What I Learned At Woodleaf: Part 3

Justin McRoberts July 10, 2014

Justin McRoberts recently shared three lessons he learned while serving as Summer Staff coordinator and camp musician at Woodleaf. If you missed the first 2, you can find them here:

Lesson 1: Real-Life Cost Benefit Analysis 

Lesson 2: Life, Like Dancing, Is About Joy 

Lesson 3: ‘Moving Mountains, Moving Lakes’ 

We are moving a lake here at Woodleaf.

I can hear the pump humming across the street, where it sits on a platform in the middle of the old mill pond. The Honda WT30X trash pump is pushing water through 760 ft of 3” PVC pipe, which Woodleaf’s property staff purchased and assembled. A good portion of that pipe runs beneath La Porte Rd before dumping 32 gallons of water every minute into a trench on the far side of the property. The water then travels just over 800ft down that trench to the 5.3 acre, man-made lake where all of Woodleaf’s waterfront features are hosted.

Why are we moving a lake here at Woodleaf?

Because the water level in the man-made lake had fallen unexpectedly low, rendering several of Woodleaf’s waterfront features unsafe and unusable. Of course, that’s the technical answer. At heart, we are moving a lake because several of the 300 kids at The Leaf this week live in the Los Angeles foster care system. By definition, these are kids whose homes could (or would) no longer sustain, welcome or care for them. Many of these kids have moved more than 15 times in their lives, and likely at least once this year. Many of them have a parent currently in prison and have lost friends or family to drugs and gun violence. Their histories tell a story in which they too easily see themselves as circumstantial persons, victims and even mistakes; children who “happened” along someone else’s way but for whom there was little to no room.

We are moving a lake here at Woodleaf because offering this property to these kids at full capacity (which means having the entire waterfront open) is a significant way for us to say to these kids (to every kid, really):

“You are welcomed.

You are valued.

You are cherished

You are beloved.

You are worth every inch of our time, energy and effort.”

Serving at Woodleaf, I am clearly reminded that the facts of life, regardless of what they are, can be changed, like the measurements of water levels. Circumstances can be restructured, like the assembly of a water-transfer system. Being at Woodleaf, I am reminded that whole lives can be transformed. And just like the moving of lakes and mountains, doing so can seem ridiculous and impossible.

It’s not.

Changing lives, like moving lakes, just takes more hours, money, emotion and labor than we are often willing to give. But every inch of the effort we put in is worth it. Every kid is worth that time, money, emotion and effort.  Had it been a mountain, Woodleaf would have move that, too. Not because doing so is a spectacular feat of strength we are impressed at having accomplished, but because, at Woodleaf, moving mountains and lakes is a way to say “We love you.”

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