It Happened Again.

Rarely do I ever write about something that is current in this blog. Usually I'm drawing from old memories, face-cringing injuries, or from the endless pool of awkward life events I have stored up inside this quarter-century body. Today something happened that made me smile so broadly inside that I thought my chest could wrap its flimsy little rib bones around the whole Earth. So I wanted to share it:

Just a side note: I don't like saying the word 'jobs' 'volunteer opportunities' 'internships' or 'the regular ol' 9 to 5.' Instead I'm more apt to use words like 'side gigs,' 'projects,' 'a chance at world conquest' or 'opportunities for mind blows.'

One of my gigs is at a tiny, and I mean so tiny it's currently run by one 22 year old woman, and a grad student - homeless prevention organization. Some of you know that homelessness has long been an intellectual curiosity of mine, and it has since moved far beyond the realm of the classroom to real-life action. At this tiny organization is where I get to experiment with those curiosities. And yes, it is just as dangerously thrilling as it sounds. We work with individuals and families who are either already homeless or on the verge of homelessness, and these days it is the latter that has seen a piercing spike in numbers. Due to the economy and difficult job market, thousands of people are struggling to find a job to pay for the mortgage, make rent, put food on the table etc. The swing of living pay check to pay check offers little to no stability for families caught in this momentum.

All it takes is a sudden sickness or accident and as many of us know - life gets turned upside down. Soon we are not only scrambling to afford the everyday living expenses but also medical bills, transportation to doctor's visits, child care, gas, medication etc. Unfortunately for many those everyday bills are oblivious to our other life circumstances. When rent is due it's due, very few landlords have the compassion or logistical ability to consider a very sick child, or the fact that the head of household has just lost her job. Soon these are the folks who find themselves staring down an eviction notice and homelessness. All of this happens within days, sometimes within hours.
At this tiny organization that began in 2009 we have since prevented homelessness for 300 families, and been able to raise $300,000. How is it done? What makes it possible? Sorry -- that'll have to be for another post. But of the sometimes 5-8 different projects that I've got going on, this remains my proudest mind blow opportunity. I love what I do there. And to be able to say those six words is something I know I am incredibly fortunate to utter.

This tiny organization is mighty. It matters to the community and city we live in. Because people and families believe that they can make a difference, and what a difference it has made! I am lucky to even be a part of it, to be a part of the journey's the families are all braving as they move forward towards their goals. Most of the time those goals are as simple as "we want our daughters to live in a safe neighborhood, to do well in school, to not live in the shelter system, and to be proud of their parents." Think about it, how different are we from each other? Isn't that what every parent wants at the end of the day?

You would think that would be enough to make any person's day bright. And it does make every minute of my day worthwhile, challenging, exhausting, stressful, and driven. It keeps me moving forward. Over the past year that I have been involved with this organization I have become close with the 22 year old woman who makes the entire ensemble happen. K is wise beyond her years, charismatic, warm, sensitive, resourceful, creative.. I could go on.
Sometimes I worry whether or not I am seen as 'capable' in the professional world. Does she really think I'm able to do this? Is she just going along with my crazy ideas because she wants to give me a chance to learn? Does she see me for what I am able to bring to the table everyday? These are questions that spew from my brain because there are often moments when I am uncertain about my own self-confidence; this is particularly true in the work place/professional world where I am only just beginning to find my footing and build a reputation for myself. Am I doing the right thing? What are the assumptions people are making about my abilities? How do I present myself as an independent-thinking professional who uses a wheelchair? ...The questions are endless.

Today we were on our way to lunch. Recently K had injured her ankle in a trampoline dodgeball game (exactly what it sounds like), and was hobbling around the office on crutches. I told her that we should just get lunch delivered but she insisted that we "just go around the corner, there's a restaurant I want to try out." So I shrugged and trusted her judgment of how much hobbling on crutches she really wanted to do and off we went. We got to the restaurant and K went to go look at the menu posted on the window, from the window I could see that there were stairs leading into the restaurant.
In my mind I assumed that K had planned this in advance. (I mean the woman runs a homeless prevention organization for cryin' out loud!) I assumed that there was a wheelchair accessible entrance somewhere around the back, or that there was an elevator in the lobby that I just hadn't seen yet.

"Okay let's go in!" She hobbled ahead and we stood at the entrance staring up at the flight of stairs. That was when I realized that it was happening again, and my heart began to creep into a slow smile.
"Umm is there a wheelchair entrance somewhere?" I asked.
K turned to look at me, eyes wide in total shock and perhaps slight embarrassment --
"Oh Yeah... I hadn't even thought of that!"

All those thousands of questions about my self-confidence in the professional world evaporated the second she admitted her oversight. When will I learn that people see me for what I offer and not for the wheelchair? Or maybe I should learn how to be selective in who I include in my life, or learn how to collect those individuals to my real-time on-going life stream of adventures. Something tells me that I probably can't learn how to do this in a book. I'll just continue doing what I've always done: give it my all in everything I involve myself in and let the rest settle itself. 

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