Category Archives: A Year of Gratitude

A Success Story…

A success story…Social Workers don’t always get to hear what happens next.

Recently I was walking into an apartment office to discuss one of my clients with the manager. A woman stepped out of the office and immediately said I looked familiar to her. We talked for a minute and figured out she lived in the homeless shelter at the same time I was doing my internship.

She told me she remembered that I helped her figure out her credit score and what she needed to do to improve things.

She was excited to announce that she left the shelter 6 years ago and has lived continuously in an apartment ever since.

I think many of us assume there is no hope for people on the street. We believe they have chosen a life of drugs, alcohol, or laziness. Because we don’t always see the positive outcomes…we assume they don’t happen. When our group serves the homeless we hear lots of hopeful stories of getting a job, having an apartment or getting back in touch with family. We rarely get to see those things actually happen.

I have no doubt it took a lot of commitment and hard work for this lady to stabilize her life and maintain a life with shelter, consistency and security. I am so very happy I had the opportunity to hear her story of success.

Unexpected Lesson

I woke up in a grumpy mood this morning. Freckles and Sugar decided to start barking much too early.
Saturday morning, no where to be, no plans…and they start barking.
After Tina and the girls headed out to get mani-pedis I decided to lay down and try to sneak in a quick nap before going for a bike ride.
Just as I started to doze off my phone rang. I looked, it was a client. I rolled back over. Within minutes my phone rang again…same client. I decided to answer, though I was not happy about it.
When I answered it wasn’t my client, it was her brother. He told me his sister died.
I sat there stunned. I kept thinking about my interactions with this young lady. I thought about her family. I thought about the hole she would leave.
Then I realized how ridiculous I had been earlier. I was grumpy…for no real reason. The fact is I woke up…earlier than I wanted…but I woke up. I had the entire day ahead of me…I could go ride my bike, hug my wife and laugh with the girls. I still had things to look forward to and friends to love…I still have my life.

There are so many sad side stories to this death. So many hearts broken by this loss. Yet everyone’s life will move on. Everyone, even her closest family will heal. What I hope for is that each person effected and maybe even those of you that read this post, will take a minute to remember how fortunate we are. Remember to appreciate the time we are given to walk on this earth. And most importantly remember to appreciate those people we get to share this planet with.

American Thanksgiving

Someone asked me earlier this week how it is possible to celebrate Thanksgiving without turkey.

I gave up eating meat nearly two years ago…so not eating a turkey on Thanksgiving is not a problem for me…but the question itself made me stop and think.

Why do we (Americans) celebrate Thanksgiving?

Do we celebrate Thanksgiving so we can over eat, nap and watch football? Maybe.
Do we celebrate Thanksgiving so we can wrestle our fellow americans for a TV that is marked 50% off? Maybe.
Do we celebrate Thanksgiving so we can enjoy a 4 day weekend? Maybe.

Without digressing into a story about Europeans landing on foreign soil that they would infest with disease and eventually dominate and destroy…I would like to consider what Thanksgiving could be…if we as americans could turn a few of our priorities around and focus on the good in ourselves and each other rather than the external things that we surround ourselves with.

Maybe if more people looked across the table at their family member and sought the things that make that person good and kind…instead of focusing on our disagreements.

Maybe each of us could take a minute to think of those who don’t have family members to share a meal with. And realize how fortunate we are to be in a house full of love and goodness.

Maybe we could extend an olive branch to the individuals that we have shut out of our lives.

Maybe we could spend time talking about the Grace our God freely gives and the forgiveness we are granted…even when we don’t deserve it.

Gratitude is an easy thing to forget…We often take our lives, our family and our friends for granted…

Lets all take a minute to say thank you…
to our family,
to our friends,
to a total stranger,
to our God

for our family,
for our friends
for the strangers that surround us,
for our God

Happy (American) Thanksgiving everyone…may we all find a reason to be grateful everyday.

The Bear’s New Home

We recently completed our outreach to the homeless. We met a couple sitting outside an abandoned fast food restaurant. It appeared the couple had all of their worldly possessions within reach.
I noticed a white stuffed bear laying on the table, where they had been sitting, I mentioned how cute I thought it was. The woman thanked me then suggested I take it because it was just one more thing for her to carry. I told her I couldn’t do that. I was there to give, not take. She kept insisting. Finally I struck a deal with her. I suggested that I would take it but only under the condition that I would give it to someone that would benefit from it. She agreed!

A short time later, while passing out food along Lancaster (local “homeless area”), we met a beautiful little girl that approached us with her mom and three siblings. I asked the mom if I could give the little girl a teddy bear…she agreed!img_6308

Today I drove past the place I met the original bear owner. I wanted to let her know the white bear found a home. Unfortunately, I didn’t see her…but I will keep an eye out for her. I want her to know that her kindness and generosity made a little girl smile.

Two Little Boys

Yesterday I watched a 4 year old boy feed another child. My heart melted.
We took our friends Amanda and Luevena to distribute some food bags that were donated for the homeless. They thought serving people living on the streets might be a good lesson for their nephew.
At one of our last stops, a lady pulled up in a car. It was not a fancy car, it was a car being held together with wire and duct tape. Apparently she realized we were handing out food. She jumped out of the car (almost before it came to a complete stop) and asked if she could get food for her kids.
Four or five children piled out of the backseat. I directed each of them to the back of our car where little James and our girls (Robyn and Sonya) were passing out bags of food.
I stepped up to observe. I wanted to make sure each child received a bag. In the midst of the group stood little James handing a food bag to a boy his size. The two boys stood face to face…time seemed to stop for just a moment. I wanted to capture the scene with a photo but I didn’t want to cause discomfort for the little boy or his mom.

I wondered what the little boys were thinking. Or if they even realized there was disparity in their lives.
One boy was reaching out for help, for food, for survival.
The other little boy was being nudged by the adults around him to recognize how blessed he truly is.
Both boys gained something in that meeting.
Both boys walked away not even knowing their hearts had been touched
We don’t always get to know why things happen and we may never know why these two young boys were in that place, at that time.
But what we do know is that they both benefited, they both received a gift and they both shared a moment of giving.

Skull’s Crossing – Conquered

Last year, shortly before I started the “Blazzin Saddle” ride, the men parked beside us started talking about “Skull’s Crossing.” They told stories of a climb so difficult people fall over in the middle of the road. They said the road narrows at Skull’s Crossing just before you climb the steep hill. So people that were spread out across the country roads, suddenly crunched together to climb the impossible climb. DSC_0915
The description of this ride states it will challenge top level riders with its hilly terrain. Needless to say I freaked out a bit.
We reached Skull’s Crossing before the first rest area (less than 10 miles). The road curved right, then left. It dipped drastically across a small bridge, then it began to rise.

I made it about half way up and noticed a woman had flipped her bike into the ditch. I also saw people stopped along the side and people weaving back and forth in the middle of the road. It was like a war zone, with bodies strewn across the road (slight exaggeration…but you get my point!) I was no longer afraid of the hill, I was afraid of the riders around me. I was afraid of crashing. I unclipped my shoes (clips are used to attach a riders shoe to her pedal), to avoid a fall (if you are familiar with cycling you will understand I was still new to clips and lacked confidence in my cycling ability). Once I unclipped I lost all momentum. Needless to say I did not complete the hill on my bike, but I finished it pushing my bike.

This year I was determined to beat Skull’s Crossing. My hill climbing has improved. Wearing clips is now second nature and I feel much more in control.
I rode along a winding country road, my surroundings felt familiar, I knew Skull’s Crossing was getting closer. I tried to avoid the crowds so I could approach the hill without anyone near me (that didn’t happen). DSC_0912
The amazing thing is, once I started climbing the hill I felt focused on the climb. I felt all my energy pushing the pedals, pulling the pedals and I watched the road in front of me pass on by.
About midway up the hill I noticed my riding buddy to my left. Typically she beats me up difficult hills. I encouraged her, “We got this!”
As she quickly fell behind me, all I heard was “Damn it..(not sure what is said here) …came off!”
I had no idea what happened to her bike. I knew stopping in the middle of the hill was not an option. I turned back toward the hill to find a rider directly in front of me. I told the rider I was preparing to pass her as I guided my bike around on her left side.
As I crested the hill I worked my way through the other riders to the right side of the road so I could stop and wait for Rachael.
Although I was panting heavily from the climb, I felt like riding back down just to ride back up again. I was that excited about conquering Skull’s Crossing. No worries though…I was that excited…but not that stupid!
By the time Rachael caught up I had calmed down. She recently got new clips and one of her clips slipped out of the pedal. Fortunately she did not crash unfortunately she was not able to complete the hill.
The next day I revisited Skull’s Crossing. This time in a car and with camera in hand. Usually when I’m on a bike hills look really big…but as I stood at the base of this hill preparing to take a picture, it looked extremely steep and bigger than it looked the day before.DSC_0919

I was even more excited that I had conquered Skull’s Crossing!