Why the Warmth Wagon had to happen.

Sometimes memories live in our minds. Other times they live in our bones.

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They rise to greet us unexpectedly, at times unwanted and others welcome, triggered by some acute perception of our senses. A breeze carrying a long-forgotten scent; a stranger with familiar eyes; a sudden loud boom. That is exactly what happened on Monday morning as I opened the back door of my comfortable abode in Tiny Town. My deck overlooks a sunken yard with a grassy trail boundary, lined by bamboo and the most remarkable cherry tree I have ever seen. I was enjoying a steamy hot cup of dark coffee when the chill grabbed me. I stepped out back to recycle some refuse and unexpectedly shook a series of memories loose from my bones. The air smelled of frost and fire, my eyes ached from the coldness, and my hands quickly grasped my mug again, thankful for the heat and caffeine.

I immediately took to social media and asked people to meet me in the parking lot of a vacant grocery store and bring cold weather items to disperse to the most needy of Tiny Town. Within 24 hours the event had been joined by over 1,400 locals. I collected hundreds of coats and dozens of sleeping bags and blankets. Then, simply, I took to the streets and charitable organizations to help people feel warmth. Everyone deserves to feel warmth and it was easy to manifest for both recipients and donors.

15: hungry and homeless.
I was a homeless for a year before I got pregnant with my son Koa. At the age of 15 nearing the end of my freshman year I learned what it was like to feel hungry but have no access to food; to long for a safe bed; to wish for a shower, a toothbrush, clean clothes; to dig in dumpsters for resources; to beg restaurant staff for the day's leftovers; to hold signs for change. I slept on the couches of friends and acquaintances, on benches, in tents in the woods, on bathroom floors of interstate rest stops, fireside in the reading room of a small private school I had insider knowledge of, in countless vehicles, and even a brief stint as a resident at one of my teacher's home (until I stole and wrecked his daughter's car). That time period afforded me perspective that most thankfully do not have to gain, and created in me a willing advocate when it comes to other people living lives in transition. All people deserve to be warm and to feel safe no matter their life choices or circumstances, where they come from or where they are heading. I had nights where I felt neither warmth nor safety, where I curled up with nothing but a fear and hopelessness I would wish on no one--not even those who could be humbled by such lessons. It is uncomfortable for me to revisit a lot of the memories created during that time, but because of them it was not uncomfortable to approach the homeless population and offer them compassion in the form of a hug and a coat to keep them warm.

While I could share several stories about the individuals I met in the process, suffice it to say that they were all human beings and all worthy of so much more than I could give them. As for me, I was given too much praise for what was actually not that much work. I was called saint, amazing, most inspiring. The truth is I'm kind of an asshole. Why, after all that good work and all those people's lives touched, would I say that about myself? Simple. It took me little to no time, little to no strenuous effort, and little to no money to pull off something that helped hundreds of people. The real saints are the people who shared the event and showed up on short notice with so many wonderful donations. The real amazing ones are those whose generosity roused deep appreciation from the amazing people who received these items. The most inspiring are those who are out there trying every day to make their lives and this world a better place to be. I met a woman homeless for five months now, on dialysis, who literally melted into my arms as she wept while sharing her story and the story of her partner who had a stroke on the way to one of her appointments. I could see her big toe through her tennis shoe. "I need a room," she said. "I don't have one of those unfortunately, but do you need any warm layers? A sleeping bag?" "Have you got any socks? He could really use some socks."
That's some perspective I have carried all week since. When I feel like bitching about my floor needing to be vacuumed, the dishes piling up, the food left out on the stove, the fucking laundry pile that never. ever. ends... I find myself seeing that woman's face, remembering the warmth of her tears as I wiped them away. I'm overwhelmed because I have too much to take care of, and she just needs socks for the love of her life. 
Tiny Town, you really came through. You brought the highest quality duds and helped to outfit our homeless neighbors in brand names I cannot myself regularly afford: Columbia, Helly Hansen, GAP, London Fog, Burton, kuhl, REI, Patagonia... Some, brand new. Here's to the best dressed homeless population in the nation, and to the warmth those layers provide them. To those of you who wish you could have participated or would have heard about it sooner, it's ok. Just throw an extra pair of gloves in your car and give them to someone who looks like they need them. They went faster than anything else.

History, you are different now. The lingering feeling of hopelessness from that era is nearly evaporated now, as countless examples of efficacy and good continue to add up in my jar. I am confident I'll never return to that place, though for years I feared going back there. Security and perspective are both great gifts.

Boys and Brian, thank you for indulging another one of my big ideas on the fly--you really made it possible to pull it off because of your flexibility and willingness to jump on board. I hope you boys feel some of that humanity sink in because I would like you to be the type of people who engage in random acts of community service throughout your lives. Also, thanks for not flipping me too much shit when our garage looks like this. (Although I did hear Brian murmur,"This is how it all starts, this is it..." as he stared at the piles and began to help me sort.) I promise not to land us on one of those reality tv shows about hoarding, despite what the garage looks like from time to time.

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