The United States was facing it’s greatest economical challenge since the Great Depression. Banks closing, fortunes lost, and corporate crooks convicted. The belief in the American “dream” became more about survival for millions. Worrying about having enough food to feed their families and keeping a roof over their head were real concerns for millions. Factories shut-down, pink-slips emailed out, and to top that off two wars. This was the year of 2009-2010.
As a person, who enjoyed journaling and photography, I was fascinated watching and witnessing these things taking place. Was the world ending and were humanities wheels on a high-speed wobble? Having hit a writers block, on a million different other projects, I needed to feel the passion of writing again. Why not record, in different ways, what was taking place in our own backyard. What would we find? To make it more interesting our family decided to add a social experiment to the project. We would pick, each week, one random stranger(s) or nonprofit organization to help in some way. We decided to call it The Sequoia Project. The smallest seed on earth that grows to be one of the mightiest trees.
We wanted to remain nameless during this time, something that proved to be difficult. How did the people in the city we live in, Wausau, Wisconsin, respond during the toughest times? A population of over 100,000 lived and worked in the county. Industry, manufacturing, paper-mills, dot the landscape. It seemed like the morning local news had one story after another about job lay-offs. My wife, Bobbi, who’s worked in the healthcare field over 30-year, watched her retirement goals fade into only a hope. Before the economy went south we were looking pretty good. We have three children and four grandchildren. In 2006 we closed the doors on a small family business, learning that the “recession” was a factor long before the government announced it to be. We could have kept at the grind-stone, with 16-hour work days, 7-days a week. Had a calling to accomplish other goals. The business was a tattoo studio. Just a simple little business that we weren’t that disappointed in letting go.
Stories written are from 2009 through the middle of 2010. There are many more. The things learned during the last 18-months, about the community we live in, are interesting. I was going to write what I seen, felt, and experienced. I wanted to see how this community in general would respond. Would food pantry doors overflow? Would the less fortunate be “labeled” in some fashion? Like the lives impacted, who were hit hard, during the Great Depression. Would the poor be labeled again as hobo’s and bums?
In order to write about what was taking place I had to go into the area’s of the city where signs-of-the-times were taking place. I had to visit the homeless shelters, food banks, and charity centers. I had to see and feel the stories. We also wanted to try and inspire others to do what they could do when it came to helping others.
What I witnessed during the time on the project has been interesting. Many of the stories went linked out to different online websites. Mostly HelpingOthers.Com, The Good News Network, and CNN news. Some stories simply sat on this blog. When I first started to journal this project, this way, I had no clue what a “blog” was. I just knew it was a form of communicating. I was curious to see how a major news outlet ranked at sharing not only the negative news but also the positive. It was difficult to keep this project under wraps, in the middle of it, when CNN asked to do a feature of their own on my life. I knew my story could help inspire others but we didn’t want it to draw attention to the things we were doing in our community. It was a little tricky, but everything went fine. Today our family does one project a week, hoping to inspire others to help make for a better world.