What is the Sequoia project?
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
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
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
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
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!"
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.