I should probably pay more attention to the symbolism around me more often. Today was my final day as someone able to claim being in their 40s. Over the past few weeks I’ve really enjoyed thinking about this milestone, where I’ve been and where I’m intending on going from here. More on the latter later, tater. (tater reference for @Fernie).
I spent my last day of 49 in a pretty good fashion. It wasn’t really intentionally looking for symbolism but good gawd it was important, and I thank my brain for turning on my emotional antennae today.
Boys & Girls Clubs of Bend hosts and annual end-of-summer camp extravaganza for the kids we serve. For the second year, I brought my DJ equipment, put on my alter ego as DJ Akoni Poponi and played some tunes and then largely played games with the kids. Giving away tickets for prizes. At Bess’ surely planned but feeling impromptu suggestion – about 80 kids sang happy birthday to me in a crowded gym and I almost lost it.
What I know is over 65% of the kids I talked to today request scholarships to attend Club. We as an organization give away $200,000 or more a year to remove the financial barriers for kids in Bend “who need us most.” It’s not hard to see in them my younger self, having lived partially in poverty growing up.
As Carnival was wrapping up. One girl, probably 10 or 11 years old wearing a red costume, cried as their team queued up to leave Carnival because she didn’t win any prizes. Her friends offered up their prizes to her. She refused but the gestures from her friends may seem like the smallest thing but it’s not a small gesture. It’s really really big. These are good kids and the Club teaches this way of kindness.
As Carnival ended, I stepped outside to fetch my car and on the sidewalk was the CEO standing at a serving line by herself slinging hamburgers and grilled cheese and the queue was 60 kids deep. So, I donned some disposable gloves and starting slinging food next to her. “Thank yous” and “pleases” the norm for these very grateful and considerate young people.
When the food line dissipated, we handed out grilled cheese sandwiches to parents as they came to claim their children. Bess suggested I take the grilled cheese across the street over to the Family Kitchen and in a likely not-so-random chance the Kitchen was serving food to their adult clients. “Adults who need us most.” The Kitchen’s volunteers gratefully snapped up the sandwiches. “Thank yous” again coming from the queue though not with the regularity of the youth across just across the street.
Back inside the Clubhouse after fetching my truck, I grabbed some volunteers and purposefully chose the girl in the red costume to help take out my DJ equipment. I’m lazy and I’m old, ok? She had already raised her hand to volunteer. No surprise there. And I made sure she got a prize before heading back to her group.
I realized later that I will always stand by Bess. I was part of the hiring committee who brought her to town and very very proud of it. She is a rockstar. I will shamelessly ask the Bend community to make life easy on Bess by generously giving their time, talent and treasure to this organization. She’s humble enough to sling food. She shouldn’t have to.
I frequently say my goal is to live each day in a way creating positive ripples on the pond.
After today I’m ready to make some big damn waves.
Some from massive cannonballs my younger self would take pride in.
And some waves might be from stinging belly flops.
And I don’t care.
Alan Weiss has said: True well is discretionary time. Today, I had the wealth to choose to volunteer and to experience what great things happen at this Club each day.
Buh-bye 40s. Bring on the gout!