January 17, 2010
Marilyn Higgins, a community developer at Solomon Community Temple United Methodist Church, Milwaukee, is a pro at stretching dollars into life-changing deeds. Her ministry benefits when United Methodists share on Human Relations Day.
Such gifts let Higgins do "little things for kids in our community. We give them deodorant and toothpaste so they’re not embarrassed in school. We feed them the only hot meal they may get in a day. We pay for ACT tests they need to take to get into college."
They also let Higgins and her colleagues address big problems.
Higgins recalls the day a sixth-grader climbed to the top of Martin Luther King Elementary, ignored pleas to come down and fell to his death.
"Nobody had an answer to why this sweet 12-year-old would take his own life."
Higgins mobilized volunteers and mental health professionals to counsel and comfort students.
"These kids needed to know they were significant," nurse Julia Means noted.
As Means and Higgins wiped away tears, they heard other students admit they, too, had considered suicide. The women walked three vulnerable fifth-graders to the office of a school counselor. Secret hurts and family traumas emerged.
Within days of the intervention, Means was walking down the school hallway when she heard "a small voice" say, "Thank you, Ms. Means."
"If we hadn’t been here," said Higgins, "those little girls who had been thinking about suicide may not have changed their minds. We may have lost one student that week, but we saved three."
Sunday, January 17, is the official date for Human Relations Day. However, local churches may receive the offering on another day of their choosing.
"Sometimes the people sitting in pews aren’t really educated about what we do here," Higgins said. "They don’t understand that in our communities, dollars save lives."
--Adapted from a 2005 article by Susan Passi-Klaus,
United Methodist Communications