Blog: December 2019
Here’s my end of year confession: In 8th grade I wasn’t really interested in the things of God.
But Sunday School attendance was required in the Main household, so I would dutifully change into my Sunday best, jump in the Chevy Impala and get my “father-driven-Uber-shuttle” to the front steps of our Baptist church.
My 8th grade Sunday school class was comprised of a ragtag group of 10 boys from different parts of the city. Besides Kevin—the one kid who could recite all the right prayers, always won the Bible trivia, and always made us feel spiritually inferior—the rest of us were little rebels who did everything to make life miserable for our volunteer teachers.
That 8th grade year, seven (yes, seven!) of our Sunday School teachers resigned—a church record still holding strong today! Special elder and prayer meetings were held, all trying to solve the problem of the boys' 8th grade Sunday school class.
Then Al Klatt showed up—a twenty-six year old, retired, semi-pro hockey player. Al had learned of the notorious 8th grade class, but wasn’t deterred from a challenge. Six years in the rough and tumble minor hockey leagues was more than enough preparation for our little class of preadolescent rebels.
“Here’s the deal, “ began Al at our first meeting, “Sunday School lasts for an hour. We’ll play 50 minutes of floor hockey. But the last 10 minutes you’ll have to listen to me.”
By far, this was the best offer we’d ever been given. Fifty minutes of floor hockey in the church gym—and just 10 minutes of Bible study! Unanimously we consented—except, of course, Kevin. He thought it appalling to use “the Lord’s” time for such frivolous activities.
And Al lasted as our teacher. Through our high school years he guided us, kept us out of trouble and taught us about the things of faith. He cheered for us at our high school games, let us paint our Sunday School classroom with psychedelic colors and bought Kentucky Fried Chicken to accompany the Super Bowl Party he hosted at his apartment.
Forty years passed between visits with Al. A year ago we reconnected. He’s aged a bit and now battles early Parkinson’s disease. He shared how he had followed my career and was encouraged by what I had done with my life. I got to thank him for his influence on me.
Without a doubt, my life has been impacted by many people. But Al Klatt, intervening at a critical time, made a big impact and influenced my life’s vocation. I’ve never forgotten.
This is why I’m still so passionate about UrbanPromise. We find caring adults, who connect with kids, and ask them to shepherd, guide and love young people through their turbulent years. And it still works!
So as this year comes to a close, please think of those who impacted your life—and help the UrbanPromise team continue this vital work.
A wonderful 2020!
Founder & President
PS. Was there a person who made a difference in your life? I’d love to hear about it. Perhaps you can call and thank them!
PSS. Better still, consider giving a gift in their honor. That would be meaningful!
“Courage unparalleled, opened her utterly.”
-Denise Levertov, ‘Annunciation’
“When you told me about this reality,” shared my friend Colin, “I just had to do something.”
Two years ago I was invited to a speaking engagement in Toronto, Canada. The church put my wife and I up at a local hotel for a couple of nights. The first morning we noticed 20-30 children streaming off the elevators and shuttled into a back room. Curious, I followed the group, only to discover that the hotel was hosting about 100 refugee families from numerous African countries—some had been living in the hotel for over 6 months. Evidently the children were bored and didn’t have much to do.
I shared my observation with a dear friend from Toronto named Colin McArtney. Colin decided to act by mobilizing a handful of young Christian leaders to care for these forgotten kids.
“I’m now doing youth programs for refugees in various hotels around the city,” he continued. “We just hosted a series of Christmas parties for over 800 children. Look what you started!”
What Colin is doing was actually started long before me.....
At the heart of the Christmas story is a young woman—named Mary—who said "Yes" to God. In the words of poet Denise Levertov, Mary displayed “unparalleled courage” which allowed her to say yes to a journey of faith for which she did not know the ending.
Regardless of the uncertainty and potential pain, by saying "Yes" Mary ignited a chain of events which literally birthed God’s mysterious work into the world—that new, creative, beautiful and redemptive work found in the person of Jesus. It all started with a peasant girl opening her heart—utterly—to the spirit of God.
By saying yes to the promptings of God, my friends in Toronto are living the essence of Christmas—and they’re bringing hope and joy to dislocated refugee children trying to find their way in a new and foreign land.
My prayer, for us all, is to be those Christmas people who find the courage to “utterly” open ourselves to God’s spirit—becoming the hands, feet and heart of Christ to those who thirst for hope.
Founder & President
“It always took him about 30 minutes to get from the front door to his desk,” shared the receptionist with a smile. “He’d say good morning to everyone as he walked by—asking them about their son’s little league baseball game, their ailing mother-in-law, their recent vacation. He just cared for people.”
That’s one of my favorite Joe Holman stories, an UrbanPromise friend and supporter who built a small regional Ford dealership into an international business (Holman Enterprises) with over 7000 employees. No matter how large the business grew, people were always a priority.
Mr Holman passed peacefully away this week at the age of 93. Up until a week ago, he went to the work every day! He seldom missed an UrbanPromise event.
This past summer I had the privilege of hearing his daughter Mindy—now CEO of the company—speak to a group of young UrbanPromise leaders. “I remember hearing a story about my father,” she reminisced. “His assistant told me that he always separated his outgoing mail into two piles. One pile got the company stamps. One pile got his personal stamps. He believed that using company stamps for personal mail was stealing. My dad had integrity. He believed in honesty.”
This week the UrbanPromise community is deeply saddened by the loss of our dear friend. We are also saddened that our world has lost a kind, compassionate, humble leader who cared deeply about his community.
But despite the sadness, I am also grateful—grateful to have known a leader who, despite his prodigious success and influence, never lost his moral compass. And by doing the right thing the right way, decade after decade, he built a company culture that not only affirmed the worth and dignity of its people, but also enjoyed financial prosperity and respect amongst its peers.
In a world that increasingly celebrates leaders who willfully display egregious acts of hubris and sell their souls for short term gains, it’s a gift to be reminded that humility, kindness and decency are not antithetical to success—they’re actually the ingredients that create a world in which we all desire to live.
So thank you, Joe, for showing us the way. Rest In Peace.