|Chuck Keller. In Other Words|
Perhaps you have experienced this. A stranger starts a conversation with you for no particular purpose. What’s your reaction? Don't be surprised if a big man with a big heart starts one with you. Neil Hollingsworth has never met a stranger. He talks to everyone. And if you are lucky, you will learn a little life secret.
Neil is married, has four children (Austin, Brooke, Colin, and Caleb) and is active in youth sports and church. Sound pretty typical, doesn’t he? Well, he is - to a degree. Until you listen to his story.
Neil is always quick to ask how you are and if you need anything and how your day is. And he is sincere. He has a lot to share. We met for breakfast and the question eventually came up, “What good is something if you don’t share it?”
Today it seems that service is a big part of many kids’ lives. It’s part of the college application. It wasn’t for Neil when he was a child. Service was just not part of his growing up. But ultimately he said that he felt “called to help” others. “We have been given a lot of gifts,” he claims. So he got involved with a church sponsored program to help homeless families. He took his then young daughter Brooke to play with the children of those families while the adults tended to their business. She was saddened when she realized that other people did not have the same luxuries that she had. It made her sad at first but then she felt good about how she helped another. He remembers her asking, “Why am I here and what are we doing?” That was a big question for a little girl.
So Neil decided to share the world with his children and share his children with the world. Now that last part is tough to understand because that meant that he would put all of them in some uncomfortable situations. This lead to several mission trips to Mexico. And this time, the situation was a bit more severe. They worked with orphans and children whose families just could not provide. Sadly as some children neared fourteen their families forced them into prostitution or slave like field work. The answer seemed obvious and that is what the group did. They built schools and homes for the children so they could get the education and skills to lead a better life. It was a simple solution - share what you have. And it is working.
And that lead to a trip to Zambia where Neil worked on a project to dig wells for villages that just did not have the resources. And he worked with a school to improve their standard of education. They even provided a computer and an internet card to a teacher so he could communicate with a professor at UC so he could improve his school. It was a simple answer. These were not terribly expensive, but it did require people to give and to share. And it is working.
As Neil and I spoke, it became clear that having wealth, materials, opportunities, and resources are of no value unless you share it. Neil saw the same needs in Cincinnati and in Mexico and in Zambia. Kids are kids. People are people. The needs are the same. People want safety, shelter, food, family, and meaningful work. His children see that too now and they are eager to share what they have. And it makes him feel good. Neil says, “For me it’s simple. If I can make somebody’s day a little brighter along the way, you know, it really helps.” Then he added, “If I can keep doing the next right thing … then it will all work out.”
And there is your little life secret.