Being human isn’t easy. It can be messy and lovely all at the same time. That’s why we need one another
to lean on,
to listen to,
to lend hope.
On those days when we feel perplexed by life, physically exhausted, feel lonely, or are stressed beyond what feels humanly possible — something or someone — possibly even a stranger, catches us before we fall, and gives us a thread of hope that tomorrow will be a better day.
People all around us are Standing in the Gap. These individuals, who I call Gap Standers, are often neighbors, co-workers, a sister, an uncle, a parent, a spouse, or even someone you meet while waiting in line at the supermarket. They are nurses, teachers, pastors, caregivers, and volunteers; individuals who are willing to sacrifice time, energy, money, and even their dreams so that another person can live theirs.
I once had the privilege to stand in the gap for a teen named Maddy who was feeling profound hopelessness and despair. While her heart was closed to most of the adults in her life, her father thought I might be a window to hope. At the time, it felt like a daunting responsibility. I wasn’t sure how I could give this amazing teen any hope that life could ever get better. I was only sure I had to try. Often times when I don’t know what to do or say, I mentally place myself in the other person’s shoes. I recalled how lonely I felt as a teen and how I yearned for someone to listen to me and not judge me; someone who would accept me just as I was—flawed, sometimes silly, and often uncertain. That’s when I knew I had to give Maddy a promise she could leave on her nightstand as a reminder I would always be there for her, to wholeheartedly listen, and to champion her dreams. It was four o’clock in the morning when I began to scribble words on paper to Maddy, At the heart of this little book is a promise. It’s a promise from me to you and it goes like this: If you ever need someone to talk to, someone who will listen, just call me. Call me early or call me late. Just call me! I filled the remaining pages with words of encouragement— nutrition for Maddy’s hurting (yet amazing and beautiful) heart and soul. I called my little creation, *Eat Your Peas for Young Adults. I tied the loose pages together with a ribbon and presented it to Maddy. My simple promise to her began a new relationship based on trust and confidentiality. In time, Maddy renewed her curiosity and zest for life. Could this same message give hope to other teens too?
It wasn’t long after Eat Your Peas for Young Adults hit store shelves when I began to receive requests to create the PEAS promise for adults too. I soon realized it wasn’t just teenagers who need to know their life matters. We all do. That’s why we now have Eat Your Peas gift books available in fifteen titles ranging from sisters to mothers to tough times.
It has been nearly a seventeen-year journey for me (the first Eat Your Peas book was published in 2001). I found my passion and my purpose—to inspire others to Stand in the Gap. I’ve watched first-hand how one seed of compassion and empathy can inspire tendrils of love, hope, and encouragement into the lives of more than one million people. The ripple effect of the Eat Your Peas promise — a message that says, “I really care. I’ll have your back through life’s greatest joys and most heartbreaking disappointments,” is now given generation to generation. I once heard from a mother who gave an Eat Your Peas for my Daughter book to her nearly incorrigible teen. Five years later, her daughter, now realizing how patient and loving her mom really was, paid the promise forward and gave an Eat Your Peas for my Mother book to her mom. To honor their mother/daughter promise to one another, they went to a local tattoo parlor and got matching pea pod tattoos trailing up their ankles. (I can’t make this stuff up!)
And whatever happened to the teen who inspired the very first book in the Eat Your Peas Collection? Today Maddy is a vibrant and gifted professional and a friend to many. What’s more she’s known as “Mom” to a brilliant and adorable three-year old daughter—my bonus granddaughter—and is a wife to one pretty amazing guy. In retrospect, what I gave to Maddy so many years ago was so little: a piece of my heart, a listening ear, a shoulder to lean on. What I gained was priceless. Sometimes those we come to love and nurture aren’t ours by birth but come to us in extraordinary ways—inviting us to stand in the gap and be present for one another.
Here’s to all the ways we love!
Wishing you peas and plenty of joy,