Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Simple Act of Giving

The day was February 24th, 2009. That's right, just a couple days ago. I had just gotten home from a very busy day at work and was going through the normal routine of heating up the oven to throw some bachelor food in to appease my growling stomach. Then I heard my cell phone ding reminding me I had a message. This Tuesday evening was about to become very memorable and would undoubtedly change the way I reflected on many special moments in life.

The voicemail was from Betty, a staff member of Hands On Tampa Bay (HOT). She asked me to call her back at the office or if it was after 4:30pm then call her at home. I'm thinking to myself that this must be important. I never get people who I barely know asking me to call them at home after business hours. And so I called and Betty so eagerly shared these words with me "I want to inform you that you've been selected as Volunteer of the Year for 2008 for Hands On Tampa Bay!" I was in complete and utter disbelief! I mean what had I done that was so deserving of this magnitude of achievement? There are currently 1,903 active volunteers who have participated in at least 1 project in the past year and they chose me!?

The first words out of my mouth were - "Is this a joke?" She confirmed that it was definitely not a joke and that I had made a very positive impression on the award committee who had chosen me for such a distinct honor. At this point my throat swelled up and tears started rolling down my cheeks. My simple everyday efforts over the past several months had made a difference and this was God's way of telling me to keep doing what I was doing because it was touching lives beyond my own. In fact, HOT has touched many lives and Betty told me that with everyone's help they managed to give back a little over 15,000 volunteer hours in 2007 to the local community because of individuals like myself.

I'm sharing this because my hope is that it inspires you to give back to your community. Your fellow brothers and sisters have needs and struggles that only seem to accomplish pulling all the hope and optimism out of them. You may not see it because you might be too busy dealing with your own struggles in life. But 3 hours on a Saturday at a homeless shelter or 90 minutes on a Wednesday evening at a domestic abuse shelter can be a powerful thing for both sides of the generosity that's taking place. For it is within these moments that previously untold stories of hardships and the return to the splendor that life has to offer are communicated. And it is in these words and these smiles that life becomes sweet again and our precious gift of existence is reinforced.

Nobody is going to remember the nice house you live in, the fancy car you drive, or the things you do to entertain yourself. But I guarantee you that the single, homeless mother will remember the meal you fed her and her children when they were hungry. The child with downs syndrome will remember how you boosted their self esteem as you accompanied them on a horseback ride. And don't think that the 93 year old veteran who is full of pride but can't physically walk down the hall anymore without somebody at his side doesn't appreciate your guidance and gentle support. These are the exact reasons why it's so important to give back to this world. We are a species of incredible goodness and devotion. All we have to do is find a way to let it out.

God bless you and may you feel the jubilation that I've been so lucky to experience this past year. It is priceless and very consuming.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Virtual Truth

What exactly is so great about the biggest craze of the last few years of social networking? Am I just not down with what's cool? I mean I'm not really that old at 31 or at least I don't like to think so but Friendster, Myspace, Facebook... what happened to Earth World?

So I have to admit I was probably one of the first one of my friends and family on Friendster when it first came out years and years ago - like almost back in the 20th century. I found it pretty useless other than the blogging feature. Over the last few years I kept getting all my real friends giving me a hard time for not having a Myspace and then for not having a Facebook. I resisted for a long time but finally gave into both. But I still remain clueless as to what's so extraordinary about it? I mean really... I find myself and I'm sure you do too just staring at an internet page of status updates, moods, and walls of stuff that is somehow suppose to make me feel like I'm spending quality time with my "peeps".

I miss spending actual time with my flesh and blood friends. You remember that thing you do when you call up your homies to go check out a baseball game to enhance your bromance. Or maybe that late night run to Steak and Shake you do with your girls to stuff a bunch of needless milkshake lard into your thighs while laughing hysterically at nothing at all. Now that's what stays with you when you're old and crippled sitting on the front porch in the retirement years.

I guess there is one good thing about having my virtual friends who are really the same as my actual friends.... I get to see updated pictures all the time. But that's about all I can think of that's hip with all the FaceMySpaceBook orgies going on.

As my mocking blog post comes to an end all I have to say is this... I want my friends and family in the real world to - Inform me. Challenge me. Inspire me. And I will become the best man I can be in real life. But you're probably better able to accomplish this by face to face or ear to ear time on the phone with your very real friend Dustin :)

God bless and may your day be full of optimism and hope. I miss you all.