Lessons in Giving and Receiving

This week, today mostly – I spent the majority of my time preparing for the annual Homeless Picnic in McAllen with the Emily’s Meals crew. Now – let me be clear – this is not one of those humble brags so don’t be rolling those eyes at me. I’ve learned a thing or two about charities and God’s work over these last few years. Some of us need reminding every now and then so when they see a friend like me post on my social media account that some organization is in need of coats or foster children are in need of teddy bears or another group needs two more volunteers to help deliver food to the homeless, they step up and get the job done… had they not seen the post, they would have been on their recliner watching football all day. THIS is what this is now. It’s a reminder – not a brag. We can all do something – large or small – it’s not a competition – but together we can all make a huge dent in any crisis and create a whole lotta happiness around us that wasn’t there before.

So – back to my story – I was in this little storage room packed to the brim with donations sorted in plastic bins with colorful labels stating “men’s jeans”, “toiletries”, “school supplies”, etc. when the gentleman in charge calculated that we were short on coats and jackets, women’s clothing, socks and undergarments. “But most of all we need volunteers”, he said.

“How many do we need?” I asked

“We’re going to need at least 8 more groups to man each table that we have.” Denise, my prayer sister beside him responded. I felt like that Winona Ryder meme with the confused look on her face as I calculated in my head 8 groups of at least 2-3 people per table…. that’s about 15-30 more people… I can get my kiddo, ask the agents in my office, round up some of the WCR Realtors & affiliates and maybe reach out to the YPN members at the up coming mixer and post on social media I thought to myself…

“I’m on it!” I quickly yelled out.

See, what you should know about me is that I’m not super rich, nor am I highly educated. I’m not politically powerful but I DO know a lot of really, really good people. People are one of my super hero powers. (*Forgiveness is the other super hero power I have but that’s another story)

If I’ve considered you a friend of mine, that means I see something really good in you. I hope that you’ve befriended me in the same manner. Good people usually stick together. We may not be similar in lots of ways but there’s usually a common denominator of goodness among all my circles of friends. And let me tell you… they did not disappoint!

Within 48-hours, my inboxes were flooded with people who were offering help. Those who couldn’t be there personally offered to donate coats, jackets, feminine hygiene products, socks, scarfs, and other warm clothing. People gave what they could. I had friends from way back in the day show up on my doorstep with jackets, mittens and beanies. My women friends from the office called and said they were cleaning out their closets and found clothes with the tags still on them that they wanted to donate. I mean everyone was showing up with the most generous hearts ever! All it took was a simple ask.

Be the voice for those who feel they can’t speak. Stand up and show up. Be the example so others can follow. To those who matter, your good deed will inspire a new behavior among your sphere of influence and serve as an example of what one person CAN do and a reminder that we can all do small things with great love and together those small things become exponentially powerful and enough to empower immense change.

I had to be mindful of my own finances since a few of my closings didn’t happen so I was a bit off budget and to find ways to tighten my spending belt, I went to a local dollar store and found some really thick and nice quality knitted scarfs, plush blankets and prepackaged individual toiletries. I knew if I just looked hard enough, I’d find something within the amount I could spend and still be able to provide warmth and comfort for someone else in need…. and guess what? God provided with just enough.

Savvy shopper 🙂

Simultaneously, the Women’s Council of REALTORS® McAllen Network made a call out for their annual Teddy Bear drive that I had been donating to since 2005.

Yep – that’s me and the staff of Mujeres Unidas back in 2005 with the bears I had donated. It’s truly a great cause that I believe in whole heartedly.

I took my son with me to shops all over town to get teddy bears and check the “snuggle factor” of each stuffed bear. Every bear we “tested” was judged on how well they felt when hugged them. We chose three that were top notch snugglers and were pretty proud of our selections. We hope the children that choose them are able to feel our hugs if they have dark moments over the holidays.

Elva Jackson-Garza, long-time personal mentor and role model of mine, also with Edwards Abstract and Title Company and current Membership Director for the Women’s Council of REALTORS® McAllen Network and me and my 3 bears being donated that passed the snuggle test

So here’s where the story gets really good…

While I was out and about doing these things for others, I came home to find a gift for me nestled safely in my front porch from my 7th Grade teacher at St. Joseph’s Catholic School. Now… keep in mind I haven’t been a 7th Grader for years… I’m talking decades!!! So for a teacher to remember her student and reach out the way she did today meant the world to me.

This is me and my 7th /8th grade teacher Fran Prukop at my 8th Grade graduation mass at St. Joseph’s Catholic School

See, in 7th grade, I struggled with Algebra. I honestly just couldn’t understand it one bit. This teacher spent her lunch hour and after school time to tutor me until I mastered it. Because it was a small private Catholic school, once a week, we would celebrate Mass together. This phenomenal teacher wasn’t just a teacher… she was a rock star! Well— she strummed guitar while singing hymns in church. Same thing. I remember just like it was yesterday, I was sitting third pew down from the pulpit as she sang my favorite hymn – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGHOtR-v4yQ

Songs have lyrics behind them. Hymns have prayers. There was something in the prayer sung by her that called out to my soul back then that never left. To summarize, it’s a prayer to God asking Him to use me as a tool to create peace. That’s what I wanted. My teacher – a brand new twenty-something newly licensed teacher sang that song and the prayer engraved itself into my being from that moment on. It’s the prayer best known as St. Francis of Assisi’s prayer for Peace. St. Francis is also very well known for loving all of God’s creatures… another thing that I was reminded of when I attended my first ACTs retreat, learned more about St. Francis and coincidentally (said sarcastically and looking up towards the sky with a smirk on my face) a bunch of doves and other birds came to me to be rescued and cared for.

Here’s Flutter the Bird perched on Harley the wonder dog – both no longer with us but forever in our hearts

I’ve posted a bit about this on my social media as it began with #flutterthebird and then escalated quickly. Unaware that it is considered illegal to care for wild birds without a license and proper training, I naively posted questions, updates and releases on my facebook and instagram. *I am now in the process of becoming the only certified dove rehabilitation center in the county – but not official yet. In these postings, I taught others what I was learning so that we could all help if a helpless bird was in need. A hurricane blew in and those lessons to the community came in handy. Hundreds of birds were saved and released healthy and happy because we all worked together for innocent creatures that would never be able to repay us for our care and hospitality. Ahhhh sweet story, right? But it doesn’t end there… this is how my 7th grade teacher found out about me. The teacher who sang about peace to her students found one of her students decades later who was still trying to become that instrument of peace for God.

Today that teacher left a statue of St. Francis of Assisi with the most heartfelt handwritten card on my front porch. Still learning from my teacher… still praying to be an instrument of peace.

When you give, you receive so much more. Great lesson today and so incredibly grateful for it.

Thank you Mrs. Prukop. He will be placed in my garden to watch over the birds and squirrels.

St. Francis of Assisi with the card she wrote me – my heart is full

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