Lucas Van Sprange was the kind of kid every parent hopes for. He was intelligent, well mannered, respectful, and mature beyond his years. More importantly he had a huge heart for others. He put others ahead of himself. Always. His teachers noticed when he sent them emails of thanks and admiration, offering to help with other kids in his class who seemed to be causing trouble. His classmates noticed him smiling at him in the hall, taking time to talk to them, noticing when they were having a bad day and trying to cheer them up. They noticed when he stood up for those who were being treated badly. They noticed when he listened to their problems and acted more like a brother than a friend. They relied on him for support and guidance. His family thanked God every day for the son who was more than willing to help with his siblings, was always first on the scene when someone was crying; asked his Mom how her day was when he got home from school before even talking about his day. He took on a caretaker role in everything he did. In July of 2014 Lucas went to Guatamala on a service trip and his mind was blown by the poverty and need. He wanted to be a doctor someday and felt a tug on his heart when he saw the infected cuts and horrible tooth infections inflicted on helpless children. It opened his eyes to a whole new level of service amongst the poorest of poor. On January 16, 2015 the most unspeakable tragedy happened. Lucas was killed crossing the street trying to get to the school bus. In an instant an entire community mourned. They quickly heard of the boy who had a smile for everyone, a heart brimming with kindness and a heart of servitude. It was as the Forest Hills Schools Superintendent said, “…a response he had never seen before.” A student who had flown under the radar, only a freshman for 4 months, was seen for who he really was. It’s not usually the nice kids who get a lot of attention, until tragedy strikes. The school came together to mourn the tragic loss of a classmate who deeply cared for others and demonstrated kindness in his everyday life. This is how LiveLikeLucas was born. Up until now it has been a catchphrase for kindness, compassion, and servitude. Our goal is to turn it into an organization which brings out those qualities in other students, to empower them to do the same. Instead of just talking about it, really doing it. How do we really make a change? How do we encourage others to follow in Lucas’ footsteps? We do it through service. By looking outside of the bubble of ones’ own life and seeing a world where there is so much suffering. For the many who just need a smile, a hug, or an act of kindness. So many people lack the basic necessities of food and shelter all over the world. Through service, we show kindness and through kindness, we show love. It’s not just about “ME.” Lucas Van Sprange knew that. That is what set him apart. This is why we need to LiveLikeLucas.
Live Like LucasThe non-profit organization Live Like Lucas was founded in August of 2015 in order to accomplish the goal of empowering youth to spread kindness. Our first official event was on January 16, 2016 where we had over 200 youth as well as adults participate in service projects and random acts of kindness in the Grand Rapids area. We served a pancake breakfast at Park church, made over 100 lunches and hygiene kits and distributed them to the poor along Division avenue. We made breakfast and did activities with the children at Hope Community, which is temporary housing for single moms and their children. We went to nursing homes and played bingo and bowling with the elderly. We distributed fifty 10.00 gift cards at Meijer as a random act of kindness. The result of just this one day was astounding. The volunteers had their eyes opened to situations that they had never been in before and met people unlike they had ever encountered. They saw people in poverty as real, worthy, human beings who weren’t just lazy. They saw the elderly, as one student put it “peppy and funny and mischievous.” They connected with people who were far outside of the Forest Hills “bubble.” And they wanted to go back. They wanted to do more. They asked, “When can we do this again?” Live Like Lucas is not just about spreading kindness out on the streets of Grand Rapids but also in our schools. We are currently researching programs and speakers to encourage our youth to practice kindness EVERY DAY- not just to their own friends but to those who feel alone and disenfranchised. We want to encourage friendships across all social, racial, and socio-economic boundaries. Teaching kindness also needs to start young. We are working on a program with “Lucas puppets” for the social workers to use to teach lessons on being kind to others and encourage conversation about sadness and loneliness and bullying. The kids will be able to put letters to Lucas in a mailbox so they can express their feelings and in turn the social workers can address these issues. One especially powerful method of learning about kindness in a global way is through mission projects. Our goal for next summer is to fund or partially fund at least 10 trips to Guatemala for kids who would otherwise be unable to go due to financial concerns. Lucas went 2 years ago with my grandparents and it was life changing for him to see the utter poverty and lack of medical care that was available for these people they visited in remote villages. He was prompted to really think about what his future looked like- he had planned on going into the medical field and now felt drawn to the mission field. Live Like Lucas has a vision of youth who look outside of themselves, look outside of wealth and power and popularity as goals and really see the world as how it is- full of hurting people. Even a small act of kindness can turn someone’s day around. It may even change their life.