Lessons Learned from The Polk County Family Week

One of the most fascinating things we’ve done lately was to participate in The Polk County Family Week. Just so that you don’t have to get out your map, Polk County is near Tampa, Florida. Happily we left a snow storm at our Park City home and arrived to perfectly gorgeous Florida weather and an extraordinary community family week! Their theme was “Strong Families Build Strong Communities.” Oh, that every county could do this!

We were privileged to be the speakers at two family firesides on Sunday. One at Beymer Methodist Church in Winter Haven and one at the Highland Park Church of the Nazerene in Lakeland. At the Methodist Church we met Lori Roe who directs a pre-school there for 130 little ones. Afterward she told us that she had first seen us on Oprah all those years ago and had since tried to be a more deliberate parent. It was a delight to meet her because she had obviously taken some good ideas and made them better!

But the most astounding thing about this week was the event organizer! Lori Waters, with “fire in her bones” to help families be stronger, directed the first family week four years ago and her contagious enthusiasm spread!

Lori, along with her husband Glen are home builders. They have built almost 200 homes. The one they are presently living in, which is for sale was 17,000 square feet. One could be intimidated being in this luxurious home until you see feel their warm welcome and genuine interest in people. We got just a glimpse of that in the short 48 hours we were with them.

Having been active in the community with home building, Lori rallied many of her contacts as well as friends from a variety of churches throughout the county to create an exciting activity every day of family week. Local sponsors were contacted who supported the cause. When people caught the vision they came out of the woodwork to help like Margaret Anne Wheeler in the center of the picture below.

Family Week was spectacular but what I learned wasn’t something I had expected. It was what a difference one person, and in this case with a terrific husband, can make, despite all odds! Lori’s husband Glen had recently missed the last step on a staircase while carrying a huge flat screen television downstairs. One knee was twice the size of the other and the other ankle looked as though it was housing a soccer ball. Don’t worry, the TV was fine. But Glen was on a walker and Lori who had just had knee surgery was on crutches. Here they are, hiding their “paraphernalia” and sporting big smiles.

Not only does Lori organize Family Week pretty much year round, but she and Glen are the ultimate care-givers! Glen is a Mormon bishop and never missed a beat with all that requires. With his foot up he conducted callings, releases and meetings from their home. Besides taking care of their own four children, without a moment’s thought they had taken in a niece who was a single mom with a baby and nurtured her until she remarried.

In addition to caring for us overnight they were also taking care of their neighbors from across the street and their dog. These friends were moving the next morning and didn’t have a place to lay their heads so they slumbered in an upstairs suite and joined us for breakfast. The wife had been recently baptized after listening to the missionary discussions in their home.

In church on Sunday Lori had her arm around a darling Hispanic woman, new to the church and expecting their first child. After the meetings we met a jolly young fellow standing in the foyer with cut-off jeans and a tattoo who had recently been baptized after hearing about the church in the Waters’ home. He was shaking hands with everyone who passed, alight with the joy of his newfound “home”.

They even offered a place in their garage for a friend to keep his car. I have to mention that it was at Ford GT, which meant nothing to me except that it was a really cute car but meant quite a lot to Richard and anyone who knows anything about race cars!

I left that beautiful home and family feeling like a true slug and determined to be better! I have an early New Year’s resolution to be more giving, more loving, more open to helping others on a whim and being there more consistently when help is needed….especially when I think I’m “too busy” or “it’s just not convenient.”

Thanks to Lori and Glen Waters I will thinking of Thanksgiving from now on not just as a season to give thanks for what I have but a season for giving thanks for what I can give. And doing it!

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