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Sunday, January 22, 2017

Your future and a tent

My weekend of Akron Snow Angels activities started early this time.   A number of weeks ago, a friend of mine mentioned what her amazing daughter has started as a tradition for her birthday.    She picks a charity, and asks everyone to bring donations for that charity.   For her 12th birthday party, she picked the Akron Snow Angels.   When I first heard this, I was excited.   As time passed, I honestly forgot the date so when I received a message last night with a picture of tables that were piled full of toothpaste, socks, soap, and coats, I was speechless.   I’m not sure that it’s still fully registered with me.   Most kids are upset when they don’t get the latest and greatest video game that they asked for...and this one wants nothing more than to know that she’s helping others.   
A fixture with the Akron Snow Angels is Ty.   Ty is just one of those kids with a smile and personality that makes him tough not to like.   Ty can often be found doing things like any other 12 year old on a Sunday morning.   He’ll be out tossing a football or joking around with his friends.   The difference is that a lot of those friends are homeless.   Ty has been involved with the Akron Snow Angels for a while now and I’m not sure that I can put into words how well he interacts with everyone at the missions.   There’s no awkwardness that you’d normally see from someone of his age.   There’s just this burning desire to help people.   His most amazing talent with the people is getting them to smile.   He just gets people to light up.   It’s a joy to watch.      
These two amazing kids are the products of proud parents that have taken an active role in deciding the future.   Not just the future of their kids, but the future for all of us.   Their active role with their kids has created compassion and hope for the future.   The generous attitude and mindset of compassion that has been instilled in these kids has taught me something.   
Lesson one: The future is what you make it.   No one else.   You.

If you’ve followed the blog, you may remember a man I wrote about last time that had just gotten a job and was in need of a set of Carhartt overalls.   The following Tuesday, someone had written into the Akron Snow Angels and asked if they could purchase the needed coveralls.    Since being involved with the Akron Snow Angels, I have seen a lot of great things happen.   This honestly ranks near the top for me.   
When we arrived at the mission, I was grateful to be able to snag a few minutes where I could actually talk to the recipient of the warmest coveralls you’ll find.   His energy was contagious.   “It's going great.   They’ve been able to give me some extra hours, so I’ll take that every chance I can get.   I get paid next Friday!   We’d love to be able to find a place as I really want to get us into a place and out of the tent.   If you know of anyplace, let me know.”   Hearing all of this and his hopeful outlook is a wonderful ray of light in a often dim place.
As I talked with him, I mentioned the blog and how the relationship that he and his wife shows through and has made quite the impression on me.   He instantly thanked me for getting the coveralls to him and wanted me to pass on his gratitude for the good Samaritan that purchased them for him.   He then said something so simple, but extremely profound.   “When you have nothing else, each other is all that matters.”    
Those words stuck with me the rest of the day.   I realized that what he said has a lot of truth.   In the same sense, I think that he could have made it simpler.

Lesson 2: Each other is all that matters.    

There were so many other interactions today that I had that all seemed to point me in this same direction.   Please, take a few minutes to look around to see what really matters.   When it gets cold later this week, ask yourself this…   Who do you want in your tent?

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Positively Chilling

It’s 9:00 on a Sunday morning as I pull my dad’s truck out of the garage and start down the road for another mission with the Akron Snow Angels.   Less than a mile down the road I look over at the readout in the truck that tells me it’s 8 degrees outside.   I’m in the truck, all bundled up in 4 layers of clothes including Carhartt overalls, and I’m cold.   It’s at this point when it dawns on me, “I don’t see how some of my friends live in this.”
I was the first to arrive at the facility where we meet and store all of the items that we have.   It’s not heated, but it does keep everything that we have dry.    As soon as I pushed the door open I felt a rush of disappointing, but not unexpected cold air.   Once again, the question of “how can they live in this?” circled around in my head.   
We had a few more volunteers than normal today which was nice.   We got everything loaded up and headed for Grace Park as per our usual routine.   With it being so cold out, the crowd that greeted us had fewer people.   To me, that’s a good thing.   It means that some of the shelters have opened their doors to a few more people in order to make sure that they can stay warm.   
We parked and I got to do my favorite job again.   I took requests today.   I still love doing this.   I love how it gives me a chance to hear from, learn about, and interact with so many people.   Some of them are more memorable than others, but today had one interaction that gave me a bit of a spark, and it’s what led me to figure out what the lesson was for today.
On the early December mission, I met a man and his wife.   He is a taller man with a booming voice, a firm handshake and a friendly demeanor.   She is quieter and prefers to be in the background, but is very pleasant.    They live in a tent, so their situation is obviously not ideal, but my perception of their situation tells me that it’s an amazing relationship.   
He is a man of pride.   He sees their situation, and wants to work to get both of them out of it.   He is working to move things forward.   He wants to provide for them.  He wants to protect her.   On the flip side of the equation, through thick and painfully very thin times, she supports him.   She has confidence in him.   They are in a tough spot and yet they are in it 100% together.   They help each other.   It’s very easy to bail when times get tough and say “I’ll do this on my own.”   With these two, they want to do it together.   They do what so many people don’t in making sure that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.    What’s amazing is that they are doing this in conditions that most people would give up in.   It’s a powerful thing to see.   
This mission, he came up to me and asked if he could get a set of Carhartt coveralls.   It was with great pride that he told me “I got a job!”   He told me where and what he’d be doing.   “I’ll be outside 9 hours a day and it’s not going to start getting warmer for a while yet.   I hope that on the first of the month, we can finally get a place.”   Hearing those words made my week.   
It was after this conversation with him that I noticed something about everyone that I had talked to that day.   When my house drops below 68 degrees, I think it’s cold, and although I don’t complain to the dog and cats, I probably would if they would listen.   These people are living in conditions where the temperature is 8….and they aren’t complaining.   People made a few small jokes about the cold, but no actual complaints.   No griping.   No “I hate this”.   
I’ve always somewhat avoided the “how’s it going?” question when on missions as I’ve always been afraid of making someone feel bad.   After some thoughts though, I wanted to see if my lesson was turning out to be what I thought it was.   I asked my friend Jared how he was doing.   “Good!” was his only reply.   I asked Jesse how he has been as I haven’t seen him for a while.  “Not too bad”.    I asked some of the people that came up to me for requests.  “Doing ok.”   “Great!”   “I’m alive and well.”   Not one had a negative answer.   
As I started to process all of these answers and why they have them, I realized that negativity is a sign of giving up.   If you give up in this situation, in these conditions, you’re dead.   In these sometimes dire situations, hope and a positive attitude may be the only things that you have.   

Today’s lesson: Even in a difficult situation, your outlook can mean the difference between survival or failure.