Friday, December 16, 2011

Tis the Season

We are only a little over a week away from Christmas. Wow, how the year has passed. This is the season that most people feel the desire to give. The man on the street corner, the bell ringer in front of the store, or the various organizations whose responsibility is to help such as food banks or shelters.

But, what of the season just afterwards......The coldest time of the year. What do we do then?

Back in 1995, I remember reading an article that a friend had written where he ended up giving his Christmas bonus out in a variety of ways to people who he met who he saw needed it more than him. I was warmed and inspired by the words that he wrote.

In January of the next year, I was driving home from work and had parked on the south side of Albertsons and was getting back in my car after my purchases. As I started my car, my lights fell on a figure huddled against the wall. His crouching body with head down showed me that he was trying to stay warm away from the wind that was howling around the building.

I sat there, my car at idle, and stared at the figure. My daughter sitting next to me broke my silence when she spoke, "You are going to do something, Dad, aren't you?". She knew me well and I slipped out of my warm idling car and crouched down next to him. I still recall his haunting eyes as they looked up at me from under the dirty ball cap.

I asked him when he last ate. He stated the day before, he thought. Reaching in my pocket, I extracted a business card and wrote on the back. I told him that the diner was only a block or so down the road, invited him to it, and then told him that he could go to the truck stop side afterwards and get a shower if he wished.

The next morning, a smiling cleaner face met me in the truckers lounge as I arrived at work. I saw him from time to time after that and we always greeted each other. While I don't know what ever happened to him, the incident caused my mind to begin to wander on the subject and a food and clothing drive began from it that I named MOW for Middle of Winter.

Customers began dropping off warm clothes, blankets, sleeping bags, and food. Others left money that I used to purchase more sleeping bags since they were the thing most in demand. Originally, we ran this drive from January to March each year.

As the years progressed, the drive remained but evolved. At first, it was St Vincent de Paul who did the distributing. Then I met Capt John from the Salvation Army. I came to know and love him and his family and while he was here in Bend, they became my distribution point. We also shared a love of football and the same teams, The Oregon Ducks and the San Diego Chargers. I stopped to see him in Newport last September when Judy and I were there visiting bragging that I now knew Dan Fouts just so I could watch his envious reaction.

Then came the Band of Brothers and Chuck Hemmingway who leads Central Oregon Veterans Outreach (COVO). Last year, we agreed to use them as the main distribution point and something else happened. While I pulled the bins sometime in the spring, the supplies never stopped. Most every week, someone drops by clothes or supplies and every Monday, Chuck or someone else takes them down to the COVO office where they are distributed directly to the ones who need them the most.

My friend, Brian Standiford, who is the service manager for Smolich Hyundai in front of us even brings back brand new sleeping bags on a regular basis helping fill this need that is year around but especially prevalent in the coming colder months.

I used this story when I addressed a Christian Businessman's group that meets at the diner last week. It is my hope that it might inspire other thoughts and ideas just as the article had laid the foundation for this so many years ago.

Yes, it is Christmas Season.....the time when we are inspired to give. But remember, this is only one month. There are eleven more afterwards and each one will give us opportunities. And, I would add, our responsibility to make the best of them....and hopefully make a difference in this world.

Merry Christmas!
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