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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Behind the Mask…

I spent the day with my children yesterday walking the streets in search of Halloween treats.  It seems to me, with every new year, there are more and more children dressed up and wandering around, door to door, to fill up their baskets of candy.  My kids went as the Mario Brothers.  They seemed to get a pretty good response from passers-by as they passed other trick-or-treaters on the streets.  You should have seen them with the big mustache that covered a large part of their face.  I couldn’t help but smile when I caught some of the responses of people as they walked by.

While my kids had a simple costume, you could tell who they were by looking at them.  Some children were completely covered in a body suit.  Whether they were going as a gorilla, a race car driver (complete with helmet), or any other costume requiring a mask, I couldn’t tell who these kids were.   Some of the kids who passed by waved at us, but I couldn’t recognize them.  The only thing I knew about these kids was what outfit they had on.  I could recognize the mask, but beneath it, the mystery loomed.

I think we all wear a mask from time to time.  Obviously, I am not speaking of a literal mask.  I am talking about something that covers us, and makes outsiders recognize us in an entirely different light than the people we reveal ourselves to.  Many of us wear masks to hide our imperfections when we are around other people.  By wearing a mask we can become unrecognizable.  We can hide the part of us we don’t want people to see.  We can become another person.

Why do we all have to do this to seek another’s approval?  Shouldn’t we find comfort in ourselves and walk boldly in front of the crowd?  I think the world would find itself in a better place if some people would take off their masks.  While my mask may suggest I am a young, happy father of two kids who lives a comfortable life as a reporter in the county I live in, I struggle.  My life is not easy.  When I think about it, I don’t know if any single aspect of my life has been easy.  Although some people may look at me and see failure, if they had walked in my shoes and been in places I have been in life, they might begin to believe I am a great story of success.  What makes success?  To be honest, I must say the answer to that question is still up for debate, at least in my head.  What I can tell you is that the prettiest mask you can wear will not change your leve l of success.  Your mask will not make you better.  It is solely dependant upon the drive of the person under the mask where you will go in this life. 

Take off your mask.  Nobody wants to see a lie.  People want to know the real you.  They will only respect the real you.  Your mask can’t earn respect, and while people may respect your lie, it is a matter of time before the mask proves its inability to carry your load.  You are better without the mask.  Your progress will come when you lay it down and move forward without it.  Regardless of your position in this life, wherever you may be, your mask will never go further than you carry it.  It is your footsteps that get you where you going in life.  Throw down the mask, and walk on.