What is the Sequoia project?

My photo
Wausau, Wisconsin, United States
The Sequoia tree is one of the largest in the world. The seed is the size of a grain of wheat. One kind act will often seem unimportant but has ripple effects across humanity.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sharing a Christmas meal.

We always shop at a grocery store where it takes a quarter to use their carts. When it’s returned the quarter is given back. All the carts are linked together with small chains. The reason for this is because carts are not left out in their parking lot. Cuts costs in employees and in turn savings are passed on to customers.

After our shopping we returned our cart to the area where they are lined up at. I had a pocket full of quarters so decided to unlock as many carts as I could. Just a simple way to make people smile in getting theirs for free. No big deal and didn’t think much about it.

While preparing to pull out of the parking lot we noticed an elderly lady pushing all the carts back together and taking the quarters that come sliding back out at the same time. This wasn’t what we intended. At first I just shook my head and was a little upset. When I seen the clothes this lady was wearing my attitude changed. It was in the middle of winter and her coat had holes in it. She had tennis shoes on and no boots. I understood better why she was doing what she was. These quarters were needed. Sandi looked at me and said we should stop and give her some money. Sounded like a good thing to do but we didn’t have any. We had paid for ours with a swipe card and the quarters I had she had already taken.

What we did have was food though. We shop at this particular place because of the prices. Its like a warehouse of generic labeled food. We don’t mind and the costs really are about 50% less, throughout the year, as a regular grocery store. Food is food in my book. The fancy packaging and colors means nothing. Most of our funds are put towards our home with hopes to someday pass it along to our children. Instead of a 30-year mortgage we have a 15-year one. Things are always tight but we are so much better off than millions. At least we had a home.

I backed up the car, got out, and opened the trunk of our car where the food was placed. We had picked up two turkeys because they were on sale and many meals can be made from just one. The biggest one was picked out and taken over to the woman. She looked surprised and relived when I told her to have a Merry Christmas. I think she thought I was going to say something about her taking the quarters. This concern on her face soon changed to an expression of relief. I didn’t want to hurt her pride and shared that we had bought an extra one by accident and didn’t want to deal with the crowds inside the store. Her face light up and we thought for a moment she was going to cry. Told her that it was no big deal and we had plenty to share.

How we respond to people in need is what makes the human spirit what it is. We didn’t do this because we wanted to be thanked or looked at as nice people. We did it because it was the right thing to do. That little voice that tells us what’s right and wrong was listened to. When so many people were shopping for Christmas presents and going about holiday plans this lady probably had none. Her concern was making it through the next 24-years.

That night, before sleep came, I said a prayer for this lady with no name. I prayed that she find peace and hope this coming new year and that her life would be transformed. Nobody should ever have to survive on the change that many take for granted. I don’t know what will ever happen to her but did know that she would not go hungry on that night. Maybe her life will change and she will remember this simple act and return it to another. You just never know how far one and seemly small thing will impact another’s’ life.

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Christmas Tree.

It’s Christmas time and gifts are soon to be exchanged across the world. What is this day for? Is it to prove to others how much we care by the amount of money spent on their gifts? Television tells me that if I love my wife I need to go down and buy a diamond.

Christmas is the celebration of a man named Jesus birthday. I’m not sure where gift exchanging started in history, but its probably related to the three gifts that were presented to this child. The “giving” of gifts, for us, we have tried not to commercialize. We weren’t always this way though. We use to stress over the added costs, during the hardest winter months of the year. We’ve never known financial security. Who really has? Maybe a small percent of Americans but not the majority. You live with what you have and keep your eye on the things important. We have never not had a meal when it was needed, or spent the night in the rain. Millions have though, and will tonight.

What is special to us, during this special time, is a Christmas tree. That’s really it. Nothing fancy and often “Charlie Brown” trees. The decorating of this tree is what makes it special. The handmade ornaments that our friends and family have made, the songs in the background. The smell of bread and cookies fill the house. Its not about what’s under the tree but the spirit that it’s put up with. The tree itself always manages to fall over once or twice each year as well. Last night it came crashing down with then the sound of two cats taking off into hiding.

This year we wanted to help bring this spirit to another family. We always go to the same family that sells then just a few blocks from our home. Jeff is always there, looking cold, but always with a bright smile and handshake. This year we took a Christmas card to him, with money in it, to cover the cost of a tree for a stranger he felt might need it. A simple act that can maybe mean the difference in someone’s life this holiday season. Maybe they will have their children helping them set it up. This child will remember the fun and will make it a point to do it with theirs 20 years later. Just because of that one special year in their memory of past Christmases. Who really knows. All of these projects could mean nothing and be a waste of time.

Really? Not a chance. Each act of giving to another does change lives. Christmas may be a little different to the family where this tree will call home for a week. There is just something about a Christmas tree. Strive to give, with no expectations in what comes back all year round. It will change your life. Your eyes and heart will open to things you never imagined.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Helping to save lives.

Home looked real good after a long and difficult week. Sandi had a choice. She could go home for the day or decide to stay at work and help give H1N1 shots out in another area of the hospital. Sandi is a cardiac surgery nurse and is on her feet all day long. On some nights her legs cramp up so bad that she has sit in a bathtub of hot water. Massaging them does little good and the hot water seems to be what works best. When she gets a chance to go home early she usually takes advantage of the opportunity.

Today was different. The H1N1 flu virus was declared a pandemic. The president even declared a national emergency to help in this medicine getting moved quickly. This flu was attacking the youngest and most vulnerable. Thousands of people die each year from the flu but this was a much stronger strain. The state we live in lead the nation in statistics when this flu first hit the country. Medicine was needed badly.

Because Sandi is a health care worker she was considered as “high-risk”. We also have 2 grandchildren who are considered to be in the same category. Fear increased as this virus spread at a unbelievably fast rate. What could a single person do about something that nature has known since its existence? Thousands of people were lined up, across our great land, with hopes in getting vaccinated. Most were told to return later because the vaccine was in very short supply. The coming winter didn’t look good for millions of lives.

When the medicine (some of it) arrived she knew that her help was needed. She would have loved to have just gone home and put her feet up. Staying she knew would bring the painful leg cramping on in the evening. It had been one long week.

She considered the choice for about 2 seconds. She wanted to help. She spent the day giving out one shot after another. She filled out documentations when she wasn’t giving the shots. It was a long and tedious day but an important one.

What do we do with the choices that come our way? Do we think only of ourselves and what’s in our own best interest? Or do we think about what the right thing is regardless if we are tired, sore, and only wanting to sit down and rest? We are probably faced with these decisions many times each week. What do we do?

I was really proud of Sandi today. She never does cease to amaze me. Her kind ways stood out to me the first day we met. Her compassion for people really comes from her heart. She knew that it was important to help in anyway she could. That night her legs did in fact cramp up. Most of the time, because it happens in the middle of the night, I’m not even aware that she is having problems. The pain is sometimes so bad that she cries. This is one tough woman and rarely sheds a tear from pain. This evening I heard the tears and quickly got out of the bed to be with her. Not much I could do except rest her head and still try to massage the cramps. The muscles had tighten up so bad that her calves felt like stone.

She could have made the choice to come home early. She didn’t though. She listened to her heart and knew that other lives would be worse off if this virus attacked their system. These were all high-risk people who were getting vaccinated. She entered the medical field (over 30 years ago) to help make a difference in peoples lives. Today she certainly did.

Friday, December 4, 2009

A Thankful day.

This past week had Thanksgiving Day in it. We have always looked at this day as being very special in our home. We take time out to really think about the people and the good in life. With every family member kind of spread out this year Sandi and I decided to help others with theirs.

There were a lot of places that were helping with free meals, We picked a place kind of back away from things. A little club that held events year round for this day.

The work was in washing dishes, cooking, serving people. Everyone pitched in and did what they could. Over 350 meals were served. It didn’t cost people a dime. How cool is that. What a positive experience.

Helping people for such a good cause was important. You never know when you will be on the receiving end of another’s compassion. Today nothing separated people. Not skin color, wages, hair style, everyone was as one. Children ran up and down the room and there was laughing in the air.

To help highlight this little club a short video was made and sent to large internet news outlets. The story was picked up by one and then many more learned of their cause. Maybe at a time when they were questioning doing it again next year. Who knows.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Seeing is believing.

While at a local gas station I noticed an elderly couple in a car next to ours. The lady had sunglasses on with bandages under them. The man was looking at a piece of paper while this lady started to panic. I didn’t know whether to keep minding by own business or ask if everything was okay. Both of them must have been in their 70s.

I went to the drivers side, where the man was, and asked if I could help him out with anything. I asked, who I assumed was his wife, if she was alright. She kept saying “We are lost”. The man did not appear to really understand things well either. When I spoke to him I had to lean close to his ears.

He explained to me that he was driving his wife to the eye doctor. The problem was that they were from out of town and lost. He showed me the piece of paper he was holding and I recognized the place. It was where our family went for eye care. Clear across town. I explained to him how to get there, using signal lights and right and left turns. He didn’t understand any of it. Another person came up and started to explain another direction.

I was in a hurry and was going to just take off. He has the directions so they’ll get there alright.

I know this not to be true though. I could arrive late for my appointment by driving ahead of them to the eye doctors office. I just didn’t want to. That’s when I knew that I should help. There seems to always be a point where the thought of doing something, to help someone, wants to be left to others to do. Our own struggles, in making it through each day, weren’t easy. The week before we came home to a living room soaked in water from our roof leaking. The week before our washing machine died with a loud crash.

We all have problems in life. We all get lost once in awhile. Young, old, it doesn’t matter. This lady, who had the bandages on, must really have felt lost. She could not even see. I knew it would calm them both to simply be shown the exact building. It was 20 minutes away, and 30 to get where I needed to be after.

When I suggested to the man to just follow my car he looked so grateful. His wife calmed right down and she blessed me. The feeling I felt, after taking them to the office, was like a blessing. I was able to put in better focus our own problems. Life kicks us all in the butt once in awhile. Yet there is always others that are dealing with far worse problems. A leaky roof, broken household items, isn’t what life is about. All can be repaired or replaced. This is a hard time for millions across the world. Not just in America. Some would think the wheels are coming off the wagon and there is even talk about the world soon ending in 2012. Personally I don’t think about the “what ifs” in life. All we have is the day we wake up to. After that there is no guarantees.

The Sequoia Project has become a very interesting part of our families life. It has changed our lives in many ways.

Monday, November 16, 2009


This week our family went to help out at an event to help feed our local hungry. It was called “Empty Bowls”. For $10 a person could purchase a bowl (made by school children) and have it filled with soup from some of the best chefs in the area.

We helped set up for the event and played a small role in what many had worked so hard to have happen. We helped get beverages ready, did paperwork for the bowls, and set up trash containers. On the side I recorded the event and it was later picked up by one of the world leaders in news, many learned of this program and hopefully seeing the story will inspire someone to do the same in their village.

We are all one in so many ways. We thirst, we hunger, we all need grace. Hundreds of people in town showed up to help others in their town. The Midwest has harsh and long winters. Many go hungry. Taking part in something bigger than ourselves is how many are reached. All the money made, from the selling of these bowls, went directly to the local food pantry in town. The shelves still need items but they look a little better than they did before.

This area of the world has stepped up to the plate during this time in our nations history. With so many things going wrong its refreshing to see the good. The power behind many voices (and actions) can be prayers answered by those needing hope. Prayers can be answered with a simple bowl of soup.

Friday, November 6, 2009


Once every two years a small group of people held what they called an “AppleFest”. We received an email asking if we were interested in helping with the event. At first I wasn’t to sure about it. Their event fell on a Saturday which we had already made plans for. I called Tim up and asked more about the event and learned that they were planning on making gallons upon gallons of apple cider.

Tim explained to me that his father, who had passed away, started the event many years ago. Tim told me that his father use to make cider with friends but the tradition kind of fell to the side when he died. Since that time he and his friends started it back up. This year they had over 4000 pounds of apples that were donated by local farmers.

After learning about this I became more interested as we talked. We could change our plans and drive down to help. The small town (of about 1500 people) was about 25 miles a way. No big deal. They planned on starting bright and early. I explained to Tim that because of a bad back I was limited in the things I could help with. I was a fairly good photographer and could possibly help them out with that. He thought that would be great. They had a website highlighting their event and would be too busy to stop and get some nice shots for it.

I was amazed when I pulled up next to Tim’s house. Huge burlap bags held thousands of apples! The process was fairly simple though not easy work. They had learned a good system of doing things and about 10 people were involved. One group would clean the apples, another would cart them in buckets to the press, and then the last group would process them. It was interesting. I helped set a huge stainless steel tank onto concrete blocks and grabbed my camera.

After a couple hours it was time for me to go. I had taken maybe 500 different photos. When I was driving away I questioned whether I had wasted my time. My back was aching and I knew that I had overdone it. Just as I was wondering this the road I was driving on lined itself up perfectly with the sun. It was like a sign of some sort. When I got home I downloaded the photo’s and video taken and put together a nice 60 second clip.

Little did I know that this short clip would later be seen by over 6000 people within 24 hours. I submitted the photos to a media outlet and wrote a nice story about the event. The whole process took about 6 hours. I had no idea when I went down to help that the event would make national news. It put their group and their little city on the map. I was glad to see something that had been started by Tim’s dad get the attention that it did. They worked hard and deserved the recognition.

When we can use our talents to help others, without getting paid, it does help. Today’s work made a lot of people happy. Complete strangers were thrilled to learn that someone had went out of their way to help with their event. A person can help another in very simple ways. No money was made and our own plans for that day had been put on hold. I was sore and questioned all of it on the way home. That sun had lined up with the road perfectly for a reason. We don’t always know if another can be helped when we try. I do believe that every positive action has a reaction. This was one that made a whole town proud!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Rest in peace.

I know a 76-year old lady who has recently been having health issues. I don’t know much about her and learned what I have from others.

She knows that her time is near, yet refuses to tell the people she loves that they mattered in her life. This stranger may have a lot of guilt in her heart. She lived life keeping people at a distance and never opening herself up to love. I know she had a son that she has only seen once in 30 years. She never went out of her way to even meet her own grandchildren of this son. She traveled all about but yet these lives remained strangers.

This is the stranger whose life I will be touching today. She is my mother. As written, I've only met her a few times. The reasons why would make a book in itself. The point is that she will soon be passing on. Her body is starting to shut down and yet her mind is still crisp. Strokes have made her a prisoner of her own body.

I knew that I couldn't let her pass without telling her I forgive her. There were times in my past where I needed her more than anything else on earth, and she was no where to be found. She knew where I was, but wanted nothing to do with the lives she left behind. She left all of her kids in a situation to fend for themselves.

I wrote her a letter and said that I was sadden by the news of her health, and that I forgave her for actions made decades ago. As children we don’t always understand what’s taking place when a family is splitting up. We want to blame one or the other and scream ‘what about me!’. The letter was hard to write but it was the right thing to do.

We need to forgive the people who have hurt us the most. Not for them but for us. It was important to me to have this stranger know that she can forgive herself as well.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Blue jeans and trust.

A local clothing store, here in our town, is helping to change the world one pair of jeans at a time! After learning about this project we drove down to the store and learned more. We talked with the store manager about how their store was taking part in collecting 100,000 pairs of blue jeans.

Why? What could they possibly do with all these jeans? This store (part of a national chain) teamed up with “Cotton Incorporated” to launch a drive to help rebuild communities adversely affected by hurricanes, tornadoes and other natural disasters. The goal is to collect 100,000 pairs of donated jeans and have them recycled into environmental-friendly insulation. This will provide enough insulation for over 180 homes in the Gulf Coast region! That’s a lot of homes! When my wife was preparing a pile of blue jeans to take with us I wasn’t to sure about it. I cared about the cause but don’t mess with a man’s boots or old beat up jeans. I also was a little bitter about what role big business played in the hardships our country has dealt with these last two years.

Putting people, or business’s into the same classification by appearance isn’t fair and yet here I was balking at contributing. We had one experience where we donated money to help a little league baseball team travel out of state for a tournament, only to later learn that the coach skipped town with the money.

I wanted to make sure that it was legit and not a ploy to get people into their store. When the manager took us in the back of the store we learned they were for real. Boxes were overflowing with donated jeans. With each donation they also gave 25% off on all purchases on new jeans.

Big business does have a ways to go in Americans trusting them again, but after seeing this it was a good start for our household. Whoever knows if the items or money donated will actually end up going where they say it will. On the other side of the coin many less fortunate lives depend on the compassion of others to make it through their 24 hours. After visiting and talking with this business we felt comfortable helping them to meet their goal of 100,000 pairs of jeans. It was refreshing to see a project that really was going to something so positive.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

New horizons for some.

This week I was able to do something that has always been on my “bucket list “. I wanted to someday help someone learn how to read. Why? As a writer I struggled in my youth with learning how to read. The highest grade ever completed was 7th grade. Life tossed to me some real fastballs and education became lost in the shuffle. When I accomplished my goals, as a writer, I wanted to give this gift back. Not as a teacher but maybe as a mentored. I didn’t know where I'd find the time but wanted to someday do this.

Before I knew it I was walking into a school and doing exactly what I had wished for. It wasn’t a “regular school” in any way. The young lives here didn’t fit in well with traditional classroom learning. I thought this was pretty cool. These are the people who need to learn the power of what reading can bring. A person can travel anywhere in the world all with one book. Not only to learn but for pleasure. As a kid I use to read Reader’s Digests and Life magazine like a little addict. To this day I spend hours a day reading.

When I first walked into the school I questioned what I had gotten myself into! It seems that each project has a point where I question this. I had spoken at the school a year earlier and was expecting kids about 14 to 18. What awaited me was 11 to 14 year olds! They are still rugrats in my eyes. Curtain climbers. When I thought about it I knew I was at the right place. These kids were at crossroads in their lives. This was the last stop before education can cease to exist for many.

I was able to squeeze in about 8 hours with the students. I watched as they had fun learning. The teachers tried to respond to what the students real needs were. It was a rowdy bunch at times! My elementary schooling had nuns who dished out a slap or a ruler if you got out of place. A student knew this so either learned or sat up straight pretending to. I think that was the way a lot of schools operated 40 years ago.

The experience was rewarding. I was able to work with two of the most disruptive kids. I spent about an hour listening and reading to one of them. He was “tough guy” who didn’t want to show that he was just a kid. I shared with them my story about why they had to make the right choices concerning education. Both were fascinated with gangs and looked up to the lifestyle. Kids that had no clue how these groups would chew them up and spit them out. No clue who would be taken by a bullet or locked away for a life time. These are the things I shared about that life.

I had to get back to my regular work so could only help out for awhile. Sandi went with me (wife) on one of the days. After she had tears in here eyes. They do bring out real lives and emotions. When asked why she was moved to tears she replied “ I felt so bad for them. Adults were the ones who let these kids down most and it felt good to show them that not all of them will”. I liked that and it was so true. I also had a new respect for the adults who chose to spend their lives teaching others. They love the challenge and were doing what they probably always wanted to be a teacher for. These are the students that need to be picked up the most. These are the lives that will be our neighbors and are already.

Did the time spent on this project matter? We think so. If one minute is spent making another strong, through knowledge, then that person might go on to later help 100 people, and then 200, and then maybe into the thousands. There really is no limit to how far learning how to read will go in another’s life.

Monday, October 12, 2009

What and why?

I had no idea what to expect. A pastor had called me and asked if I could visit a man who was in the hospital. He completely broke down and was threatening to shoot his entire family. I didn’t know what I would say to him. I had no magical wand or secret powers.

When we met he first looked at me with mistrust and bewilderment. His eyes looked tired and he was shaking. Who was I and what did I want? I simply introduced myself and sat down. We talked and in time he opened up to me about his feelings of failure. His job he had been laid off from and the bottle was giving him the relief something inside screamed for. It all came to a boiling point and the next thing he knew he woke up where he was. He said he was not serious about hurting his family, and that people over reacted. We talked about how this experience could be used as a powerful stepping stone forward. I knew a thing about bouncing back and that anything really is possible.

After he was released we kept in touch. I stressed the importance behind his children needing a father who was sober. He did well at first but soon called drunk. I told him that he first had to help himself before seeing the hand out to help him up.

I worked with him on moving forward with his life. Amends could be made but he had to forgive himself first. He had to get back up, dust his pants off, and try again. As humans we live our lives constantly falling down and failing. Its what we do with our failures that count. I shared some very personal information about my own life and bouncing back.

What happened next I will never forget. Instead of taking on these challenges he took his own life. I felt like I had failed and may be at fault for not having done more. Helping in these lives come at a price. I was hurt and angry with his choice.

My wife helped me understand that to stop this program would be failure. Was I basing my actions on success or on need?

I shared this post to show that all this program is not one that always has a happy ending. Did I fail? I know the answers today but not at that time. Who wants to walk into a county mental health hospital and connect with lives in the midst of hurt? I did not want to go, yet something inspired me to go forward. I thought of the lives that will choose the opposite paths ahead. Was it fair to them?

It took a bit for me to get back on the horse and move forward. I had to understand what happen and know that the dark side of life often needs the most light shown on it. I have used this situation as a reminder not to duck the phone or not return a call. I had ignored a call around the same time as his death, thinking he was just drunk and loaded.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Gimme Shelter.

Our family has had many different pets over the years. Dogs, cats, frogs, lizards, turtles, and even a snake once. CC (our 7-year old grandchild) has always had a compassionate heart to all of them. When we learned about a shelter in the area that was ran by just volunteers she couldn’t wait to get involved. This was an excellent opportunity for her to learn and care for many different animals. What made this shelter different than most is their policy to never have any of the animals put to sleep. The animals they tended to would live at the center until they were adopted. If it took a week or a year for them to find a home it didn’t matter.

When CC learned that many of the animals were there, because they had no home, it really bothered her. She couldn’t understand how that could be. When she asked if there were lots of other animals without a home we told her unfortunately yes. She knew I like to build things out of wood so asked if I could build homes for animals that couldn’t find the center. It made perfect sense to her.

So that’s what we did. About 3 weeks later (and $400 lighter) we had two large dog houses. She took part in just about every stage of building them. She helped sand, paint, and hammer on both. It was a project that she felt good about. When we were done she made a small sign and we put them in our front yard to sell (the money would then be donated to the shelter to help).

CC learned that it took a lot of work and dedication, from volunteers, in caring for the animals. It was a lot more work than she first expected. The mop used to clean the brushing rooms stood 3 feet taller than her. She didn’t mind. She learned how important it was to keep clean cages and fresh water for all of them. Her favorites were the cats. The dogs scared her but she didn’t shy away from doing what she could to help them either. We were proud to see such a caring side to her.

These two dog houses sat in our yard for a good month. When the economy went south nobody was buying any extra’s. It came at a time when many families were doing everything they could to keep their own homes. We decided to then donate them to the center for a fundraiser they were putting on. These actions helped out in two separate ways. One being shelter for two different family pets, and the other cash for the center to use at a time when there is not much around.

We wanted to show CC that her volunteer work at the center really was nice to do. When she outgrew her bicycle we decided to get her a new one. On the day we had planned to go down an work at the center we asked her if she first wanted to go get a new bike. It was on the way and we could quickly stop. Her response was that we could always get a bike but the animals needed to be tended to first. At a time when many children are written off as lazy and uncaring about the world they live in this made us smile. Children learn from what adults take the time to teach them. In turn they often teach us the things in life that really matter the most. A very rewarding experience.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

One beer with a sober choice.

The phone rang and I learned about a young man who was being held in the local county jail. The police discovered him laying on the ground, being held by the people who accused him of stealing a beer from their garage.

The caller asked me if I would show up at this fellows preliminary hearing. A hearing that presents to the court evidence in their decision making process of finding justice. I wasn’t in a real hurry to go. I decided to ignore the thought in my head that said “Live and learn kid”. I was busy at the time he was to have his hearing but knew I could change my plans. I decided to go. Sometimes the people and places that need us the most are the places we want to visit least. The purpose of this project is to help change lives and to show we all can help others no matter where we live. When I arrived at the courthouse, and went up the stairs, it represented a lot to me. This was a building where justice is used in sorting through many different life issues. The goal is for the truth to be told. What I hoped to witness was seeing this process in action. How is the “truth” brought to the forefront?

I watched as everyone stood as the judge entered the room (myself included). This was to show respect to the judge. The judge has earned the respect because of their dedication (and representation) of the law. We are a country of laws and when one is broken in a criminal matter an accused offender has the right to speak in their behalf. That’s what makes our justice system different than other nations across the world. Think back to history where there was no law or when it was practiced unfairly. People were sometimes tied to a stake and burned innocently. Actions that were born from first a whisper.

When Jeff stood up to honor the judge I looked and wondered what was going on inside his mind. He was 18-years old and some past choices have landed him where he is today. Dressed in a bright orange jumpsuit and wanting mercy. I listen as his accusers swore to tell the truth so help them God.

I listen to a story of what Jeff was being accused of doing. He went into a garage of another and removed one beer. The owners of the garage caught him and held him until the police arrived. I watched as his attorney attempted to bring up the physical injuries that Jeff had suffered as a result of this incident. Each time the court denied him. Something happened to this young man yet the door remained closed in the courts search for the truth.

I can’t pretend to understand why courts rule the way they do. If this man is to stand justice then why can’t all the facts of that dark evening be told? Did his life, his blood, not matter in any of it? I’m sure that it was because of the type of hearing that was being held. The courts will certainly listen to the fact that he had to be seen by EMS. This will certainly be part of the events of that night. Right?

I plan on working with Jeff once he is released. What do I tell him about what just happen? How do I explain to him to respect a system that is showing him little? The name of the beer was allowed into the court hearing twice. His injuries not once.

He had no family standing with him on this day. He had the people who may have beaten him and a court that didn’t want to hear that day all the facts.

As I drove away I thought about it. Life is not fair. We all have unfair events and take blows in life. What a person does at this time matters. Maybe I can help him understand how his old ways found himself laying on the ground bleeding. What happen may not have been “fair”.

Jeff has the odds stacked against him right now. Odds are only numbers and each have a side. Somebody must have succeeded to become a number representing one side. Will Jeff be one of them? He made some bad choices that day. He picked up a bottle of pain thinking it was a bottle of fun. All of it started with one sober choice to drink that first sip of vodka earlier in the day.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Beacon of Light.

Today is September 11th, 2009. A day when the earth cried 8 years ago. Throughout history there has been moments of time defined by evil. One of these moments came to American soil on this day. What happen we all know, the why’s and what happened this story is not about.

I remember that day well. I looked to a photo of someone I loved and said a prayer. He is my son Jordan. We hadn't spoken to each other for over 2 years. A bitter good-bye were the last words. I knew he was a soldier but remained stubborn in talking. Inside I missed him and thought about him everyday. A parent can relate with that. Life doesn't change the love.

I knew there would be war. I immediately thought about our last parting and how I wanted to tell him I loved him. I was proud of him for the things he had accomplished since leaving. No words can describe what this parent felt that day. Parents that did not even have children in the service became worried. Maybe their young children would someday be impacted by this day?

Jordan and I soon talked and put our differences aside. We didn’t know what the future would hold but I knew that he would never go again, even one day, questioning if he was loved. I always assumed he knew that but what had my actions shown?

As I watched the ceremony on TV (8 years later) I paused at the sound of the bells. I thought about the lives lost and how much grief would be felt as they tolled. I thought back to a picture I held close. The nation had called on a day of service to others. What did this mean? It meant that there was a movement of people trying to make the earth have a good day. What could we do? Do we give money to help a person or agency? What else would matter? Hum..............

I then remembered that I had received an email the day before from a local program that was helping homeless Vets (and others) get back on their feet. A local artist in town (known throughout the world) was donating artwork to this home. I thought that was pretty cool. My wife and I drove down to his Gallery and talked with him. We learned more about this humble man and his kind acts. To help give another a home is one of the most important gifts that can be given. These lives know what its like to look to the sky and fear black clouds. They know what it is like to go to sleep not knowing if they will wake up. Would they be set on fire or beaten for laughs? Imagine closing your eyes and having that last fear before you sleep.

We were really touched by this artists compassion. We made it our goal to highlight this to others. It took on a life of its own. Not by what we did (maybe at first) but by what others did. Within 3 days this programs mission was heard around the world. We watched on WORLD news as the story became a beacon of light to many. All started by a kind act.

The media gets dragged over the coals for always seeming to highlight negative news. Turn on the news and soon your depressed! Just anger coming out all over. There are some media outlets that could careless about what people think of all the bad news. The bottom line is the dollar and that is what talks at the end of the day.

I learned through this experience that its not always that way. The media organizations who highlighted this program were happy to help (which readers will learn more about later). Their own hearts played a role in this local program helping to give another a home. If people want more good news it’s up to them to help make it. Contact your local networks, or national networks, and pass good news around. You just never know what lives it may help in the end.

I can’t help but think of a life that may have been changed, and given a home (from the attention called to it). Maybe someone wrote the programs name down and handed to another, and then another. That name then becomes a bus ticket and then a bed. Think about it? Think about the life who is living in a bus station and seen this beacon of light on a TV bolted to a chair. Having nothing and then the feeling felt when just a tiny little bit of hope was felt. That’s powerful.

Anyone can do these projects. Good news is around you, you just need to have your eyes open to see it. The world has become just a little bit better from one kind seed planted. That seed took off and it blossomed on its own.

We will never forget the date September 11, 2001. To know that one of these projects may help a Vet, at this time of year, was an honor. May this September 11th be remembered by just one person finding a home. The timing couldn’t have played out on no better on a day that needed it most. Think about the day when the beating of the war drums began, and the life who may be coming home from the result of those drums. Some may have become aware that their lives matter on this exact day.

This post is a tribute to all the lives impacted by that one day of evil. Nobody knows what tomorrow will bring. Tell the person you care about that you love them. Take nothing for granted and help the life next to you with theirs. We are in all of this together. What you do matters. ....... Quick as you know we were out of the picture…………

This project took about 20 hours from start to finish. A small amount of time in helping to make a better tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Helped at a charity.

This week we picked a random faith based charity to donate time to. Our daughter-in-law Jennie worked at it and mentioned that they had some clothes that needed to be sorted, folded, and hung up. The staff at this charity see people come and go at a steady flow. All are in need of some sort of assistance.

This is a period of time when our nation is struggling to overcome many challenges. They say “Wall Street” got drunk. I say it was the greedy who got greedier, betting it all on numbers and crooked books. The result has pushed America to the brink of another great depression. What we do will define our actions to the next generation. How will they later judge us by our actions today? Do we help the ones who lost their jobs and homes? Do we help feed the hungry or give shelter to the homeless? A new winter is coming and there is real fear in the air for some. Will they be able to heat their home? Will they be able to find work after having been laid off? What happens if someone in their family becomes sick? These are serious times we live in. Millions of people are asking themselves these very real questions.

When I showed up to work Jennie showed me a room full of boxes and bags filled with donated clothing. I was first taken back a little. What had I got myself into? As I began sorting through the clothing I came across things I had no clue how to fold or hang. I thought a skirt was a pillow case.

This gave me an opportunity to really help make a difference. It didn’t seem like it at first, but as I watched people come and go I learned how important of a role these workers played in helping humanity. The clients they helped often had the look of despair in their faces. It showed in their eyes. They had come to the right place. Problems weren’t always fixed but they left feeling a little more hope (this also showed in their eyes). They greeted their clients with kindness and a smile, knowing that their own funding was the lowest it had ever been. They showed everyone respect and dignity. I could tell that everyone was overwhelmed with work. Jennie seen up to 20 to 30 people, herself, each day. I felt bad for them. To see so many lives hurting, day after day, phone call after phone call, would be tough. To have a room that needed hours of organizing took time away from lives that really needed help. Every action has a reaction. The time this project took helped more lives receive the attention they deserved and needed.

I learned a couple different things donating time to this charity. One was how much of a humanitarian Jennie was, and how many coat hangers a 2000 Saturn could hold. A large department store in the area stepped up to the plate and donated thousands of hangers to the project. The hangers filled the inside of the car completely! I never thought I’d be driving anywhere with a car literally full of hangers!

In every town there are charities and organizations trying to help make a better world. Their work is often gone unappreciated and unseen. It doesn’t always take a cash donation to make a difference. Sometimes it can be as simple as making a phone call and asking to help. Go to the places that need the help the most. You never know what the response will be.

These projects of helping others unexpectedly have also impacted my life personally. I had a lot of past resentment towards this faith based organization that ran this charity. I had very legit reasons but blamed an entire faith for the wrong actions of one person. I was able to show forgiveness (40 some years later) by helping them today. It did me as much good as I did for them.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Helped a elementary school library.

The Library.

Today we donated a painting to a local public elementary school. Schools are being forced to slash budgets, lay off teachers, and yet are expected to do more in educating our children. What could we do about it? What can one family possibly do to change any of it?

Sometimes things have to be just rode out. Situations change and the future is uncertain for all of us. We decided, as a family, to work on a project and then give it away to the library at this school. As soon as we walked into the library kids soon flocked towards it. The librarian had the perfect spot for it in mind. I helped draw the design , my wife Sandi and our 7-year old granddaughter CC then put their talents to work. The finished work took about 10 hours. It was done on the best watercolor paper we could find.

What child will later spend time looking at what these busy workers are doing? How many will sound out the word and learn what a library is? How many will later go on using a library as the stepping stone to higher education? How many will discover a world where a book will take them anywhere they want to go? It may play a role in showing children that the library is a safe and wonderful place.

Schools are hurting. Anything positive helps. Will anything done like this help ‘change’ or ‘inspire’ a life? Think about this for a bit……… if you can inspire someone to read you will have given a gift that knows no boundaries.

What’s been interesting is watching CC become involved in these random acts of kindness. These good acts have added happiness to her life and awareness in others. She knows that the time put into them is to enrich another life. As more stories are released readers will learn more about how this 7-year old has helped the world become a better place. As elders to our young we have an opportunity to teach them the things that really matter in life. Compassion, understanding, love, taking care of the weak. It all starts at home. If you’re a parent reading this take some time out of your day and do a project helping others with your children. They will take to it like a fish takes to water. What will they then teach their children?

Will this matter at the end of the day? It certainly can’t hurt. We believe that every small action of kindness does matter.

Update: We later received this nice response that made this experience worth it. This is what fuels this project.

"How wonderful! Everything happened so quickly this morning I didn't get much of a chance to thank you. What a great project and what a terrific way to show CC how to help people. Good luck on your future activities!"

Sonja A

This story also was the number one feature under "Family" at the top "Good News" network on the internet. Put "good news" in any search engine and see for yourself.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Made a sign for the Salvation Army.

This morning I took a handcrafted sign down to our local Salvation Army and presented it to the captain. The sign read ‘HOPE’. He had an idea where to put it as soon as he read it. The look on his face showed appreciation, with a touch of bewilderment. This organization see’s first hand the struggles of so many people. The reason for the sign is to help lives who are in need of believing in a better tomorrow. A simple word can say so much. Life dishes out hard hits and unjust situations for all of us, at one time or another. We hope for an answer, a change of circumstance, or even a miracle. Some are hanging on to hope with all the strength they have.

What would life be like living with no hope? What would the world be like? To best describe what it is, I decided to look at what it would be like without it. I have often heard ‘there is no hope’ for some people or circumstances. I do not believe it. I have seen both change.

In each town, big and small, there are lives feeling turmoil and fear. Some question how they will ever go on and are in need of human compassion. Maybe they lost a job, a home, or a loved one. Maybe they struggle with disease or economical hardships. What would these lives believe in if there was no hope? I hoped this sign will be viewed when it is needed the most. I was sure it would be. A very simple action that could be the words another needs at their darkest hour.

About 6 hours was spent making the sign. Each letter was cut out, sanded, stained, and made to spell out the word. You’d think that it would be hard to part with something worked so hard on. It wasn’t. A car was filled with people outside of this building. Everything they owned was tied to the top. I felt bad that I could not give more. I wanted to reach in my pocket and give them the money needed. My pockets were empty though. I’ll probably never forget the looks of despair on their faces.

Some of these projects are uncomfortable, which makes them that more in need. To help some a person has to go right where the need is most. I am not one who can walk away and pretend that I didn’t see someone hurting. Look a different direction or look past like I never seen a thing. I was asked by one of the people if I could help them out with some gas money. I told him that I was flat broke today and had brought only a sign saying the words ‘hope’. I felt stupid and it was clumsy. I was sure they were thinking that ‘hope’ would not fill their gas tank. The answer back I will also always remember “Thank you. Hope is what we need the most right now”. With that our lives went two different directions.

UPDATE: The response received from Captain Brian was what fuels this project.

Thank you so very much. I read your post on the blog and was very touched by it and the comments posted by others. My plan is to place "Hope" in our homeless shelter in such a way that it's the first thing the residents see as they walk in the doors, ushering them into a place of hope.

--Capt. Brian

This story has also been featured at a website which has brought over 5000 viewers since September 13,2009. Skipping a stone takes on a life of it's own. Comments posted are also from different areas of the world. Thank you.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Paid for a strangers groceries.

While getting a few items at the grocery store today I came across a lady named Grace (not real name). She was probably 60 to 70 years old. I noticed her because she was taking items back out of her bag. She did not have enough to cover the expense. The day had already treated her rough. It was raining cats and dogs (not really) and she was soaked. She must have walked to the store to have been so wet.

The items the clerk was putting into a basket, to be returned to the shelves, were vegetables and noodles. She had a look of confusion about what items to put back. She looked like she was going to cry. With how wet she was I doubted anyone would have even noticed. I did though. I asked the clerk to simply put the items on my purchases. Both looked at me like they didn’t understand. With his own confusion the clerk started to explain that certain items had to be rescanned and subtracted first. I told him to put all of her items on my bill. The total expense of Graces tab was $17.

As I walked out to the car Grace was standing under the entrance of the store, preparing herself for the walk home. She looked at me cautiously but then recognized me as the person who had just helped her. I asked if she was alright and if she needed a ride any where. She replied “no…I’ll be just fine and thank you. That was the kindest thing anyone has ever done for me.” With that we each walked back into our separate lives.

I wish I could say that the money just spent did not matter. We live paycheck to paycheck and things get pretty tight in between. I knew it was the right thing to do though.

Later that day we discovered $20 that we didn’t remember putting away in our jar. There always seems to be good karma that comes out of doing a kind act. You never see it at the time, but it comes back. Keep your eye out for Grace the next time your in a store. She lives in every town and city. You will sleep better tonight.

The Sequoia Project

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sent a letter of thanks.

It does matter.
Social workers often deal with defining moments in other lives. The pay is low, the thank you few. There was one that made a huge impact in my life, many years ago. I wanted to do something to show others in this field that the work they do matters. This was an open letter sent to 80 different state and county agencies. As I read the letter to my wife we had to take a few breaks for emotions to settle. Perhaps you know a person asking themeslves if what they are doing matters. This will assure them that it does.

Dear Social Workers,

The work you do matters. On the days when you are burnt out, and questioning if it does, take a few moments to read this letter.

I was 12-years old when I first met Dale. I was lost in a world of institutions and dormitories for the last few years. The reasons why I did not understand. At the time I thought I was broken and no good. I later learned it was because of my real home that was broken. My father was an abusive alcoholic and kept his entire family in a constant state of fear. My mother ran out on the family when I was 3. The county became involved when schools noticed behavior problems. A decision was made to put me into the institutions that could maybe help.

Dale explained to me that he was a social worker, and that he promised to help find a regular home and family for me. I liked that idea! I had no clue what a ‘social worker’ was but he seemed really kind. I also didn’t know what a regular home or family was like either. There was a side of me that wished him luck in finding this home. I was convince that nobody really cared.

Dale kept his word. It took a little while but I’ll never forget our driving away from the huge and cold institution I had been at. The place meant well but it was no place to grow up. I remember, to this day, how much faith and trust I had in Dale. I didn’t want to show him these things because I was use to disappointment and rejection. I played the tough kid role and acted like it didn’t matter. It did though. The ‘tough’ kid act was a defensive wall I had learned to put up, so I could pretend nothing could hurt me.

The foster home he introduced me to became the home he promised. I wish I could say that life suddenly became easier but it didn’t. I, again, had trouble in school and in this new home. What I did have though were people around me who really cared. I pushed the envelope all the way too. I was convinced that if I acted up bad enough Dale would give up on me and the family would send me away. It was my way of testing and seeing if these things would happen.

Let me tell you, I put this man through some challenges! I was one of his first cases when he became a social worker. I tested him on just about everything. He kept telling me that he cared and I would not be able to push him out of my life. I was one of his kids and he did not give up on any of them. The stories I could share about making his job rough would fill a book. I was a little troublemaker! Once, while sitting in his car, I opened up a small fire extinguisher to see what it would do. He thought he could trust me 2 minutes while he made a quick stop for something. Wrong. When he came back the entire inside of his car looked like it had snowed in it!

I was expecting a loud voice screaming at me, saying how stupid and dumb I was. I was prepared to keep my eyes on his arms and hands. I had been smacked around enough to know what to keep my eyes on, and was good at ducking. Dale was never mean but I knew he would not be thrilled about my little experiment with his car fire extinguisher. I was use to quick changes in personalities.

The look on his face, when he returned told me I had nothing to fear. He took a deep breath and shook his head side to side. I also looked like a snowman. I had tried to quickly clean things up but it only made things worse. What we did next was clean the car. He was not happy about what had happened but took the time to talk with me about mistakes being made and correcting them. When we were done he even thanked me for helping clean the mess up.

I had this illusion in my head that once I found my mom that she would be there to love me and make my problems disappear. She lived somewhere out west. I knew nothing of her, not even remembering what she looked like. When I was about 14 I ran away in search of her. I took a bus to one of the largest cities in the world, with about $20. Dale was the person I called when I became lost and scared. It the middle of the night and I refused to tell him where I was. After about an hour on the phone he convinced me to find a police officer and that they would help me return. He traveled to this huge city and we talked about this desire to find my mom. He explained that she did love me but she had a different life. He asked me to trust him and talk about what I was feeling as he drove us to our home state.

These stories are just one of many I could share about this social worker named Dale. He was the kindest man I had ever met in my life.

This was over 35 years ago. I just talked with him on the phone a few weeks back. He has retired and was preparing to move to a new town. His wife and he wanted to be closer to a daughter (who was soon to have twins). He called simply to share what his new address was and phone number. I know his wife and have watched his children have little ones of their own. Never in personal ways but always being kept up to date on their lives. I hope they will someday read this and know it is their father I am writing about.

The next time you are questioning whether your work matters believe that it does. He never judged me or was mean. His voice was the only compassionate sound I heard, during some of my darkest and confusing hours of my young life. We did not always get along and agree on things either. When I became an adult he helped guide me as a friend. I did not understand, at 18, why he could no longer have the same contact with me, but as the years passed we simply became friends. So the next time little Johnny has you pulling your hair out, questioning everything, read this simple letter. You do make a difference. Please forward this to every social worker you know.


A once lost child.

Hopefully this will reach thousands of people who do this work each day. This also was submitted to large media outlets to pass along.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Gave flowers to strangers.

Flowers for you.
Today a kind act touched 2 people’s lives at an elderly home. My wife made two really special floral bouquets and we jumped in the car and drove them down to the home.

The local paper often has this home listed in obituaries. When we explained that we simply wanted to give these bouquets away Rose (staff) looked at us with bewilderment. A random act of kindness we shared. We asked her to present them to two people she felt could use them most. Someone who had no visitors and it would make their day brighter. When she asked our name we laughed and said that it was not important, she looked at us again bewildered.

These flowers were grown from a tiny little area we have for a backyard. (40x30 feet).

This was an interesting experience and really made our hearts smile. (I ride motorcycles, have a few tattoo’s, and here I was carrying flowers! I didn’t mind one bit)

On the things my wife an I do together we like to get in and out quickly. On the way out we couldn’t open the doors! Rose chuckled and said she would do us a random act of kindness and with that she put in a code for the doors (safety issue)to let us out. Everyone laughed and we were gone quick as you know.

This would be such a nice project for gardening hobbyists to do. Just pick a spot your heart tells you to drop them off at. Think of how many lives this would brighten. These elders have helped pave the road the younger live on. Many were in wheelchairs watching the door. Some looked with hope in their eyes that maybe we were their visitors.

So many lives, like these, need to know that someone cares. These homes and hospitals are in every town.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Gave away free food and clothes at a park.

Sign of compassion.
Today we spent the morning going through our personal belongings. We were looking for items to give away, free, at a local park. Not just any items but things people really needed. We came up with blankets, soaps, food, and clothing. Not things we no longer wanted, but things we use everyday. Some of the items we needed, but split the amounts in half. A list of addresses and phone numbers of local helping agencies was included.

Inside the boxes a simple letter was placed. It read…..

“Please take these items and know that your life is important. Times are difficult but these days will pass. We share what we have believing that it will matter. Use the food to nurture your body, use the blankets to stay warm. Be safe and know that the human spirit can overcome anything. Do not hold your head down for having a need to stay warm. Someday please do the same when you can. How you do it, where and when, your heart will tell you.”

This kind act was not because the phone rang. It was simply because it was the right thing to do. This park, where we left the belongings, we have seen homeless people at.

I noticed that my wife had put into one of the boxes her favorite green coat. I asked if she was sure about it and she replied that it had a hood. Her answer told me why it is I love her. She liked the coat but knew the hood could shelter the rain.

Who knows where these gifts of compassion will go. How many uses can a blanket serve other than what it was designed to do. We never go back and see what happens. Its unimportant. The right things will find the right people and that is all that counts.

On the way my wife started to cry. When I asked why she said because some things felt so right.

The Sequoia Project

This story was published by the biggest Good News network on the internet. Visit their link for more inspiring stories.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Mentor with troubled teen.

Gus. (Story from experience in March)
Was I ever glad to get home. The day was spent walking dogs outside during a midwest storm. My clothes were soaked and a hot shower sounded good. Gus, the 12-year old boy I was mentoring with, looked just as cold when we had called it a day. He was a petty thief, chronic liar, and also was being raised in a very dysfunctional home. We were walking dogs at a nonprofit pet adoption center. The animals needed tending to, no matter what the weather was like outside. Gus was earning money to payback the victim for a phone he had stolen.

I don’t think Gus had listened the entire day. We talked about his stealing and about how gangs were calling him into their direction. I liked Gus and did not want him to experience what waited for him from foolish actions. Gus was not a ‘bad’ kid. He was 12-years old and life had taught him to be tough and put a front on that he was cool. He looked up to the gang life like it was a honorable calling. The whole day he kept trying to push the limit with things and even once let a large pit bull loose. The dog started a fight with a smaller dog I was walking. Gus wanted to see how I would responded being in the middle of these two sparing dogs. Would I show weakness and look afraid? He later said it was an accident but I knew it hadn’t been. I got a little frustrated by it but I didn’t show him any reaction at all. I separated the dogs an looked at the puncture wound on my hand. He asked if it had hurt and I simply said that it was part of working with animals. Gus was not going to see any reaction other than taking care of business. He did get the ‘look’ though.

The next day arrived with the same wet weather. I held off on picking Gus up until the roads were safe to travel on. When we arrived at the pet center we talked some about the day ahead. I told him that I wished I could trust him alone while tending to other animals. There was a small donation box at the main desk and I was concerned about him snatching money out of it. He promised he wouldn’t because he was too “big” time for that. He said it made him uncomfortable to always have people not believe him or trust him. This was the opening I was hoping for. A small crack into what Gus was really feeling and thinking. We spent the next 2 hours walking dogs, in the rain, and dealing with real things. His home life was spent bouncing around from one city to another with his mother and siblings. Gus’s mother was out on parole and dealing with a lot of her own personal issues. She loved all her kids but life just never seem to get any better for her. As an ex-convict jobs were limited yet her desire to change her own life around was strong. Gus shared that she had been laid off from her last job and was looking around for work again. I told Gus that his mother seemed like a good person and that something would come up. I made a conscious effort to try an contact a business deli owner I knew, and inquire if he had any openings. The rest of the day went smoother and Gus felt the pride of a job well done. He even had fun doing it. He trusted me, the environment he was in, and he was a pleasure to be around. I don’t know if anything we talked about stuck but I did know that he did not spend the day smoking cigarettes and stealing cell phones. Most of the time real change does not come overnight. It happens slowly and hours at a time. The hours become days and the days become weeks.

Gus looked forward to quitting time each day. We would finish up whatever we were doing and then stop somewhere to eat before taking him home. The guy could eat! We were struggling in our own home, trying to save every dime, but I had no idea what this child had to eat at home. I wanted him to at least have a good meal inside him before he slept that night. This was not a kind act but simply something that helped me sleep better at night as well. When I got home I called the deli owner and the next thing I knew Gus’s mother called saying that she had been hired. I took no credit and shared it was simply someone I knew.

I don't know if the time spent with Gus did any good. I know he will think back to these days and remember them. I did not'have' to do what I was doing but I'm sure glad that I did. The ripple effect could go far on this one.

Lose the Wheels.

Lose the Wheels.
Today was an interesting day. The phone had rang last night and told me where to go.

The program was teaching disabled children how to ride bicycles. A local public school was holding the camp on their facilities.

On the drive there I thought about how courageous these kids are. This was the first day of writing about my experiences and it had good symbolism in starting things out. After about 20 minutes of meeting people and learning about the program kids started to show up.

This morning I witnessed examples of how life is basically for all of us. We start out believing we can do something, but often fall along the way. Kids first started out in the gym riding bikes specially equipped with back rollers. They learned that they could actually feel the wind without fear of landing hard on the ground. They trusted and were helped along by others who cared about their lives.

Many were scared at first, needing encouragement and support. To watch them later laughing and feeling proud of themselves was a transformation. Staff and volunteers would shorten the back pin as the kids grew more skilled. With each stage came a new challenge. The goal could be seen but yet not felt. They were there to learn how to ride a bike with no training wheels.

We all can probably remember the training wheels coming off our bikes. The incredible feelings of independence and freedom. These children wanted this. The people around them did the same.

The goal was to help these kids slowly move from the gym to the outdoor runners track. Another scary crossroad. This is where I seen the faces of achievement and success. Bikes no longer had back rolling pins but regular tires. A brace in the back of the bike made it possible for spotters to hold on. I watched as some kids struggled and were telling others they did not want any help. They knew what they were doing and could do it themselves. Overcoming challenges were nothing to them. They struggled simply to be excepted and treated as the human beings they were. I watched as this spirit soon propelled the wheels on their bikes faster.

Being part of this experience taught me about a little girl named Trish (not real name). I knew her only by a pink helmet and a smile. She went from never knowing what it was like to ride a bike (without training wheels on) to looking like Lance Armstrong!

Having surgery on a wrist soon so was limited in how I could help. Simply did what I could. Spent about 5 hours on a project highlighting them to different major media outlets. There is always a way to help.