My son asked me to help with the Orting Valley Fire & Rescue annual food drive. The instructions were simple – jump on/off a fire truck while visiting neighborhoods, hand out big candy canes to residents, and collect donations for the local food bank. Start at 9am, stop at 4pm. Wear good shoes because you’ll want to walk… and we’ll cover about 10 miles.
What came next was a lesson in culture. In community building. In leadership.
Here are just a few of the special moments I was blessed with along the way…
— A family of four stood in the morning drizzle, holding bags of food… one of the day’s biggest donations. As we departed, they turned and walked up their muddy driveway to a very tired trailer home.
— The gruff old man stormed outside, swearing like a sailor, complaining that we were making too much noise. When I wished him Happy Holidays and asked him if he’d like a candy cane… he cracked a smile and softly said, “that would be nice”,
— It wasn’t hard to see her over a block away… arms and legs trembling uncontrollably. This 3-year old cutie seemed to levitate in anticipation of finding Santa somewhere among the red trucks. Further down the street, I heard a frail elderly woman turn to her husband and say, “look dear, Santa!”.
— Holding his Dad’s hand, intrigued by the commotion, an 8-year old boy with physical challenges stood at his doorstep. Grabbing our small gift, his eyes lit up. Minutes later, and several blocks away, I turned to see the Dad carrying his son in his pajamas… to get a better view, and ultimately a picture with Santa.
— Hiding yet seemingly wanting to be seen, countless people peeked out windows by their front door. When I made eye contact and waved, they waved back. And when I held up a candy cane with a questioning look, nearly every one of them smiled, opened the door, and accepted our good wishes – and many ran back inside to gather food for donation.
It’s been a week since my 10-mile walk, and I’m still full of energy. As servant leaders, the firefighters at OVFR shared their mission with me – building a community, not just responding to one. Along the journey, this is what I learned:
The weakest voice often makes the biggest statement. Do not judge, embrace everyone.
If your heart is good, people will know. Remain committed, even if others initially push back.
Wonder has no age limit. It starts early. And, it remains if we allow it.
Sometimes we need to carry others. Don’t worry, your strength will come from their joy.
Everyone seeks belonging but knowing how to engage is awkward. Spoken or not, we can rest assured that most people are thinking… “I’m here. Please meet me where I am.”
As we connect with others in 2020… keep caring…
…and keep Believing in Better!