Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Make a Difference in Just 15 Minutes

I was reading my horoscope the other day (OK, admit it….you do it too!).  I love the ones that just get me so specifically and perfectly:  “you are brilliant and will have a very special moment with a handsome stranger today”.   Or the ones that are just so exactly right for me “today you will lose 19 lbs just by eating chocolate”…

But this one really stopped me in my tracks:

“The expression is true: The days are long, but the years are short. What can you do for 15 minutes a day that, by this time next year, will have added up to something remarkable?”

I immediately went to my Blackberry (yes I do have the last working Blackberry in existence!)….today….let’s see….facilitating a Strategic Plan Task Group meeting at the Foodbank, a fundraising 101 class to teach at the Special Olympics, a meeting at the grocery store and a date with a great new novel.  Where oh where can I find that 15 minutes….and whatever can I do with that 15 minutes today that could one day be considered remarkable?

So, in order to avoid the whole big confusing mess, I decided to go for a walk.  Taking my usual route through the mini-park four blocks from my house, my head hunched into my shoulders to stop the icy cold wind and drizzle from running down my back, I passed by the four usual homeless folks huddled on their benches….cold, wet, miserable….and I just turned myself around, walked on home, heated up a huge pot of soup, put it into four containers, toasted up some crunchy bread, added some power bars, chips, chocolate for good measure, added four pairs of dry socks and went right back to the mini-park and delivered the warmth.  And I looked at my watch….15 minutes had passed….15 minutes to make someone’s horrible terrible miserable day just a little bit better. 

For me it was just one little 15 minute excursion, but a lovely man in my town took all of his 15 minutes when he learned of the crises with the shelter overflow during the winter and created a program called NEST – Norfolk Ecumenical Shelter Team – a program where many of the synagogues and churches (and even the JCC) in our town each take one or two weeks during the coldest months of the year to open their multi-purpose rooms and kitchens for as many homeless individuals as they can.  He raised the money for mattresses (I use the term ever so loosely…they are actually more like Yoga mats!) to go from multi purpose room to multi purpose room, and the volunteers at the synagogue and/or church and/or JCC do the rest. 

My friends from my mini-park tell me that everyone loves our synagogue the best because we, surprise, surprise, cook huge dinners stuffing them with hot soups and chicken and yummy desserts and then send them off with five cheese sandwiches the next day all bagged nicely with all kinds of other yummy and useful stuff.   And although the NEST program is replicated in all of our surrounding cities (unfortunately one of the cities begins with a P…not a great acronym!) there are never enough spots.  The street folks come in through a lottery system, causing many to remain on the streets on these miserable nights.

Which begs the question each and every cold winter night: How come we were all so lucky to win the lottery of life? Why do we get to have lives that give us the world…safety, security, family, friends, sleeping in a warm home each night?  And can we use that simple 15 minutes each day to help someone who has never been, and probably will never be, a winner in the lottery of life?  Can a delivery of a bowl of soup and some dry socks first thing in the morning to some guys who live in the park add up to something remarkable??

Yes, it surely can.   And so I ask: what can you do for 15 minutes today?

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