Warning: the following is one big conglomerate of thoughts, read on if you dare.
It started with the Power Ball. Good Lord that is a lot of money! I didn't even buy a ticket but that did not stop my mind from playing what if games. You know what I am talking about, what if I won the lottery and was suddenly a millionaire/ billionaire, what would I do? First, I would pay off all existing debt. Probably buy a new car. Then I would start donating by the thousands and millions to the various charities and people I hold dear to my heart. My church, my kids children's theater, my school, the garden project, the food bank, the Homeless Angels ( I would totally buy the Magnusson hotel for Mike Karl and a few other while we are at it,) I would bless as many people as humanly possible and then I would still show up at work the next day because I love my job. I really do. And I really would do all of those things and more.
Yet I didn't buy a ticket. No millions of dollars in my bank roll. :( Yet also :)
Why the smiley face? All this dreaming led me to a pretty amazing thought. I don't need millions of dollars to make a difference. I can make a difference right now! Whatever I hold dear, I can influence now. I can give my time. I can give my resources. I can use my gifts and talents to bless others. To help organizations. I can use my network. And sure I can throw some cash on some causes.
I am extremely blessed to be following in the footsteps of family members with a heart for community service. My mother is a champion volunteer! I remember as a toddler running the hallways at school long before I ever attended. Why? Because my mom is awesome and she volunteered. I can remember charity benefits with my mom at the helm, raising money for friends who lost their home to a fire and another friend who lost her dad to cancer. Mom has a way of seeing needs and doing what she can. I get this from her. We do what we can, when we can, for whomever we can. Because we can and someone should, so why not us?
Mom and I have had many volunteering adventures together. The garden being one of my favorites. This weekend we opened a new door. We stepped foot into the Magnusson Hotel and were introduced to the Homeless Angels. Mom felt led to go and just see what they needed. She showed up ahead of me and did what she does best, dove right in. This weekend they were gearing up for what they call their Street Store. Over the last three weeks, donations have been pouring in. All these donations needed to be sorted and set up. I have had a few bags sitting idle in the closet for a couple months. I sorted them out and took them on over. Once I was through the doors, I too dove right in. Sort sort sort, all day long, sort sort sort while I sing this song. Clothes, shoes, linens, hats and scarves. The generosity of the community was amazing to see. This organization is also amazing! They are a non-profit with no one on a bank roll. 100% of donations go to help the homeless in our community. While there we met a few of the guys. People I am sure I have seen on the streets. Some of them asking for money on corners. Another walking around with a box on his head, a voice for the homeless, the happiest homeless guy you will ever meet. This weekend homelessness in my world gained a name.
A name. Isn't it true that we can ignore many things until they become personal? When do they become personal? When we can attach a name to it. There are many things in my world that have names attached to them. To protect the identity of those I hold dear, I will refrain from sharing their names publicly but know that with each of these things there is a name attached. A story. A life. A mark on my life. Childhood Leukemia. Breast Cancer. Adoption. Abortion. Gay. Lesbian. Transgender. Gay Marriage. Divorce. Abandoned. Advocate. Athlete. Refugee. Survivor. Deaf, Blind. Bi-polar. Depressed. Those who have taken their own lives. Others whose lives were taken....
Oh how I could go on. Each of these people have shaped my world. I realize that not everyone thinks the same as I do but it is each of these people, each of their stories that form my world view. My beliefs. My desire to respond to the world with love rather than hatred.
This last week, a dear, sweet teenager that I had the privilege of meeting, took her life. She was the same age as my son and served alongside him at Fenner Nature Center. She had an infectious smile. She was a lover of people. Always inclusive. She had hugs for any and all that wanted one. She was an AMAZING artist! A fantastic poet. She was a life full of promise. Yet the burdens of this world weighed her down and for reasons people can only speculate, she felt this life was no longer worth living.
Which sets my mind down a whole different path. Friends, your lives are worth living! You have so much to give. You are loved far more than you will ever realize. I know Sydney was. At her funeral today, the church was overflowing. I would venture to guess over 500 people came to remember her and celebrate her life. She was loved. Yet she may not have realized just how true this was. She changed lives for the better. She smiled at people when they themselves felt the darkness, she was a light to champion them on another day.
There is now a hole. A candle on her desk at school. A remembrance of someone brilliant, gone far too soon.
Following the funeral, the girls and I headed over to the Street Store to volunteer. People were lived up at the door when we arrived. The doors had opened early to get people out of the cold. Throughout the afternoon we folded, handed out, sorted some more, put more things out, we smiled, I held a sweet baby girl that was screaming her head off until I put her on my lap and started talking to her. She calmed right down. Relief for some weary parents. I ended up holding her for nearly an hour as mom was trying to retrieve her keys from inside their locked car. I rocked and sang, she melted into my arms and fell asleep for a bit. I saw the homeless today. Some rode the bus. Others walked. All had need. All were blessed. They had a gentlemen giving haircuts. Ladies painting nails. They had food. They took what they needed, free of charge. Others from the community came as well, some on the brink of homelessness themselves. The poverty was obvious. Needs were met. The Homeless Angels and their slew of volunteers pulled off a pretty spectacular event.
I got to be a part of it. Their story and my story collided and I won't be the same because of it.
Not every person on a street corner is a con artist or scammer. Some of them are truly homeless. All of them have names.
What we do matters my friends! Don't cry over losing lottery tickets. Take the resources and talents you have and do something with them. Get out in our community and make it better. Smile at people. Hug people. Tell others they matter. Tell your loved ones you love them. Ask yourself what you would have done if you won the lottery and do it anyways.
Oh and if you have clothes you no longer need, consider donating them to the Homeless Angels Street Store because rumor has it that they will be doing it again real SOON!
I love you!