds like a line from a movie, but these words are straight from Pastor Matthew’s mouth–it was his response to the crisis at hand. It would have been contrary to our mandate to “find a need and fill it” if we had simply shrugged our shoulders and thrown in the towel, resigned to the fact that we just didn’t have the manpower, resources, or money to help our communities. But we were more determined than ever to rise to the challenge, and be of whatever help–and however possible–we could be. That sentiment can apply to anyone, you, who may be facing difficult circumstances; Difficult circumstances are the real test of character.
- When The Need Is Overwhelming, Help Is On The Way.
While the months started blurring together–all 67 of them–our supporters grew in number as we saw more and more people in need flock to the Dream Center for relief. From longtime partners who gave generously to new friends who donated meals, supplies, and even their time, our small Dream Team grew, and people we never thought would reach out to us wanting to help, showed up! When we thought we’d only be able to sustain our services for maybe one month, we were well into June with so many supporters, new and old, by our side. You can trust that there will always be people willing to help, and that they’re already on their way.
- When The Need Evolves, You Can Adapt.
Once it was announced that students would still be learning remotely come fall, the Dream Center found another need we needed to fill: helping students with their studies, especially those from underprivileged communities who lack simple things like WiFi, a laptop, paper, and pens. The Restart Learning Center took over the backend of our parking lot as a solution: to help students by giving them a workspace, stable internet, tutors to guide them with their lessons and assignments, and even free meals during lunchtime. This was a relief for parents as well who had to go to work. We never thought we’d expand our relief efforts and be able to succeed in providing an outdoor school of sorts, but when the need evolves, you adapt.
- When The Need Keeps Going, Just Keep Serving.
If there’s anything 2020 taught us, it’s this: You can’t really plan ahead, you just have to be ready. And thankfully, 2020 was an ample amount of preparation for whatever may come next. As the memes go around joking about how you won’t be hearing, “2021 will be my year!” or how no one even dares to make plans or set goals, we are boldly looking forward and upward. We can proudly say that by the grace of God, 2020 was our year, it was the year we were challenged to serve beyond our capacity, the year we met the need, and the year of many firsts! So if 2021 is anything like 2020 and the needs of our Angelenos grow or evolve in different ways, then we already know what to do: just keep serving.
2020 was also the year that we launched our campaign #Make20Matter, a simple yet generous way for our supporters to help us continue providing our programs and services, especially our relief efforts which we believe will still be crucial as we support the comeback of our communities. There’s truly only one way to make 2020 matter as we all reflect and regroup for the new year: learn from it. Hard times–like the year 2020–can be just what you need to refocus, step out of yourself, and make sure that you are living on purpose. Because what matters most in any year is the people around you and what you do for others. So now, make 2021 matter with that thought in mind, and let it challenge you to stand firm, go beyond the limits, and hit that ball out of the park.