Sunday, March 30, 2014

That Good Kinda Tired (a.k.a. Why We Do It)

There’s the good kinda tired that comes from a hard workout. There’s the good kinda tired that comes from meeting a deadline. And there’s the good kinda tired that comes from a day you look back on and say “This was a day well spent.”
            Ten years ago I was invited to serve on a trust created by a man with terminal cancer. Having spent the better part of his life chasing the dollar, in his final days he found the Lord, so he and his wife sat down and created a trust with a sole (soul) mission to help others in need, one individual at a time. With no kids of their own, they recruited their 3 nieces and a handful of friends. I was a last minute addition, having met the man late in the game, but he knew I had a heart for helping the homeless, so I was honored when he invited me to join the group.
 Most of our giving is done anonymously. Occasionally we vote as a group to give to larger causes, (there are 12 of us), but basically we’re talking guerilla giving for lack of a better term. Each quarter, we are given permission to Pay it Forward when we spot a light bill here or a house payment there of a person (most often total strangers) in desperate need.  We have rules (as we’ve been doing this awhile). You can’t use it personally; you can’t give to family and you can’t help the same person over and over. We meet once a quarter and try to top each other’s story as to how hard it was to sneak money into someone’s pocket or anonymously figure out how to pay their electric bill. There are moments of joy, and moments of sheer frustration. You’d be surprised how much you scrutinize and second-guess yourself when giving away someone else’s money. It’s not as easy as you think. Trust me. Random giving can be hard.
Some of our favorite stories involve buying someone’s gas for no reason, or paying for the cars behind you in the drive through….Buying your own groceries then telling the check out clerk, “Apply $40 extra to theirs,” as you race out the door….or tipping a Waffle House waitress $100. One girl gave a Contributor newspaper guy a $50 bill (which immediately prompted him to take the day off, which was not the goal). It takes some getting used to, and we still struggle from time to time as it really forces you to get creative, all for the sake of random acts of kindness.
So as if that little gathering wasn’t enough fun for one day, I leave that meeting and head to my church where the teams are setting up for our last night to host Room in the Inn for the season. For those unfamiliar, RITI is a program that invites area congregations (180 this year) to open their doors, create safe, smaller shelters providing those less fortunate a more personal, one-on-one experience. Guests are provided a warm meal, clean blankets and cots and some human interaction after a day out on the streets. The next morning we get them back downtown with a meal for the road. Meanwhile, those volunteering are given the experience of a lifetime.


Tonight marks the last of the season for my church; tomorrow marks the end of the entire season for the winter program overall and yes, it’s a coordination effort like you wouldn’t believe. But it’s an effort oh so worth it. I started volunteering downtown some 27 years ago am I’m well aware that by this time of the season, we’re all ready to drop, but one thank you from a homeless person…one “I am so blessed” by someone who really means it, makes it all worthwhile. I can honestly say, I don’t do it for them. I selfishly admit I do it for me. Some folks have therapists (and I’m way cool with that), but I have these souls, whose stories serve to remind me that whatever I thought was a problem that day, is more likely an inconvenience. I know of no better reality check, no quicker way to “put it in perspective” than to spend time with those who show me life from a different point of view.  I wouldn’t take anything in the world for days like these. I am tired, but in a good sort of way.

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