I could while away the hours, conferrin' with the flowers Consultin' with the rain. And my head I'd be scratchin' while my thoughts were busy hatchin' If I only had a brain. When a man's an empty kettle he should be on his mettle, And yet I'm torn apart. Just because I'm presumin' that I could be kind-a-human, If I only had heart. Life is sad, believe me, Missy, When you're born to be a sissy Without the vim and verve. But I could change my habits, never more be scared of rabbits If I only had the nerve.
The RU Fit SHAPE system begins with a similar set of problems. Mine. It was helplessness, and lots of it. Hence the desire to be helpful. To get the heart of the matter, I developed the SHAPE program out of a strong desire to help people help themselves. Here’s a few examples. In junior high iI was raising money for the Toys for Tots program providing the Marine Corps recruiters with gifts for the young victims of the Vietnam war. In high school I was leading fund drive for the US AID program, providing protein powder food supplements to the starving Ibo population suffering malnutrition and genocide in the Nigerian Biafran war. In the college years, I was helping a Mexican family reunite across the US border and later, I did combat duty as an inner city bilingual school teacher in South Center Los Angeles – a war zone in an urban barrio. At some point during those teaching years, RU Fit got the message, ‘help yourself Mr. Teacher man. we’ve got to get out of this place if it’s the last thing we ever do”.
Fast forward a few decades and let’s take a close look at the SHAPE program in action. The case study involves the Rebuilding Together program, a national non-profit group that organizes home improvement projects The raison d’etre behind Rebuilding Together is providing good will, volunteer effort to provide help to families or individuals in need of assistance. Similar to the ‘Habitat for Humanity’, this program is the nation’s largest home/community repair program with thousands of projects across the country every year. In one day, houses are made into homes, racial, social and religious barriers are broken and lives are transformed. Back in the Washington DC area, our temple volunteered one year to the next either painting, scraping, hauling or hammering to put a new look on an old home.
In the early ‘90s, we met a man who had certainly helped himself in Life. Warner was an 80-year old black man living alone in a 3-story townhouse off Florida Ave in Northeast DC. As a proud army veteran, Warner had marched into Berlin at the end of WWII as part of the liberation forces. His distinguished military career lasted another 30 years and in the early ‘70s he was discharged with honors from the service. His home was decorated with medals and commendations and yet he had been living alone for many years, a ward of his church, with no immediate family to care for him. Although blind in one eye, Warner could take care of himself, and he liked to cook. To improve his home, a project was planned to remodel his kitchen and the Rebuilding Together team began work on a Saturday with a tear-out of the old cabinet and countertop fixtures. In the corner of his kitchen, our crew piled the cabinet contents onto a few tables so everything was ready for the remodeling job the next day.