This is the year when the world should really, really be grateful to be alive.
That’s a sentiment I shared with my dad, who was a young kid growing up in a small town in Michigan when he first saw a picture of a black man on a bus.
In 2016, the year of the 2016 election, his world turned upside down.
The election of Donald Trump, the election of Hillary Clinton, the electoral college loss, the rise of neo-Nazis and white supremacists, and the inauguration of Donald J. Trump as president all brought us into the abyss of despair.
And it was here that my dad’s eyes widened.
His face was so red and he screamed so loudly.
“It’s not going to happen, it’s not gonna happen!”
He was just like, “You need to get out of here!”
In his mind, his own future was on the line.
He was so worried about his future.
And he did.
I didn’t know what I was getting into, but I was so scared.
He knew exactly what he was getting himself into.
As he told me this story a few years ago, his voice cracked.
I know now.
I knew I was living in a world of despair, of fear, of a world where people weren’t safe anymore.
And so I did what I could to help.
I started volunteering for the Red Cross, which meant I had to take care of the elderly and needy.
I became a nurse, which was a major step in my transition to adulthood.
And then I started the National Alliance for the Homeless.
And in 2018, I became the executive director of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
That was the year my kids started school.
And now, five years later, I am a father.
My kids are growing up now and I am still trying to figure out what I am doing to make sure they have a better life than I did.
And, for a while, I was doing that.
And I wanted to make them proud.
To be able to do that in the most important year of their lives was important.
So, I got a job as the executive chairman of the Center for Community Empowerment, which is where I spend most of my time these days.
The center provides support services for youth and young adults who are homeless and low-income and who are in need of support.
And what it does is it helps young people navigate the process of transitioning from homelessness and poverty to adulthood and, ultimately, to a better future.
The National Alliance has grown tremendously in recent years and has seen an uptick in support services.
We now have more than 2,000 members, a lot of which are in the communities where they serve.
But the real-time, ongoing engagement is something that has remained incredibly important to me, because I want to see more of my children live in better environments.
I want them to know that they are valued and valued people.
And the more we can do to be a part of this transition and to be more engaged, the more they will know that the people who care about them are not just the people that they see on the street, but they are people that are in their lives and that are also in their neighborhoods and their churches.
And that’s a huge part of what I do in my job.
But in addition to helping to build a network of support, I have a lot more work to do.
For the past few years, I’ve been doing what I love: traveling the country to speak at events and conferences.
I have had a great time doing it, and it’s been inspiring to see the level of support that my kids have received from strangers and friends and family.
I’m grateful to have that support and to have the opportunity to connect with people who are really willing to put their life at risk to help their kids.
And even though I’ve gotten the support that I’ve always wanted, it feels like there are so many more opportunities to make a difference.
It’s been a very challenging year.
We’ve been through a lot, and we’ve been hurt.
But we’re still going to get through it, I promise you.
And we will be even stronger and better when we do.
So to everyone who has helped us this year, thank you so much.
And to the kids: I promise to be there for you.
I will be there with you.
My goal this year is to be even better.