Human Needs and Services Day goes down year after year as a class favorite for the Leadership Owensboro program. On this day, participants in Leadership Owensboro have the opportunity to walk in someone else’s shoes who lives in our community. Shoes that are often carrying the weight of the world.
Anyone who has gone through the program will tell you there is simply no way to compartmentalize this day. It can’t be done because once you have walked in the shoes, you never forget the journey. You don’t forget the looks, the comments, the hopelessness.
They might be shoes of someone living on a fixed income who is raising their young grandchildren due to an opioid addiction in the family. They might be the shoes of someone who has literally run for their life from an abuser who they love. They might be someone who has never caught any kind of break but continues to work very hard for their family even though they still cannot provide enough. They might be someone who doesn’t even know where they will sleep tonight.
These “someones” are people. They are people living (and most often working) in our community. They are putting children to bed each night just like many of us, but they’re also wondering how in the world they are going to make it through tomorrow. Their problems and issues might be easier to recognize than ours, but make no mistake that we all have them.
After this experience, the LO class often feels the hopelessness. We watch the continued struggle for working poor to survive. We drive past bus stops where people have been waiting over an hour to catch a ride to work. We know about the backpacks sent home every weekend for children that only receive food from school.
What starts as an opportunity for members in Leadership Owensboro becomes an honor. We have the honor to walk in their shoes. We have the privilege to understand their struggles. We have the heartache of their constant stress and worry.
We have the responsibility to take this opportunity as our honor and as our challenge to continue finding solutions to improve our community. This Leadership Owensboro experience has fueled positive change for more than three decades because those graduates dedicated the time to walk in the shoes.
These shoes are walking our sidewalks and our streets. These shoes are our friends, our neighbors and even our families. There is no us and them. We are OBKY, all of us.
By Jessica Kirk Program and Events Manager and Executive Director of Leadership Owensboro