My husband used to tell audiences when he spoke around the country that the only way to effect a change in the life of a damaged and hurting individual like the students we embrace at Denver Street School is: "Sacrificial intervention by mature, loving Christians to the point of extreme inconvenience."
He lived this maxim for 35 years. He exhibited it in every facet of his life, at home or at work. He always had his cell phone on, and he made sure he was available 24/7. If a student called at 3:27 AM on a Sunday morning and needed a ride home from the local jail, he got up, pulled on his jeans, and drove to get them.
If one of his kids (or wife) wanted ice cream at 9:25 PM, he would pause his favorite program, close his laptop (because he never quit working) and drove to the grocery store to get some for them. He washed dishes, vacuumed the floors, folded laundry, and did whatever he was asked to do. No job was too menial.
He spoke at national conferences for Laura Bushes Save Our Youth campaign, had lunch at the White House, and served as an urban education, drop out prevention specialist for congress. He kept score at DSS basketball games and took kids home after practice with the same fervor and commitment. Convenience or appearances didn't matter. He had a mission to change the world.
He would ask a student, "What do you want to be?" Whether they said, "a pro basketball star," or "a scientist," his advice to reach their goal was the same: "Get out of bed in the morning, put on your clothes, and come to school. Every day. The next step to accomplishing any goal is getting out of bed the next day, going to class, and doing what the teacher asks you to do."
He is gone now, but around the country people whose lives were forever changed by his commitment are changing their world. A doctor doing research to cure diseases, a lawyer practicing family law, a young man now retired from the Marine Corps, reached their goals all because they took his advice to get out of bed in the morning, and graduated from Denver Street School.
Tom Tillapaugh was not a perfect man. He wasn't the kind of guy that lit up every room he went into or preached a fiery sermon on national television. He was the kind of guy that got up every morning, put on his clothes, and went to work. Every day. He was the kind of guy that did whatever it took to help a student accomplish their goals, and never turned his phone off 24/7. Are you willing to be inconvenienced to make a difference? All it takes is everything you've got.