Aiming to put a face on poverty and homelessness in the City, the Mustard Seed’s first annual ‘Seeds of Hope Gala’ ran Oct. 20th at the Sheraton Hotel.
This first event, which was also a fundraiser, was also a tremendous success raising more than $140,000, organizers say.
Keynote speaker Derek Clark, known as ‘Rapping Dad’ in the U.S., shared his amazing and inspirational story during an evening packed with highlights including a live painting by local artist Erin Boake.
As for Clark, his story is riveting, and showed how the power of faith and hope can pull a person out of the darkest circumstances.
Clark faced rejection virtually from the start. His biological parents didn’t want him, and were terribly abusive.
He eventually lived with some 13 foster families over his growing up years.
Today, he is an international speaker, author of seven books and recently became an Internet sensation for his viral video Rapping Dad which has snagged more than 225 million views.
“It allows me to have a platform to share my life’s story,” said Clark, adding that the odds were heavily stacked against him even surviving. “I should be an addict. I should be incarcerated. I should be homeless,” he said, reflecting on his troubled past.
“My mother had been raped, and when she told this man, ‘I am pregnant with your kid.’ He said, ‘You better go get an abortion – if you don’t get an abortion, I will kill the kid myself.”
When she was around seven months, the man came to where she worked and literally stomped on her stomach, said Clark.
“But I lived.” Still, his mother didn’t ultimately want him either and he suffered severe abuse at her hands until he finally landed in the foster care circuit.
Ultimately, he was taken into a family. “For me, love was thicker than blood. You don’t have to have the DNA from someone to make a huge difference in someone’s life – to give them hope.
“Being put into a safe, secure environment where I was acknowledged and validated. It changes the human spirit.”
Part of getting better came with focusing outwards. “The meaning to life is to give your life meaning,” he said. “And that’s what The Mustard Seed is all about, too. The secret of living is giving.
“If you want to do something great for yourself, it’s all about how you contribute to this world. How are you contributing?”
Clark said that during his formative years, his life continued in a downward spiral. His father went to prison, then got out and his mom got back together with him. She eventually left him, took her two kids and the three lived in desperate poverty in southern California. “One day, she got two dollars. We went to McDonalds and split a hamburger three ways. That was our Christmas Day meal. That’s all we had.”
They even lived in a one-car garage for a while. Eventually, his mom ended up with another man and life improved briefly. “He pretends he likes me until my mom gets pregnant with his kids.”
His mother was also extremely abusive. She once held his hands in scalding water.
“Not only did she burn my hands, she burned into my heart, she burned into my soul, she burned into my spirit, she burned into my mind that I was worthless, that I was a bad kid and that nobody wanted me.”
Finally, his parents delivered him to a psychiatric hospital and that was that. “She turned and left, and abandoned this little five-year-old kid and never came back.”
He ended up under the care of a social worker who did provide some much needed affection and support. “She totally lit up my life. She was a lighthouse. You have to ask yourself, do you light people’s lives up? Are you the light in people’s storms? If you are a kind person, does your kind heart match your tongue when you speak? It’s words that are inspiring and that can change someone’s life.”
Again, he pointed to his faith as a source of strength, healing and restoration.
“I also came up with an acronym for ‘hope’. I plant seeds of hope every day. It’s ‘Helping One Person Everyday’. That’s how I live my life. It also becomes, ‘Helping Other People Excel’.
“If you want to do something big with your life, become a hope dealer – and that’s what The Mustard Seed is all about.”