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Saturday, April 9, 2016

A greater understanding

With today being the last mission for the Akron Snow Angels for the winter, I feel the need to summarize not only today, but also what my overall involvement has taught me.   With that, I’ve split the blog up a bit to cover these separate points.    

Working with the homeless has totally changed my opinion of people in general.   What I realize more and more is how differently people handle things.   That totally hit me today as I handed a requested item to a gentleman.   
On our previous mission, a shorter, slight of build man that I had seen a number of times before came up and put in a request for a pair of pants.   We didn’t have any in his size, so we said that we would do our best to try to get him some.   We mentioned that we’d be back on the 9th, and he mentioned that the 8th was his birthday.   I put it in my notes that would be posted on the shopping list, but then went about my business for the rest of the day.     
I arrived today to find that along with the requested pants for this gentleman, the person that did the shopping also was thoughtful enough to get a card and some candy to add in for his birthday!   Since I recognized the guy from talking to him briefly before, I was on the lookout for him.  After all, I was excited to get him the items and wish him a happy belated birthday.      
I saw him milling around the group and hopped out of the truck and ran over to go hand him his birthday items.   I’m normally not much one for birthdays, but I felt that it was a big way to connect, get a smile, and hopefully help someone have a great day.   I handed him the bag and goodies with a big “Happy Birthday David!”.   He said “Thank you”, and went back to looking at the ground 8 feet in front of him and walking around.   It was as close to a “non-reaction” as you can get.   It perplexed me.  His birthday was a much bigger deal for me than it was for him.  
I went along for a while longer doing other things and working with other people, but I kept thinking about it.   Why didn’t he have the normal “surprise birthday stuff” reaction?   What was going on?   He got chocolate!   How can you not want chocolate on your birthday?   Then I realized it…that could be why he is homeless.   He doesn’t fit in with what society considers normal.   He just may not know how to react to things like that.   He may not have that emotion.   Because he doesn’t react the same way that we do, does that means he deserves to be homeless?   Those are some unanswered questions.   They are also questions that I’m not sure that I’d be asking myself a few months ago, but I’m glad that I have the ability to now.   
Working with this group has taught me that everyone does or handles things differently.   What should be the most important thing to me, is how I handle those situations.   I am taking much more time before I form an opinion on things.   I’m doing more research.  I’m considering more options.   In this, I’m growing.….huge.

As I look back to some of the volunteers that I’ve worked along side with in the group, there’s a common thread.   There’s something that stands out.   This group was started by one woman that spent some time at a soup kitchen and thought, “we need to help the homeless more.”   Ever feel like one person can’t make a difference?   She 100% proves you wrong.   I am astonished and amazed with what she has accomplished in what really is a very short amount of time.   There is a drive and a skillset there that I envy.   This reaffirms to me that effort yields results and that compassion is still alive and well.   
It’s often said that no one has more influence than the people you have around you.   The fact that I can call the founder of the Akron Snow Angels, and the co-founders of Elves & More of Northeast Ohio, my friends seems a bit surreal to me.   These people are amazing.   They all have demanding jobs, are involved with their families, lead active social lives...and “Oh by the way”, have helped thousands of people.   They only get paid in smiles and stories, yet still have the drive to overcome obstacles and help those that need it.   These people make me feel like a little kid that just met his idol.   I suggest that you find a friend who is a hero and/or an icon.   I’m lucky enough to have 3 friends that fit both of those words.     

Working with the Akron Snow Angels has changed my mindset on so many things.   It’s been a change that has caused me to look at the core of how I do things, how I think about things, and how I react to things.   When I started thinking about the changes and why I’ve seen them, it all comes down to people.   Both the homeless that we work to help and the volunteers that help make it happen have been the two groups responsible for these changes.   On both sides of the equation, it’s the people that have made the difference for me.   

  1. One thought can change the world, even if it’s just the world for one person.
  2. Opinions do not matter.  Actions and reactions do.   Make them positive.   Make them count.   
  3. Connect with people.   Learn people.   We all have more to learn than we think.

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