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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Can I borrow your shoes?

I spent a lot of time learning this weekend.   Although it’s gone by in a breeze and has left me exhausted, there are lessons in it that I will be carrying for the rest of my life.  
I was excited for this weekend as Sunday was to be “Christmas in July” with the Akron Snow Angels.   The working and learning started long before Sunday for me though.  On Friday evening at 6:00, the founder of the Snow Angels and I met the Penske box truck that would be the my chariot for the next few days.   Tables were loaded in the back and we were on our way to pick up items from other people that had gone shopping for us.
After a few stops, we had to go to pick up some toiletries and other items that were needed for the event on Sunday.   In the few shopping trips that I have made, I have found that you always draw looks of intrigue when you go to Dollar General and buy $250+ worth of shampoo, soap, and deodorant.   With the cart straining to hold the weight of these items, I noticed a gentleman who was buying just 3 or 4 items that got in line to check out behind us.   Rather than making him wait the ages that it was going to take us to check out, I did the polite thing and let him go first.   It came up in casual conversation as to why we were buying all of these items and the guy was seemed to be absolutely floored.   “You guys are doing an amazing thing” he repeated a number of times to us.   Having been in this situation before, I can tell you that it is always great to hear stuff like that from people.   The rewards of helping the homeless are huge and I have met some amazing people, but when going through the tedium of shopping for 100+ bars of soap, the extra support and encouragement is always greatly appreciated.      
The man walked out of the store and we started to get things ready for the checkout clerk. Know what was in store, we waited for one or two others that we allowed to go in front of us to pay.   I was digging through the cart and organizing when I heard a voice. “What you guys are doing is awesome.   Here.  Take this”.   I looked up to find the man from earlier standing next to me.   His outstretched arm holding $40 in cash.   It caught me so much by surprise that it took me a few seconds thank him.   I was totally stunned.   I was in awe.   I felt invigorated.   In one gesture that lasted all of 20 seconds, this man helped us, he helped a community, and reaffirmed to the entire store that humanity is alive and well.   Simple, yet amazing.
As my brain was working overtime to process the events that just transpired, a lady was asking a few more questions about Akron Snow Angels.   Within seconds of her knowing what we were doing and why, she emptied the cash out of her purse and only wanted hugs from each of us in exchange.   Again, complete shock for all of the right reasons.   Two people just made this great big world feel very warm and cozy.    

Saturday morning was sorting, loading, and just generally getting things ready for the big event on Sunday.   I’m not sure how many trips I made from the front to the back to the front and to the back of the box van, but I’m pretty sure I got my recommended mileage in for the day.   It would have taken hours if not days longer if not for the help of the other volunteers.   
I feel that the people that helped on Saturday are absolutely amazing in their own unique way.   These are the people that do a ton of the heavy hauling, the tedious sorting, and the running around and most of them never get to see the smiles or hear the stories that come from it.   These people are just happy to be a help.   Truly selfless acts.   
As the day of the actual event arrived I was excited, nervous, and doing my best to prepare myself for the day.   The emotional swings involved with something like this are huge.   I saw some people that I haven’t seen since our last mission this past winter/spring season.   I know I’ve said it before and I will say it again.   You’re really happy to see the people knowing that they are ok and safe.   I’ve developed a friendship with many of them and I enjoy talking with them.   I enjoy listening to them.   In the same sense, it is upsetting seeing that person that you care for as they are still in need of the help.   It’s weird to make a friend with the hope that you never talk to them again because they have moved on to a different situation.      
I was on “security” duty for the day which really means that I’m there to help show people around and chat people up while in line.   It gave me the opportunity to interact with most everyone that came to the event today which was an amazing experience.   I find that as I listen to people I get the chance to know them.   I find out what makes them tick and how they handle things.   In so many ways, these people have totally changed my perception of what life is and what we are supposed to do with it.   
We all seem to gravitate towards the people that are similar to us or to the people that we want to be like.  There is an equal if not greater amount of things that can be learned from people outside of those circles also.   The things that I learn from the people that I talk to aren’t always lessons that I can put into words easily.   In many cases, I see a changed attitude and enough of a contrasting perspective on things to make me see the world in a completely different light.   I once read, “To walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, you must first take off your own”.   I have always felt that I have done a good job of this.   As it turns out, I’m just now learning about how much I have yet to learn.