I was running a few weeks ago in uptown Charlotte and was headed across a large bridge over a major highway. As I crossed the bridge, I noticed a young man standing in the middle. He had a hood on and his pants were baggy. I could not see his face and I thought that he might be laughing on the phone by the sounds he was making. As I got closer, I noticed that his foot kept lifting to the railing and that he was not laughing but crying. I passed by him and then stopped. I turned back and said “Are you ok?”. He shrugged me off and tried to move away. I proceeded to tell him that I am a stranger and he never has to see me again. After a few minutes of convincing, he opened up to me, telling me that he was 18 years old and his parents left a long time ago. He lives with his sister. His parents did not care about him and his sister has a family and does not have time for him. He told me that he was only happy for 1 minute every day, and the rest of the day he was miserable. So quickly, I came up with a mission for him. I told him he needed to go to a church. I suggested that he not go for God. I told him to go and talk to the clergy and find out in what ways he can help people. I suggested taking meals to the elderly or serving in a kitchen. The main goal is just to help people as much as you can for the next 6 months. Next, I told him to find me and tell me if he has found any joy that he was missing. After I had walked him off the bridge and told him the location that he can find me at work, he smiled really big and said “I will see you in six months, thanks so much.” Personally, I hope to see him when the time comes.
Jenn’s dedication to help Blake and his family was my inspiration when the opportunity presented itself. I had first met Shannon Richards with her friends and family on St. Patrick’s Day 2007. Her family had come down from Connecticut to celebrate her 25th birthday and more importantly, that her cancer was in remission. Shannon didn’t look like someone who I thought would have just battled years with cancer. She was beautiful, had so much energy and laughed at everything!
I found out in August that Shannon’s cancer had returned and it didn’t look good. She was in Charlotte and her insurance wouldn’t approve the cost of transporting her to be closer to her family, who was struggling to keep their jobs and also be with Shannon. I thought of Jenn’s volunteerism, and I immediately orchestrated a fund-raiser. I was completely shocked at how much people wanted to help! The date, venue and media coverage were secured and I then networked through my friends for silent auction items, started a My Space page and designed a logo and flyer. We raised $3,400 that day to transport Shannon.
Unfortunately, Shannon lost her battle with cancer. But there were several beautiful things that came from knowing her: One is that I found out I can make a difference. And my friends found out they can make a difference. Since then, several have branched out and started their own philanthropies, from starting other fundraisers to helping displaced workers find new jobs. I’m proud of all of us, and know that we have the capacity to help when the opportunity presents itself again. Thank you, Jenn.
When I moved to Chicago in 1999, I decided to start having an annual Christmas party; first for the employees of the company I worked for and later, as I got more established there, for colleagues, clients, and friends.
Being 1/4 Italian, we are always prepared with more than enough food and wine at a party, however partygoers, not wanting to come emply handed, would show up with beer, wine, and food to the party, which left me eating leftovers for a week afterwards and in many cases, throwing a lot of prefectly good food out because I just couldn’t eat it all. Around about 2004, I decided to mention on the invitation that, as much as I appreciated people bringing food and drink, we always had a ton of leftovers, and that it would be much more appreciated if they would instead consider bringing a toy for the local Toys For Tots drive. That year, and every year since, friends and family have contributed about two carloads (and my car can hold quite a bit!) full of toys for the drive.
I like to bring the toys to the dropoff site at an “off time” when people aren’t around, so the next day people walk in and there is a full box of toys. Maybe Santa and his elves stopped there!
I was stationed in Baghdad, Iraq for four months during the summer of 2007. We were living not far from the banks of the Tigris River which separates “The Green Zone” and Sadr City, one of the most dangerous places in Iraq. It was not uncommon for mortars to be regularly fired from Sadr City . Very often, these mortars fell short of their target and landed on a narrow strip of land between the Tigris and the concrete walls of The Green Zone. One day, Mike, who was assigned to my group, came upon an Iraqi woman and her two young boys, ages 5 and 7, living on this narrow strip of land. Their home was a hut that was literally made of mud and stones, with no floor. The father had been killed during the initial invasion. The family had no place to go and simply prayed that the mortars continued to miss their hut. Amazingly, the boys were very happy. They always had a huge smile and big hug ready to great you with. No shoes, few clothes, no playstation, and very happy. Makes you think.
Upon learning of this family’s plight, Mike initiated a plan to get them out of Iraq and into a camp in Jordan. This was an extremely difficult task that required team work and a lot of leg work, organizing, planning and fund raising. We raised money form them in Baghdad and I called my church in Charlotte for help. They sent my $1,000 a few days later, after asking only a few questions. Are they Gods children, do they need help, and is $1,000 enough?
Through Mike’s extraordinary efforts, and the generosity of many people, including my church, the family was safely relocated to Jordan. The last I heard about them is that they had settled into a nice area, the boys were in school and the mom found a job. All because Mike, saw people that needed help and reacted. Reminds me of someone I know.
Last week my wife nicole and the kids went to the library and checked out a few books. In the two minutes allowed to find something for herself while the kids whined and complained she grabbed a book she thought looked interesting and checked it out.
I apparently thought it was interesting, so i picked it up off of the kitchen counter and thumbed through it and was captivated by $200 in cash sitting between the middle pages.
It was not ours. We contacted the Library who called the previous person who had checked it out. She said it was hers. So we took it back and were admittedly anxious for a thank you. The Library did say thank you, but not the trumpets or parade we secretly wanted.
Anyway, a week letter a note came in the mail from the person who had accidently left it in the book – they had been short on their mortgage and she was afraid to tell her husband that she had lost $200 he had given her. She was thankful – Guess that was the trumpet blaring we were originally thinking of!
I recently learned that a close friend, who is a single mother, suffered a large flood in her home, due to the recent rain downpour on Sunday night. Just before heading to bed, she thought to check the basement since the rain was heavy and she had experienced several previous water leaks. From the moment she discovered the incoming water, it was less than 30 minutes until her entire (finished) basement was soaked in 4 inches of standing water. Foregoing sleep, she spent the rest of the night and into the wee-hours of the morning, removing the water all by herself. She then took her child to school, still running on empty and had to miss work to continue her efforts to dry the basement. All Christmas and other storage boxes were soaked and each and every item had to be sorted and repacked. Upon learning of her ordeal, two of her friends and I banned together to pick up dinner for her and her son, numerous plastic bins (for reorganizing and repacking the soaked boxes) and headed to her home for “operation clean-up.” One friend tackled the kitchen and upstairs living area, while one spent the evening playing games with her son, while she and I tackled the basement, repacking items into bins. We, then, moved our efforts to her laundry because many clothes were affected by the flood. She had spent her day off work, doing multiple loads of laundry. We helped her by folding all the clothes and sorting through to make things a little easier for when we had to leave. While we didn’t really do as much as we would have liked, our small effort allowed her to see the “light at the end of the tunnel.” As a single mother, working full time and still working out the details of her past marriage, she was overwhelmed by the magnitude of damage and work that lied ahead. Our efforts, as she said to us in her very poignant “thank you” note, restored her hope and gave her the momentum she needed to move forward again. What was truly a small act of kindness on our part was, for her, the act of us climbing a mountain on her behalf. The joy this brought, in helping her, restored my faith as well. We all need help and it’s nice to know that a small outreach can make such a big difference for someone. Don’t listen to me, she said it best: I can’t tell you how much it meant to me to have the three of you show up and lend me a hand. I am going on fumes and about at my wits end and somehow, you managed to pull me back into the realm of “it’s possible.” You three ladies are my heart – I type this with tears, only because I am moved beyond comprehension at the meaning of your actions. I love you all from the bottom of my heart. Just when I felt like I had no one to depend on, it is yet the fairer of the sexes that stands up and says “let’s do it” and actually gets it done. You go, my sisters! Love you very, very, very much. I mean that from the bottom of my heart. Thank you so much for tonight.
One of my best girlfriends was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer in May of 2009. In September of 2009 she lost her fight leaving behind a four month old daughter, 7 & 5 year old boys and husband. Annie had just turned 35 in August. Annies husband owned a construction business that had already seen the devastation of a tanking economy and when he decided to take time away to spend with Annie for those last four months, you can imagine what it did to their financial picture.
I watched an amazing outpouring from a community that didn’t even know this family. A local barber in the area heard of Annies sad story and threw together a barbeque that raised over $10,000 in half a day. I watched neighbors write checks to cover utilities, house payments, give their time to clean their house, cook dinner for the family every Thursday for months.
I spent the last three weeks of Annies life by her bedside every night. Through this unfortunate event I realized this…we all work so hard to accomplish “things” in our lifetime. Whether it be careers or material things, but what I learned was this. When it is your time to go, to leave this world – it doesn’t matter how you got that promotion, how much money you made, the car you drive or the house you live in. What really matters are the lives you touched along the way, how much you loved and the nice things you did for others. Those are the things you will be remembered for.
My life was forever changed through this tragedy and I know the others that were involved and watched a community pull together to lend support to a family in desperate need will be changed as well. You can’t witness something like this and not want to pay it forward….
I was so touched a couple weeks ago to see 2 little girls selling lemonade and brownies to raise money for the victims of Haiti. I live in New York City so it’s not often that you find lemonade stands on the sidewalks, outside of apartment buildings, but the cramped and crowded sidewalks didn’t stop these girls from doing a good deed.
A few weeks ago, I had to go look after my mother-in-law who has Alzheimer’s. She couldn’t be left alone while her husband made a second trip to the doctor that day. She doesn’t realize where she is anymore, much less who her husband and children are. She’s even mistaken me for a deceased son-in-law from 30 years ago. So we chatted while my father-in-law was gone and I realized that you have to play along with their forgetfulness to keep them at ease. So I tried to talk to her about actors from the past and friends from her hometown, deceased or living. It helped a little but her husband was taking longer than I expected. I can’t rush it, he’s 88, she’s 82, and he needed a break from her more than I probably realized. God bless him. The woman he has loved for over 60 years doesn’t know who he is anymore. Sometimes she knows who he is and dotes on him as well. We still chatted once he got home and I asked to see if he needed help before I left. He was very happy to have a break, whistling as he walked in the door. As I was leaving, she called me by her deceased son-in-law’s name and I just went with it. I told her my wife and I would stop by next weekend, my father-in-law was hoping sooner than that. Any visit from us is a well-deserved break for him.
Through our local church, every year at Thanksgiving, we buy groceries for complete Thanksgiving meals and deliver to all the families at a nearby apartment complex. At this particular complex, there are a lot of needy families who can’t afford a traditional Thanksgiving meal. This past year, we supplied more than 200 Thanksgiving meals. It only took individuals and families making a commitment to supply one or two meals. Not a major commitment to make our city a better place to live to a few needy families. Making a difference is not hard, especially if we work together.