It’s official. Any grown man who kindly chuckles when you refer to the industrial strength push brooms inside a Home Depot as, “elephant toothbrushes,” should probably be nominated for sainthood. Or at least get some kind of Newbery Medal or something. (Oh calm down, I know what the Newbery Medal is… and seriously, I believe that push-broom humor is way better than Across Five Aprils – just sayin’).
What the HECK am I rambling on about? The final hours of prep are behind me and I’m all but ready to hit the road and head down to NYC and pitch in where I can to help with any Sandy Relief efforts. I’m a little bit loopy (last night’s all-nighter is catching up with me, yes) and a lot excited. The past week has been a really amazing time for me… and for humankind. In just a few short days my idea to help a little with the Sandy Relief efforts going on downstate have evolved into a full out movement, with support coming in from so many directions. Strangers and loved ones alike have been digging deep to give all that they can, trusting me to make wise choices and do as much good as possible, the most humanitarian bang for their buck. And here we are… it’s just about go time, and I’m simply dazzled by the goodness of people and the love all over this.
I mean, I know it’s not all rainbows and puppies, of course. I have kept in mind why on earth I’m doing all this in the first place. Hurricane Sandy was a whopper. And while she was slamming the coast, and in her aftermath, there’s been the entire gamut of human emotion left in her wake. We’ve heard some stories in the news, on social media, and through the grapevine about people being pretty nasty to one another (and well, it’s election day tomorrow – so we’ve been hearing about the worst of humanity in smear campaigns for months now)… but right now I want to pay attention to the shinier side of that coin.
Tonight friends, this is a story about hope.
(And even if it’s kinda wordy and long, I think it’s really a good read.)
This is a story about the kindness and heart of people who want to help, and who mean well, and who are willing to do good.
I really had NO idea what I was getting myself into when I volunteered to start pooling together donations. Truth be told, I thought I’d be shipping some boxes downstate and that would be that. But now as I know I have a car chock full of love, a new friend for the journey, plenty more to meet before it’s all said and done, and a race against time and mother nature to do as much good as we can – I’m just honored to be a part of this.
Skip is the man I was talking about up top. He’s a saint. He just so happened to be working his usual post in our local Fredonia Home Depot tonight when I came in with a long list of ideas and very little clue about the specifics of what I needed. When I was on the phone asking silly questions about the kinds of masks and what type of broom, Skip decided I needed some help. He grabbed a cart, did all the heavy lifting, and walked back and forth across that Home Depot with me so many times. And when I made my ridiculous jokes, he had the wonderful decency to laugh. He downright chuckled a couple times, like when I suggested splurging on the hot pink duct tape and letting the homeowners deal with it. Heh.
After Skip helped me to find the best deals, and explained to me the subtle differences between hand cleaners and crow bars, and plastic vs wood handles on tools – I had to sprint out to the parking lot.
Because, simultaneously, as I was getting goods at Home Depot to help in the hard labor (all covered through donations, mind you) – out in the parking lot I was meeting up with an Angel. Kathy, from a local Catholic church in town, went so far out of her way to help me. I called around to churched today to see if any places had stores of clothing or blankets, and while mane did not – a lady who happened to be working at one such place offered to do me one better. ”I can clean out my house when I get out of work tonight.” She brought EIGHT GARBAGE BAGS… yes, EIGHT full bags of winter clothing, boots, and more. Kids sizes of all kinds, and stuff for teenagers and adults too.
Yup. Kathy and her family are going down for Sainthood as well.
And this, she explained to me, was her just getting started! She said she could do more with some extra time… (speaking of which, hold that thought, we have some ideas in the works for long-term projects to keep taking care of those hardest hit long after the media circus dies down and their lives are still left in pieces).
Skip and Kathy are just two of the amazing people who are making this journey possible. The kind and generous owners, Edward W. Pagano, Jr. and his wife, of our Fredonia Sears hometown store – they’re sending me to Staten Island with 50 pairs of work gloves, and at least 30 dust masks, water bottles, and more. Sears as a company already donated to Sandy, this is from two small-business owners in the community, just wanting to do their part to help. The folks at Smith’s True Value in Irving donated a lot as well, gloves and masks too, plastic sheeting, and other supplies.
My friends have been putting money into my paypal account, offering to help in any way they can.
IT TAKES A VILLAGE, Y’ALL.
And just being at the epicenter of so much love, hope, teamwork, and true humanity is honestly one of the most inspiring things I’ve ever experienced.
I’m meeting a brand new friend tomorrow morning at about 6:00am. Her name is Kate, and she’s going on this adventure with me! About forty miles from here she’s been experiencing the good of her own “village,” getting donations and all kinds of items ready to go as well. She’s keeping me company on the ride down and then we’re rolling up our sleeves and getting to work.
Others have called to talk about rides if I go again, or more items I can bring back next time. I’ve been asked where to send things to, and people have just been WANTING to help. It’s all so… AMAZING.
Don’t get me wrong. Hurricane Sandy and the destruction she’s brought to this state, the coastline, and our nation is just jaw-droppingly devastating. We didn’t stumble upon a gold mine of warm fuzzy feelings unprovoked; I’m sure that tomorrow as I set eyes on the aftermath for myself, it’s going to take all this positive energy that’s been percolating to keep me going. I’m sure there will be tough times to come, and for so many of our fellow brothers and sisters living in the thick of it all right now – they are in some of their darkest days.
All together though, we’ll help brighten things up.
With the thoughtfulness of the Skip, and the encouragement of Eddie (another Home Depot worker who was really kind and helpful, wishing us the best), with the love and nurturing of Kathy, and the warmth from Mary (a local church lady who’s donated some gorgeous handmade blankets for me to bring down)… the resourcefulness of Edward Pagano, Jr., his wife, and the folks at Smith’s True Value for finding so many items they could afford to spare, with the planning of my pal MJ who’s organizing street teams in Staten Island to get the work done… with all these efforts combined, and added to the countless other acts of love, giving, help, thoughtfulness, support, and hard work we are able to create our own force of nature.
We’re leaving very early in the morning, so I’ll just end things on a fabulous and inspiring note for now.
To everyone who has pitched in: THANK YOU, it means so much to me, and I KNOW it will mean so much to the countless lives we’re going to help as best as we can once we’re down there. If you’ve been hard hit by the storm and you’re at your wit’s end… know that we love you, we’re thinking of you, and there are so many people – people you’ll never know and will never meet – that are doing all they can for you, and will keep at it until your needs are met and life as it should be, is restored.
Still interested? We haven’t even left yet – gas and other costs are certain to come up. Just simply wire me some funds via paypal using firstname.lastname@example.org. Any donations are appreciated, and I’ll make sure to post about how the money is spent and how much we’re able to do once we get into the hardest-hit areas.
Good night, God Bless, and tune back in to find out more about how this project all plays out! I’ll post better pictures of what we’re brining when it’s light out tmrw, and of course you can always track me down on Fb or Twitter!