This past weekend, I traveled to Dallas where I participated in the 2nd Annual Earning by Learning Celebrity Guest Read. At the many literary events I've been a part of, I don't think I've met anyone who truly cares more about encouraging children to read than Ms. Thelma Morris-Lindsey. She gave from her heart and showed those kids a good time.
Ms. Morris-Lindsey is the founder of Earning by Learning of Dallas an incentive-based program that encourages children to read. This years event was hosted by/at Dallas Chocolates.
What struck me most about this Earning by Learning founder was the genuine love and care she showed each and every child who walked through the door of that chocolate store. She greeted every child, at least 60-70 of 'em, personally with a smile and a warm "hello." I never did figure out if she was meeting these kids for the first time, or if they were long-time old friends. She truly loved these children which I would think to be a challenge for most people.
These invited guest came mostly from Dallas' inner city. Children from Shared-Housing, a domestic violence shelter, Circle of Support and the Salvation Army were just a few of the guest who were treated to lunch, free books, and autographed photographs of Ms. Texas, 2004.
Many of the children I met that morning had personalities I found kinda hardened. I could see the anger, hurt, and distrust in many of their eyes. Many of them couldn't even look me straight in the eye, exchange a smile or give me a handshake. Some were just plain mean. Shame on the adults responsible for creating such pain in the lives of children. But Ms. Morris-Lindsey was loving and patient often referring to them as "my little angels." And before long those hardened little faces were all smiles. Ok, mostly smiles.
I also met some avid readers that morning. I had the honor of sharing breakfast with 8-year Mariah, an articulate speaker and voracious reader. When giving presentations to large groups, I often try to make eye contact with a friendly face, it settles the nerves and allows me to continue with confidence. Mariah was my friendly face.
I was treated with great hospitality from a small army of youth and adult volunteers, community supporters and none other than Ms. Zel Nealy, owner of Dallas chocolates who, after I inquired about chocolate-covered Oreos for my wife, gave me a bag to take home.
Ms. Thelma Morris-Lindsey is a gem. Besides that, she's got cool hair. If you have some money to give and your looking for a worthy cause, she can be contacted at Earning by Learning of Dallas.