Starting Off With Nothing….

mocha moments

We started off with nothing so we used that… Diane Latiker, Founder and Present of Kids Off the Block Inc.

When we’re asked to take an inventory – whether it’s financial, spiritual, emotional…if we’re feeling particularly beaten down…we usually mouth, either silently or to others – that we have NOTHING.  I’ve come to understand that NOTHING in this context describes how we feel.  We feel as if we have nothing but having nothing is impossible.

I was watching a rerun of Secret Millionaire, where Steve Kaplan was the undercover millionaire. In that episode, Kids Off the Block in Chicago was one of the foundations he visited. In doing his little informal interview with the founder, Diane Latiker, she said that they started off with nothing and used that. When she said it, I formed the sentence in my brain, and it kept going around and around in my head. She UNDERSTOOD that nothing was just how it FELT but that they had plenty! She had a vision – to see youths off the street, not getting into trouble, not joining gangs, not going to jail – if only she could help them to channel that nervous energy, that doubtful energy, that energy of hopelessness – into one of creation and contribution. And so she started in 2003. Perhaps feeling doubtful herself but willing to risk and give it a try because she saw a need and chose to be the one to fill it IN HER OWN WAY!

The Kids off the Block Memorial Tribute at 117th and Michigan in Chicago's Roseland neighborhood. The memorial honors those that have been killed in the area over the last few years. Photo by  Chris Sweda, Chicago Tribune / July 6, 2011

The Kids off the Block Memorial Tribute at 117th and Michigan in Chicago’s Roseland neighborhood. The memorial honors those that have been killed in the area over the last few years. Photo by Chris Sweda, Chicago Tribune / July 6, 2011

In an article by Allie Torgan, CNN April 7 2011 called Grandmother helping Chicago kids ‘off the block’  Latiker’s story unfolded.

story.latiker2.cnnLatiker, a mother of eight and grandmother to 13, has lived in Roseland for 22 years. She said she was once “young and dumb,” dropping out of high school and having seven children by age 25. But she said that by 36, she had turned her life around: She got remarried and earned her GED. She had also given birth to her eighth child, Aisha.

This time, she said, she was determined to do things right.

Diane Latiker, 54, has become a mentor for local youth in her Chicago neighborhood.

But when Aisha became a teenager in 2003, Latiker worried that Aisha and her friends would fall in with a gang. After all, gang members lived next door, and there weren’t many safe things for teenagers to do.

“I started taking (Aisha and her friends) to swimming and movies and whatever,” Latiker said. “My mother saw that, and she said: ‘Diane, why don’t you do something with the kids? They like you and respect you.’ ” <——-a seed is planted

Latiker was hesitant at first. <——-doubt is normal at the start  🙂 She wanted to focus on being a grandmother and rebuilding her relationships with her older children. But after thinking and praying about it, she decided to make use of the natural rapport she had with young people. <———using what we sometimes call NOTHING – our natural gifts and talents

“I invited them into my living room,” she said. “They all started saying: ‘I want to be a doctor. I want to be a rapper. I want to be a singer.’ They didn’t want to be out here running up and down the street. They wanted to be involved in something.”

Latiker told them her house was open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They could come over for food, or homework help, or just to talk about their hopes, dreams and fears. Kids Off the Block was born.

What is the dream in your heart? What is the need that you see and feel compelled to do something about filling it? You have EVERY THING you need right now to start. Don’t wait to have all your ducks lined up in a row. Adopt DIane Latiker’s attitude – start off with NOTHING and use that!

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