(I started this a few weeks ago and am posting it on the 1st of the year)

A couple weeks ago my friends and I filled some Ziplock bags with food and headed out on the Denver streets to pass them out.  It was a slow start for us.  The night was the coldest of the year so far and most of the homeless and destitute could be found in lines to get into shelters.  We passed out a few bags, but the one that I remember in particular was a man who we saw on the side of the road with a grocery cart of his belongings.  His appearance was not that different from the other people we saw on the streets that night.  His words, however, were simple, profound and encouraging.  When we asked him if he’d like some food his response included a huge smile and he said, “God always provides when you need it the most.”  Those words stung me, as I am often caught up in the materialism of our society.  We are faced daily with commercials and advertisements telling us we need more, newer, bigger and better in our lives.

Last week our church headed out to a care center called Park Forest.  Members of our church could “adopt” a resident and provide that person with gifts that were requested.  I was pretty bummed because by the time I made it to church (we had been out of town) all of the names had been taken.  I mean, this is a wonderful problem to encounter, but last year we really enjoyed helping out and I was looking forward to participating.  So I threw myself something short of a pity party and had decided I wasn’t going to go to the gift giving since I had nothing to give.

As my week progressed, I received a call from John inviting me to go to the Leno show.  I had thought about it, but just couldn’t justify it in my mind.  No problem, until the day of the Park Forest party.  John continued to text me that day, sharing all the fun happenings of the Leno show.  The surprise appearance of Fred Willard, the elaborate set, Tom Wilson and his amazing kindness, and Jim Carrey as one of the guests.  My full on pity party had begun.  As I was moving through my day it started to hit me that I was being a selfish twit.  I had so much to be grateful for, and yet here I was feeling sorry for myself because I was missing out on one day of walking past celebrities in hallways.  I pulled myself together and made plans to go to Park Forest.  It was one of those nights where images are burned into the back of your mind forever.  Some of the requests from the residents were elaborate.  HD TV’s and iPhones.  Other’s were so simple it broke my heart.  Socks, sweatpants, Oreo cookies, and apple pies.  We take for granted the fact that, for the most part, we can just go to the store and buy the food we want.  We buy the name brand clothes that fit us best and are in style that season.  There were few name brands mentioned on the Park Forest gift lists.  Mostly the name brands were for foods.

I met some of the residents and spent time passing out gifts.  Perhaps the most touching moment of my night was went I happened to see a man who had asked for a Teddy Bear.  He sat in the party room for the entire evening hugging the bear as if it were his only worldly possession (which it very well may have been).  I wasn’t there when he received it, but I heard he cried when he did.  I heard that most of the people in the room teared up as they watched.

This was a great lesson for me as it’s easy to become wrapped up in ourselves and what we feel we are missing in our lives.  The reality that we need to be reminded of is that there are so many among us that have much less.  As I was cruising Craigslist this holiday season there was a woman requesting food.  I felt compelled to give her a gift certificate to a local grocery store.  I tried to do it as anonymously as possible, but my e-mail address was attached to my request for her address.  After sending the gift, I received an e-mail back.  This woman said she has worked her whole life, but was diagnosed with cancer and soon lost her job and ended up on disability.  Her disability was meager, and by the third week of most months she was out of money and food.  She only requested leftovers from peoples meals to help her through the final weeks of the month.  Her embarrassment of having to ask for food was evident in our communications, but she said she was desperate.

We begin to realize the importance of the little things in life.  The joy of seeing a smile on someone’s face, the blessings of being able to afford the basic necessities.  My life is filled with many blessings that I will forever be grateful for.  I hope that my life will be filled with humility and grace, patience and understanding for those in the world around me.


“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” -Margaret Mead

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