Column: More Than Enough
by Jason Weber
Dillon Helbig was in second grade when his book went into circulation at his local public library in Boise, Idaho. As of January 2022, the waiting list had grown to 58. You may wonder how a second grader gets a book written, edited, published and put into circulation at a library — and why it is in such high demand.
Well … he might have skipped a couple of those steps.
According to a January 2022 Washington Post article, Dillon took a hard-backed, red notebook and wrote his masterpiece, “The Adventures of Dillon Helbig’s Crismis.” As the cover points out, it is “by Dillon His Self.”
The book is illustrated with colored pencils and features the harrowing adventures of the young protagonist. This includes Dillon getting blasted back to the first Thanksgiving by an exploding star he tried to put on a Christmas tree.
So how did Dillon’s homemade book get put into circulation at the library? Dillon slipped it in among the other books on one of the shelves without anyone noticing. When library staff discovered it, they were smart enough to realize they had a gem on their hands and added it to their collection. And pretty quickly, the waiting list grew. In case you are wondering, no inter-library loans are allowed.
Dillon added his book to the library shelves for one simple reason: he wanted people to read it. He used his abilities to create something of value and wanted to share it with others. Dillon is not a professional author, but his story shows us it doesn’t always take all that much to make a contribution.
Over the decades, child welfare has been established as a professional field with professional social workers, lawyers and service providers. In so many ways, this is right and appropriate. Training and experience are vital to navigating the complexities of the child welfare system. The only problem, however, is when something is professionalized, the rest of us conclude that we should just “leave it to the professionals.” After all, when my car needs a new transmission, I don’t think, “Hey, I’ll crawl under there and swap that baby out myself.” Of course not. I leave it to the professionals. If I needed heart surgery, I’d never say, “Hey honey, can you get me the knife we use to cut potatoes?” No. I leave it to the professionals.
But here’s the difference with child welfare — many of the things children and families need to thrive DO NOT require professionals. Wrap-around support, advocacy, mentoring and assistance transitioning to adulthood are just a few among dozens of examples of critical things that don’t require professional training. There are not nearly enough professionals to do all these things. What I am NOT saying is that we don’t need professionals. Of course we do. There are pieces of the child welfare puzzle that should ONLY be done by professionals. However, if we leave all the pieces entirely up to them, children and families will suffer needlessly.
Some of the people I know making the most significant difference for children and families don’t have any formal training in child welfare. But they are making extraordinary contributions in their communities and around the country. These include teachers, pastors, project managers, business leaders, a creative director, a nuclear physicist, and doctor of toxicology.
Each of these people has something of value, and they want to share it in a way that helps others. Chances are, there are dozens, if not hundreds, just like them in your community. They just need a little help knowing how they might use their gifts and experiences to help children and families. Perhaps that is where you come in.
We used to believe it took a professionally published author to get a book circulated in a public library. Then Dillon showed us otherwise.
So how does someone go about using their unique gifts in foster care? Here are few simple steps.
- Make a list of three to five local organizations, agencies or communities of faith with an emphasis on foster care and family strengthening.
- When you reach out, don’t simply ask, “Do you have any volunteer opportunities?” Instead, let them in on your super power and ask them if they have any ways you could use that skill or experience to help. For example, you might say, “I have a lot of professional experience in event planning. Do you have any upcoming events in the next year that I could help you make a success?”
- If given the opportunity to shine, jump in with both feet and do it with excellence. While the organization you are helping is fortunate to have you, that shouldn’t be your perspective. Instead, realize that any opportunity to use your gifts and experiences to help children and families is a privilege. You are fortunate that you can use something you are good at to make such a positive difference in people’s lives.
And at the risk of stating the obvious, it doesn’t take a professional to care for children and families in crisis. So let’s not just leave it to the professionals. Let’s help those in our community own our foster care crisis, use the gifts we have, and make it better.
NOTE: For inspiring stories of local foster care transformation through collaboration, check out the More Than Enough Podcast. It is available for download from iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, and Stitcher.
Jason Weber wants to live in a world where people build great things together rather than good things by themselves and where there is more than enough for children and families in foster care. Weber has helped write and produce several books, Bible studies, and other tools, all created to serve churches as they care for hurting kids. He is the author of the book “Until There’s More Than Enough: Working Together to Transform Foster Care Where You Live” and is the host of the More Than Enough Podcast. Weber serves as the national director of More Than Enough for CAFO and currently lives in Plano, Texas. To learn more, visit MoreThanEnoughTogether.org.