Building Others…

These kids built bears for children in a hospital. The story seems simple enough, but I learned a great deal from them and the service they provided to society that day.

A couple of weeks ago I was at the mall in Charleston when I ran into a group who were working together at the Build-A-Bear store. The group was mostly middle school age children and there were several adults with them. They were making stuffed animals and dressing them. I originally assumed the group was having a birthday party or something. I went into the store and began talking to one of the guys working with the group and he told me he belonged to a church group. He said the group he was with was a Sunday School class that had recently learned a lesson about giving without receiving a reward. He said the group had put together a plan to do that with the help of the Build-A-Bear store. The plan was for the group to make stuffed animals to send to kids at the Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati. That in itself was touching enough, but the man went on to explain that he has a young family member who regularly makes visits to the hospital because he was badly burned in a house fire when he was younger. These kids were wanting to help people like this. What a wonderful plan.

I immediately fell in love with the group and called the local newspaper in Charleston to ask them to provide a reporter for the story. The story was no good for me because, even though I was a reporter, the story was not related to my area in any way. Still, I thought these kids deserved to be recognized for what they were doing. I was told that the newspaper’s reporter was on assignment already and they didn’t have anyone else to send on a Sunday so I enthusiastically asked if I could write the story for them. I told them I am not interested in money for writing the story, all I wanted is the satisfaction of bringing recognition to the kids who were building these stuffed animals. I was given an okay and I began to write the story. It would later be the most wide spread story I would ever write. The newspaper’s circulation well exceeded any of the newspapers I had written for before. I felt kind of special. More importantly, I felt like I had made these kids feel special. If my name had not have been on the story, I would have still been happy that it ran. They deserved to be recognized.

Why was I so intrigued by the story of these kids? I’ll tell you why. These kids were not only building bears that day. They were building others. They were creating something that was going to place a smile on the face of a kid in the hospital. They may not ever get the chance to meet the children they are helping, but they are doing it. It’s not about a reward for them. It is about sharing love with someone who is in an undesirable situation. It makes me feel good to know that there are people who would go out of their way to make the day of another. I’m glad to know that there are those who want to build someone up even when they are down. We should all learn a lesson from these kids. We should all learn to work for the people who need it most. It isn’t only about ourselves. This life is also about serving others. I’m glad I ran into these kids at the Build-A-Bear store in Charleston. I’m glad I was able to write a story about them. They deserve to be recognized. We could all learn a lesson from these kids. I learned a valuable one that hasn’t stopped teaching me yet.

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In the Ashes of the fire…

I spent some time at Moonville Friday with the Zaleski Fire Department.  A fire had ignited in the woods near the area and while some departments put together efforts to contain the fire, others stood by and kept watch for other dangers.  It was already near dark when I arrived at the scene, and containment efforts were winding down.  I stood with some of the firefighters who were keeping watch on the road near the Moonville Tunnel, as we all waited for the latest updates on the conditions in the woods.

As we waited, I noticed something falling from the sky.  Further observation of the falling material revealed to me that I was standing in a shower of falling ash.  I could not see the fire from where I was standing, but the smoke, the burning smell and the ash that was falling caused me to realize I was probably closer to the fire than I had thought.  Suddenly I knew that if containment efforts fail, I could be in a dangerous place.

I didn’t doubt at any moment that the situation was being properly handled by the firefighters.  I didn’t fear that at any point I would need to scramble to quickly remove myself from the area.  I felt secure.  I was safe, and I didn’t feel the need to panic.  I wonder though, if the fire department hadn’t been on the scene if I would have felt the same way.  Would I have jumped into my car and get out of the woods as quickly as possible if I had been alone?  I am not sure what type of alternative outcome would have came if I wouldn’t have been near members of the fire department.  I am thankful for the people who sacrifice their time and effort to protect people like me and keep me safe.

I think about the way I felt in the woods Friday.  I wonder about my own life and the lives of those around me.  How do the people who depend on me feel when they are near me.  Do my kids watch the ashes fall and know they are safe because I am their father?  Does the burning smell cause my loved ones to fear where they stand or do they feel comforted because I am near?  When the smoke is thick and the only thing left to do is count on someone else for protection, am I the one people feel they can turn to?

My life feels like a fire sometimes.  It seems that there is always a fight to protect what little I have.  I think the people who are close to me can see the smoke.  They can smell the fire.  They watch the ashes fall when they are near me.  Though some run away for fear that the fire will grow, there are those who stand in a safe place.  They feel safe in spite of the proof of dangerous territory that surrounds them.  I want to end the fire that burns in my life.  I want to rise above the smoke clouds that roll off of my existance.  I’m not going down in flames, I’m emerging from the fire.  I am climbing out of a death trap that has held me bound for years.  If you watch the ashes fall, don’t fear the fire, just know I have taken another step into the clear.

In the future, I hope that my children feel safe because I show no signs of destruction, rather than because I carry them through it.  I want the best for my kids.  Even though we have marks to prove we have been through the fire, I hope they’ll carry on without fear of that fire.  If my success marks the success of my children, then I must succeed.  There are no other options.  The ash still falls, but the fire is behind me.