Rebecca Lewis has a  life story that  is not unlike many other women who have grown up in generational poverty in the United States. She was born in California to a very young single mother, lived with a keen sense of not having enough, dropped out of school and struck out on her own on her sixteenth birthday, spent years in relationships full of addiction and violence, has been single parenting her own three children, and to date, has moved 61 times. So several years ago as she stopped at the First United Methodist Church in McPherson yet again to get free diapers, she was quite hesitant when the secretary lovingly pointed to a flyer that said “Steps To End Poverty (now Circles of McPherson County) Getting Ahead In a Just Getting By World: A free fifteen week course for struggling families designed to show a way out.” Because she felt indebted to the secretary for all the diapers, she signed up for the course, although, in Rebecca’s own words, “…there is a tremendous amount of shame and isolation that occurs growing up in poverty. Raising children in poverty is full of even more shame, guilt, frustration; growing despondence coupled with looming fears. The result is a gnawing sense of hopelessness and a notion of being trapped. The thought of letting anyone in is terrifying on so many levels. So just signing up for a class like Getting Ahead was pretty scary. The whole idea of taking hands with people not from poverty to explore my own poverty with them was a huge leap of faith.”

Since Rebecca made that decision just a few years ago, her life has changed immeasurably, and she in turn has played a key role in facilitating life altering change in the lives of hundreds of others in McPherson County. While continuing on her own journey out of poverty and into a future story (which does not exist when you live in poverty, says Rebecca), she is working as Life Coach for Circles of McPherson County. Rebecca tirelessly builds the Circles Initiative, an innovative, high impact campaign to eliminate poverty, at the local level through education to individuals and community at large, facilitating and forming intentional friendships across class lines, and leading by example as a Circle Leader, a Getting Ahead course graduate who has made the commitment to actively work on their journey from poverty to sustainability for at least 18 months, with several Allies (intentional friends from the community) walking with them. In a little over a years time, Rebecca has completed college with a 4 year degree in Graphic Design, moved with her 3 boys into her first house that “isn’t on wheels” and is “roach free”, obtained a car “with low miles, that is all the same color, paid for and has never broken down on me one time.” She says ” I am no longer ashamed of how my boys are being raised because I know I am making choices today that will give them a sustainable future. I have an emergency fund and am working each month to pay off debt.”

    So today, as Rebecca crafts and lives in to her own brighter future story, she works just as hard to spread and facilitate what is possible to both others who are living much like she once did and to so many others, both locally and at the national level. She has shared her story and the Circles Campaign story in front of legislators at the state house in Topeka, Kansas and was invited on to the board of the National Circles Campaign as a representative of Circle Leaders across the country. She’s really just begun traveling the path of her future story, and there’s no limit to where she, and many others with her, can go!

Kevin Honeycutt is a global presenter who has spoken to, inspired and trained hundreds of thousands of teachers, parents and kids world wide. Kevin grew up in poverty and spent time in foster homes as he made his way toward a better life than many would have predicted. One of his passions is helping teachers and parents inspire kids who might not see themselves as having options or prospects toward a bright future. He and Mrs. Lewis have crafted a curriculum for teachers, parents and students geared toward providing the tools to allow kids who were raised in poverty to thrive.

The story of Kevin’s life isn’t significantly different from that of many others. His life was filled with good moments and bad, but growing up with an alcoholic father who was also an occasional con man and an outlaw, there were more bad experiences than good ones. When he incorporates his story into his presentations, people often ask, “How did you overcome such a difficult start in life and become a successful adult?” The answer is that he was able to take away something positive every time, and he wants to share those lessons learned and how he used them to build a life. He wants to share them because he hopes others in similar circumstances can use the things he learned to find their way out just like he did. He truly believes that the best way out of darkness is to make your own light. Again, he realize there are countless others out there who had it just as rough, if not rougher, than he did growing up, but as a trainer and motivational speaker, he has a larger venue to share his experiences. One experience that left an indelible mark on him was the Midnight Run.

“Midnight run” was all his Dad had to say, and everyone in his family knew what to do. They each got a trash bag, the Honeycutt version of luggage, and packed their most prized possessions inside. Anything that wouldn’t fit in the trash bag was left behind, no matter how dear it might be to the owner. They couldn’t say their good-byes to friends because no one could know that we were leaving. Under cover of darkness, the seven of them would squeeze into whatever vehicle their Dad had at the time, sometimes it was a pickup, and disappear into the night.

Several things could trigger a midnight run, but it usually occurred when Kevin’s Dad owed so much money to individuals and businesses that he could no longer get credit anywhere in the town. So they would leave without paying those debts and try to make a fresh start somewhere, anywhere. Sometimes they had a destination, and sometimes they left without a clue as to where they were headed. Kevin remembers seeing so many signs in the moonlight that said, “Leaving Anywhere, USA,” and he tried to memorize the names of each place. He had the childish dream that someday he would go back to each of those towns and pay back the money his Dad owed. It took him a long time to accept the fact that the sins of the father aren’t passed on to the son, and neither are his debts. However, he believes that his commitment to making the world a better place is an attempt to settle those old accounts.

The biggest residual effect of Kevin’s family’s nomadic lifestyle was the lack of long-term relationships. It was hard to invest in a friendship that he knew from the start wasn’t going to last. As an adult, it took Kevin time to learn how to cultivate those relationships and trust that the people he connected with could be in his life permanently. Building those relationships and surrounding himself with people who helped build him up has been a major step in making his own Midnight Run to a brighter future. He loves teaching others the hard-learned lessons life has taught him!

Empowering kids from poverty to become anything they can dream of becoming...

Rebecca Lewis

Kevin Honeycutt

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