Sunday, December 1, 2013

A Peek At My Birthday Project

On Saturday, I turned ...
While I am not thrilled to broadcast my age on the Internet,  I realize that this birthday is an important life milestone.  I remember my own parents turning 40 and everyone making such a big deal out of it.  At the time, I didn't get it.  Now, however, I truly understand the significance of this day.

Many see 40 as life's halfway point.  The time to pause and reflect, think about what you have done right and wrong thus far,  set new goals, and decide how you want to spend the next 40 years.

I have done just that.

The fact is, I have been blessed with a wonderful family and a generous network of supportive people around me.  I have my health, a job that I adore, and a nice balance of the predictability and adventure that I crave to be happy. 

I am a fortunate person and I am incredibly grateful.

Months ago, I learned about the Birthday Project and immediately knew that was how I would celebrate reaching the 40 milestone.  Essentially, you spend your birthday doing random acts of kindness.  Their motto- "Changing the world, one birthday at a time".  To me, it made sense.  A day to stop and selflessly give BACK to the Universe for all of life's blessings.

Then this happened...

Minor foot surgery ending my grandiose birthday planning.  Extremely frustrating though I was quickly reminded that things happen for a reason.

6 days before my birthday, I spotted this post on the Facebook page of a friend...

 ... and learned of a church in Soulard doing remarkable hands-on things for locals in critical need.  I knew that I wanted to help.

Members of The Rock in Soulard have taken serious interest in helping the homeless community of St. Louis.  They are hands-on, in the trenches, aiding people directly.  Honestly, it is awe-inspiring.  Among numerous other events throughout the week... every Saturday AM, members of the congregation take a fully-stocked truck of clothing items donated and collected throughout the week to Soldiers Memorial near Union Station- an area notoriously known for a high population of homeless folks.

The truck carries men, women, and children's items.  Every Saturday, the truck is visited by no less than 80-100 people and families in serious need.  One-by-one, people approach the truck and ask for the item that they need most that week: a coat, hoodie, jeans, shoes, gloves, hat, whatever...  the congregation members work diligently with each individual and the items in the truck to meet their needs.

As toiletry items are few and far between and desperately desired /needed, I knew that would be the perfect Birthday Project.  With the help of my family, I made well over 100 "comfort bags" to hand out on Saturday AM...

Each bag held a pair of warm socks, matches, a comb, q-tips, a roll of toilet paper, a toothbrush, toothpaste, a bar of soap, band aids, antiseptic wipes, flossers, and a snack bag with a granola bar, peanuts, beef jerky, and peppermints.

Women received gender-specific personal items...

As did men...
We packed the items in our SUV and headed downtown early on Saturday AM.  Alongside The Rock's donation truck, my family  popped open our trunk and handed out the items to anyone who needed them...

It was a wonderful feeling to put a smile on so many faces.  The men, women, and children we encountered were incredibly friendly, outgoing, and appreciative.   There is a serious need on the cold streets of our city and it was powerful to play a small part in a solution.

A sincere thank you to the members of The Rock for allowing my family to participate in your inspiring Saturday ritual.  We were honored to meet you and serve the community alongside you!  Our family will definitely be back, I can assure you. 

Readers- if you have a birthday coming up, I urge you to consider doing a Birthday Project. Sometimes the best gift that you can give yourself, is to give to others.

Amazing to think about.  From personal experience, undertaking such a project truly puts life into perspective.

Most important, if you live in St. Louis and are looking for an organization to give to, PLEASE CONSIDER DONATING TO THE ROCK.  Your donation items do NOT go into a warehouse or store.  Rather, they go directly on to the backs of those who need it most.   I have seen it with my own two eyes. 

Items they need desperately?  STURDY BACKPACKS (as people carry everything they own on their backs).  Warm items- coats, hats, mittens, gloves, boots, scarfs, and socks.  Average pants sizes (34/36).  Average shoe sizes.  Underwear.  Layering items like long underwear.  Hoodies and sweatshirts in large sizes as people layer up.

For more information about The Rock, please contact them on their Facebook Page HERE.  You may also contact me directly with specific questions.

Now on to the next 40! =)