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Sunday, December 11, 2016

Socks, Laughter, and Chance

Two missions with the Akron Snow Angels this year, and both had snow.   Coincidence?    I highly doubt it.   It’s a tough mix of emotions to deal with when you’re thinking, “I’m cold and hope that we get done soon so I can get inside where it’s warm” when you’re out helping people that have no inside to go to.   It is a dichotomy that I always seem to wrestle with.
After loading up, we headed to the North Hill High School parking lot for our first stop.   Many of the people that we worked with that this place may not have been homeless specifically, but when you see a child walking around without a jacket or even socks in the snow, you know that you’re helping people that desperately need it.    
It is my understanding that North Hill is now an area that is setup for refugees from other countries.   I don’t know their stories, but I am curious to learn more about them, what their country was like, and how they got here.   Often times, when we would try to speak with the people, there was difficulty in communicating.   The kids often spoke some English but the parents largely did not.   It’s emotionally difficult to have someone right in front of you that needs help, but language barriers make it difficult to find out what specific help they need.
I did find that two things that work in any language.   Socks and coffee.   On a cold day, if you hold a hot cup of coffee in your hand and extend it towards someone that’s shivering, the universal smile communicates that what you’ve done just made someone’s day that much better.   The same thing can be said for a pair of socks.   When you see a child in the snow with shoes but no socks, all it takes is an outstretched hand with a pair of clean, dry socks to change the outlook for everyone involved.   It’s these vehicles that we use as a group to open the lines of communication to help all of us learn more.
This is yet another culture, another dimension, another group of diversity within our local area that has an outlook on life that I have not dealt with much.    I am anxious to learn more.  I’m excited to make more friends.  
Lesson one……   Caring knows no language.   

As we loaded up and left North Hill, we went to our second stop of Grace Park to see those friends that we’ve had for a while now.   I love being the request guy as I really affords me the opportunity to get to know some of the people and talk with them.   My interactions are usually short, but I always make the effort to make them personal, personable, and fun.    Today, I met a man named David.   David is probably about 6’7”.   He was in a light jacket and tennis shoes.   Cold, but smiling.   He politely asked if he could request a heavy winter coat and some winter boots.   I looked at him and asked, “You a medium?   About an 8 boot?”   After we got done laughing about it, David let me know that he needs a 4XL winter jacket and a size 14 boot. He’s tremendously tall, and has the heart and laughter to match his stature.   
Lesson two…...laughter warms up everyone.

Later on in the mission, a gentleman named Derrick came up to me to request some boots and a coat.   My pen and my hands started to malfunction a bit from the cold and I ended up writing his first name in some unrecognizable hieroglyphs.  I scratched his first name out and put it on the line below.   He saw this and very politely asked me if I could put his last name on the same line so there was no confusion.   The first thing that went through my head was “why does it matter?   I’ll be the one going through the sheet later.   It’ll be fine.   No problem.”    Then it struck me.   It appealed to some of my own obsessive compulsive/leave nothing to chance tendencies.   If I was depending on these items for my survival, wouldn’t I want to make doubly sure that there was no confusion?   You can be sure that I would be triple checking with the person.   I would do everything in my power to make sure that things go well.   

Lesson Three.    Do not leave your success up to chance.   Take control of things.  Make sure that you have done everything you can to enable your success.   You control your own destiny.   Take control of it before someone else does.