I loved opening up my front door yesterday and finding donations for the homeless sitting on my front porch. For a moment it felt a little like Christmas morning as a child, it really did. You don’t often find the Christmas spirit still lingering around after December 25. This time of year I’m often reminded of a quote that perfectly describes what happens on December 26 at 12:01 a.m.,
“Next to a circus there ain’t nothing that packs up and tears out faster than the Christmas spirit.” ~K. Hubbard
Perhaps people really do have the Christmas spirit in them all year-long, we just need to help bring it out in each other during the ‘off season’. I’ve been relentless in my quest to gather warm clothes for the homeless at Boutwell Auditorium, even setting up a FaceBook page:
I’ve made four trips downtown to the Boutwell since December 28, and each time my Tahoe was filled with blankets, sweaters, mittens and other winter necessities that you and I take for granted. That wouldn’t have happened if I had just watched the news report about the homeless last Tuesday evening, thought to myself ‘those poor people, what will they do, it’s so cold outside’ and then changed the channel because it’s too depressing to watch. I can’t quite explain it, but it was almost like a calling. That’s the thing about me, I’m either in something 110% or not at all. And watch out, because if the 110% side wins, I’m going to make it happen and if I can’t do it alone, I’m going to find ways to get the help I need.
The Boutwell opened it’s doors again last night at 6:00 pm for the homeless and I was looking forward to seeing my new friends, both the volunteers and the many homeless that I had grown so close to in such a short amount of time. My mom came with me on this trip and everyone fell in love with her immediately. My mom has a very warm and gentle way about her and I wasn’t surprised at all when I saw her wrap her arm around a young woman who had fallen on hard times and needed someone to talk to. My mom loves to give hugs and these people need them. So it’s a win-win. When she wasn’t lending an ear and a shoulder, she & I had everyone laughing in the dinner line. Mom was in charge of the chicken and I was in charge of the green beans. Nothing to exciting about that. But watching my mom trying to get chicken fingers on the dinner plates was quite entertaining. My mom is a perfectionist and watching her morph into Martha Stewart in an effort to achieve the perfect placement of chicken on each plate, left her wide open for my smart ass comments. Now, I had an audience, as many of the men in line were adding their own playful comments to mine, and in a matter of minutes, the sound of laughter was heard throughout the dinner line. It was a beautiful sound. I read somewhere once that what soap is to the body, laughter is to the soul. That is so true.
When dinner was over and things settled down some, we opened up the donation room to let everyone find what they needed. I expected some sort of chaotic ‘free for all”, with clothes flying everywhere, all the neat, folded piles of clothes left in shambles – but it wasn’t like that at all. The women sorted through the clothes and picked out just what they needed, nothing more, nothing less. When I offered a woman a blanket that was heavier than the one she had, she said she couldn’t accept it because she already had one. I was somewhat surprised that they didn’t grab all their arms could hold. I heard comments between the women like, “I really like that sweater but its kinda big for me, here, you try it on” or “oooh, that hat is nice but I already have one.” I had the best job during all of this, I got to hold baby Maleek. He is just one year old and a ball of fire. This is the baby boy my daughter and I shopped for last week. His mama is in her early twenties and a very sweet young lady. She and Maleek quickly found a special place in my heart and I found myself checking in on her many times last night. My mom talked to her about going to one of the shelters that is for women and babies and this morning they had an appointment at one downtown. As much as I hate to see them go, Maleek will now get the medical care he needs.
I spent most of yesterday baking cookies and muffins to bring to the Boutwell. When my daughter finally woke up yesterday, (she’s a teenager, the only people who sleep more than her are the dead) the following discussion took place:
Gionna: Mom, what are you doing?
Me: Baking cookies and Banana muffins;
G: Let me guess, for the homeless?
Me: (laughing) Yes Gionna
G: That’s it! I’m going to go live on the streets so I can eat better.
*Guilt set in and I gave Gionna one banana muffin, but just ONE!
Sometimes it’s a little funny the things that bring people together. After we served dinner to the homeless, I placed the baked goods on the tables and in just minutes they were gone. One gentleman came up to me and asked if I had anymore banana muffins and I sadly told him that none were left. He didn’t say anything, but I could tell he was deep in thought. He stepped a little closer to me and began to tell me how his wife, when she was alive, used to bake for the homeless and how the muffins I made reminded him of the wonderful smells that used to come from their kitchen. He thanked me repeatedly for giving my time to the homeless and I replied by promising him that I would make more banana muffins and bring them on Friday when I returned. Oh the smile on his face when I said those words. I just want to take care of each and every one of them. Since I can’t do that now, the very least I can do is bake for them.
I had two hours to myself today, which is very rare. When my daughter came home from school, she watched my son so I could run a few errands and just get out of the house. Since she had to be at work at 5:00, that meant I had to put a bounce in my step. My first stop was the post office. This is never a fun errand because I don’t enjoy opening my post office box to find bills that quite often can’t be paid. But today was different. In my post office box was a belated Christmas card – which I love to receive, I don’t care if it’s January or June, they make me smile. There was also two keys in my box. Now, keys mean that there is a package so large that it couldn’t fit in my box and I’d have to go get it out of a larger box. Two keys meant there were probably quite a few boxes. I actually jumped up and down a couple of times I was so excited – I know, goofy as hell doesn’t even begin to describe me.
I quickly walked to the front of the post office and behind door number 20 and door number 25 were a total of four boxes – and they were donations for the homeless from my friend in Georgia. Delivered to my home earlier that day was another package from a friend in Ft. Payne filled with Winter essentials. I am now of the firm belief that people really do want to help, you just have to let them know what it is that they can do. Even my daughter’s friends have gone through their closets and donated sweaters and coats. This has all renewed my faith in humanity somewhat. I love seeing people come together to help others. There are also those that have told me how selfish and lazy the homeless are and while that is true of some, it’s not the case with any of the men and women I have met during the past week. I’m proud to call each of them my friend and I’ll do whatever I can to help them. It may just be a warm coat, a cup of coffee and a muffin, but I’ll be there.
So tomorrow evening I will return for another shift of volunteering, but I don’t think of it as work, not at all. No, this is simply people helping each other out and there is amazing gratification and energy that comes from it. So many in my community have helped my family, especially now that I’m a single mom , and it feels good to be the one giving instead of receiving. “Pay it forward”. That’s what many people have told me when they have helped me buy groceries or pay a bill that was overdue – so I guess that’s what I’m doing now. International Pay It Forward Day isn’t until April 25, 2013, but I think every day we need to find a way to “Pay It Forward”. This website has some great ideas on how you can do that: http://payitforwardday.com/.
“How would your life be different if…You didn’t wait for someone else to fix a problem or social issue? Let today be the day…You take up a cause that you feel in your heart and give your time and efforts towards that cause.” ~S. Maraboli, The Power of One