“Readers are Leaders”
How do you deal with tragedy during a season that is supposed to be joyous? I thought of this recently as I watched the father of the three Claybrooks’ brothers talk about losing his three son in a car accident. He was a single father trying to raise his three boys to be strong men. He got them involved with great programs like Youth Alive, led by passionate mentors like Kenny Boyd. His loss, is our community’s loss.
One of the ways to help people deal with their loss is to help them when they are down. Myself and about twenty other OnyxLouisville readers did just this on Saturday at the Salvation Army Distribution Center. I was worried when I arrived at 8:30am. Orientation had just started and none of my volunteers were present. I remembered “CP time” and realized I probably should have told people 8:00am instead of 8:30. But then I saw a face. Ben Ruiz walked through the doors with a smile and I knew it would be a great day.
The warehouse was lined with rows upon rows blue plastic bags. Each bag represented a child that would have a wonderful holiday present of both clothes and toys. Most of us served as Runners. We were given a piece of paper with a family’s name. Our task was to rapidly go through the warehouse (sometimes with a shopping cart if there were multiple kids) to find the bags with each child’s name. Others of us worked at the front table. As the runners brought that families items, the front people called out the parent’s name and presented them the Christmas gifts.
It was amazing to see the look on some of their faces. Although they’d waited out in the cold (some for a long time), there were all very gracious. The thing I noticed that made a major difference was looking in their eyes to tell them “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays”. It’s almost as if they realized that I didn’t think they were just a number, and actually saw them as a person that deserved respect.
And let me tell you, OnyxLouisville readers represented. Whether it was married couples, families or groups of friends – our presence was recognized. Two mothers brought their sons. The sons ended up knowing each other. At first they seemed upset to be dragged out there. Once I suggested they pair up, they put a pep in their step and enjoyed the task. I thought it was equally great to see the male OnyxLouisville readers out there as well. Not only did it show the families that Black men can make a positive difference, it also showed those two boys that it is ‘cool’ to volunteer. By the end of the afternoon, people were asking what exactly OnyxLouisville stood for. Several volunteers asked me if they could all have a shirt. While some other volunteer groups quit a little early, the faces of the OnyxLouisville readers were the last ones on the scene.
I wish you all a Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas and/or Happy Kwanzaa. For those that don’t celebrate any of these holidays, I hope you will still realize that it is a time of giving. It’s not always about financial donations – often the gift of time can be just as meaningful!
I left on Saturday barely unable to move. My knees hurt from 8 hours of moving on concrete. My fingertips were black from the floor surface. My back needed a good pillow. But, my heart was full of joy! I received the best Christmas gift I’ll receive this season – seeing my vision of OnyxLouisville come together for the good of the community!
M.Y. December 2008