So yeah, I promote things. I write about things. I convince you that those specific things are the best things since things were invented.
I get paid to do that.
You might hear me on the radio, or see me on television, or read an article in the newspaper or a magazine (which, BTW, is nothing more than my press release, 9 times out of 10.) I go to events and shake hands and smile.
Again, I get paid to do that.
But every once in a while, I decide to use my "powers" for good. (Totally in the Good Witch or Bad Witch example.) For instance, I decided that since it was Thanksgiving, and this time of year is about the harvest and our bounty, perhaps we should give back to those in need.
For the first time in my life, it is so much more than "the right thing to do." I recognize, without my family to back me, I would have been one of those "in need" just six months ago. From July 2011- April 2012, I was not guaranteed a meal, a bed, or the means to get from place to place.
I think that's why this season, I want to do everything I can to help those who need help.
When my coworker and I were talking about our Second Saturday Storytelling, it sort of hit me - why not teach the kids about giving back? I know the whole concept may not resonate with some of them, but it is so important to at least expose them to the concept. I decided after a little discussion to offer to do a canned food drive. My manager told me to look into one specific nonprofit, Loaves & Fishes Ministry of Macon, and see what they may need.
Sure enough, I called them and the kindest woman by the name of Sarah answered the phone. She gave me a brief overview and told me what type of items they needed. For example, they only had 20 blankets left, and with the weather growing colder, the need was outweighing what they had on reserve. I immediately felt my heart sort of flutter. (Not in a good way, in more of a oh-my-God-what-if? sort of way.) I asked, "Do you mind if I come visit you? See the place for myself?"
Sarah replied, "I would just love that."
So I did. I left work and found my way to this small building not too far from the museum. I had driven past it numerous times, always noticing the people hanging around outside. Some looked a little rough around the edges, so I always assumed they may be homeless.
I pulled up and two men were standing outside. Clearly, these men were there for either food, a shower, or something. One of the gentlemen greeted me and held the door open for me. I looked up at him and he flashed the kindest smile I had seen in so long. I made it in and met with the Executive Director, who was nice enough to give me a tour of the place. He showed me the pantry, showed me the closet; He even explained to me about the showers and laundry service they provide. I could tell the E.D. was distracted (or perhaps he had seen so many people like me who came through.. sort of looking around like it was some freak show, and thought I would donate once and leave.) Once we rounded the end of the pantry, he sort of stood there looking at me. I smiled and asked, "So Sarah asked me to stop by and pick up a brochure." He looked a little stunned and replied, "Of course, just head around the corner." So I went and thanked Sarah for her kindness.
As I walked out, I saw a young woman. She kept darting her eyes away from me, like she did not want to make eye contact, as if she was ashamed. She held her tattered bag close to her, and even brushed some of her hair away from her face. I paused at the door and smiled at her, as she shyly looked away. My heart sort of went out to her, and I have thought of her many times in the past week. All I could think was, "My God.. that could have been me,"
I know you guys think I am exaggerating, but I am not. If I did not have my family, I would have lost EVERYTHING. I had no home. I was only able to keep my car because I was given unemployment, which was barely $600 a month. I had somewhere to sleep for free, so I could make that payment, buy my medicines and cover my insurance. That was all. I rarely had money for gas or food of my own. But you would never know that - because I had nice things from before. When I went out, you saw clothes that were taken care of, and a car that was paid for, but you did not know what was actually happening by looking at me.
By October of 2011, if it weren't for my parents, I could have easily ended up in a shelter. Easily. I would have to get rid of my stuff, because you can't take that with you in one. I had nothing. NOTHING. Somehow.. and by the Grace of God, I had somewhere to go.
This month, I decided to collect items for Loaves & Fishes. There is a huge box in the lobby of our museum. People are welcomed to donate canned food, clothing, blankets, diapers, anything you know someone would need. I am going to use my "powers" for good and offer discounts to the museum with a donation. Free entrance into our First Friday Forums and Second Saturday Storytelling with a donation. I want that box to be so full, that we have to make a delivery at least a few times this month.
When November comes to a close, and we know we did all we could, I want to volunteer for the area homeless sheltors. I want to help those who need help.
I'll never forget the words of that woman back at the Firehouse Sheltor in Birmingham, when she said to me, "Honey, we are all just one paycheck away from being homeless."
That.. I can attest to.