Hi Baby. I love you. I miss you. I've been more than a little distracted lately but I'm still trying. Remember the lady I was telling you about a few months ago when the eclipse was here? The one who sat with us and found paper plates for us to help enjoy nature's show? She was the one who despite living outside in the heat, smiled easily and was grateful for the sandwich and snacks Mommy gave her. Well, yesterday we decided to help people like her, and a few others who only recently found safe shelter in our state.
I know you know we miss you but we really hope by doing nice things for you on the day of the month that you were born, it really does make you happy. We are listening, Baby Bear, and other people are, too.
Mommy's first stop was more secret that our usual "Nice on the 9th," but your kindness has been there before so you probably recognized it. I didn't take any pictures and I'm not going to put it in the blog because some of the people there have to hide from others who are trying to hurt them. If people want to help, I will let them know they can just ask Mommy.
I don't understand how some people can be so mean, especially to kids, but the truth is that it still happens every day here on Earth. I'm grateful you never knew that you had to be careful when talking to new people, but I know if you would've grown up, we would've had to have more serious conversations about this, too. The world was still your oyster, Baby Boy and maybe somehow it still is even if it isn't in the way that we want. You had a 6th sense about what people needed and it taught us so much about being open to meeting new friends we were initially skeptical about approaching. However, some kids not much older than you have already learned first-hand that it isn't always safe to be carefree and friendly all the time. Luckily, every single person I've ever met who works for this organization has always shown that extra care and understanding for the kids, and the children there know these are adults they can trust.
Speaking of adults, when Mommy was dropping everything off, the lady who is in charge of one of the programs where Mommy used to volunteer already knew all about you! I never told anyone during my time as a volunteer our story so she HAD to have either read one of your templates, seen you on the news or in one of the publications, or heard about you from one of our donations or a friend. The Caleb Effect really is spreading!!
The next place we visited was the The Homeless Alliance, where multiple non-profits (that's a company that usually has a heart for others) who help homeless people have offices. (Thank you for the yellow Hummer on my way there, by the way). Instead of making someone try to take a bus to multiple locations all over town for things like seeing a doctor, talking to someone about all the things that overwhelm them, or just helping them get an ID, there are several agencies that assist them all in one spot.
Even just being 2, you had a lot of stuff, but imagine if Mommy and Daddy had to carry around everything you loved most, everywhere we went. You would be REALLY mad if we didn't take all your vroom vrooms or enough packets and Veggie Straws. You would also want to "read" your books every night, too. People who don't have a house or apartment have to carry around EVERYTHING that is important to them, and that can be a vulnerable (that's when someone feels like they are leaving themselves open to being hurt) feeling. One of the things they have at the Homeless Alliance is lockers so the people there don't have to worry about something getting stolen or having to carry so much on their backs. They also have the only day shelter in Oklahoma City. People who live outside and sleep in parking garages or in makeshift boxes can come use the computers; showers; eat breakfast, lunch and a snack; and even come take their doggies to play. A lot of people refuse to get protection from things like freezing or scorching temperatures because the regular shelters won't allow animals, so this is a place where people with animals can come without having to worry about leaving their furry friends behind. They also have a vet who comes and checks on the "woof woofs" and makes sure they are okay, too. Pretty awesome, huh? Your Aunt Nancy Viewfinder Photography and Pam North will be really happy to hear this.
We had no idea that so many wonderful things were happening under one roof, but one of the programs that we DID know about is called The Curbside Chronicle. It is a magazine that gives homeless people a chance to sell magazines and work their way to a better future. Instead of just standing on the street begging for money, it allows someone who might have trouble getting a traditional job a legitimate opportunity to make money. It also gives people like Mommy and Daddy a glimpse into the day in the life of someone living on the streets, and even displays a little humor in the section titled "Hoboscope," (AKA horoscope). Anytime we see someone wearing one of the green vests (and assuming we actually have cash on us), we buy one. I was a little bummed (no pun intended) that I didn't see any vendors while we were in the area but keep listening and you won't be disappointed.
We knew that a lot of people who are homeless don't have the basic necessities so we put together goody bags for 15 people (see pictures to learn what went into each bag). We also delivered tons of socks from Grandma and our friend, Jennifer; sticks of deodorants; bars of soap; stuff for ladies that you would be even more confused if I tried to explain; and snacks for our new friend, Ranya Forgotson O'Connor to keep in her office and offer to vendors when they are there. Some of our longtime friends and YaYa met us there and brought supplies, too! Baby Boy, did you see the faces of the people when Mommy opened the hatch on her vroom vroom? We didn't even have the bags unloaded yet and they were already excited and asking us for a bag! One of the ladies looked a little sad but Mommy told her how I was there to spread some love for you. I gave her a little encouragement and a hug, but maybe you could also watch over her, too.
We left the Homeless Alliance even more grateful for things like a computer to write you this message, a choice whether to share our space or not, and a hot shower anytime we want. You ALWAYS loved splashing in the bath, using your net to "catch" your rubber fish, and squeezing (and usually drinking) water out of your squirt toys. However, there is not a bath tub at this facility and no one gets to sit in a deep tub of bubbles or drop Elmo's colorful tablets in their water. I'm also willing to bet none of these people have a Mickey Mouse toothbrush to brush (or mostly just chew) their teeth, or a Monster's Inc or various animal-themed hooded towel to dry off with when they were finished. All of your things are as you left them. I wish there was some sort of magic trick we could perform that would bring you back just as shockingly fast as you were taken away. It still seems like you are going to pop out from behind the curtains and start laughing when you see our elated faces. Maybe that's what heaven will be like. It will come swiftly and we won't even believe what we are seeing. We will just be so happy to be with you again.
Not everyone believes in heaven, but the people at our 3rd stop most certainly do. Much like the Homeless Alliance, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City offers many programs to people of various walks of life inside one building. Some of the other social services agencies are only blocks apart, so they call this whole area the "Corridor of Hope." Catholic Charities recently moved to this new location and built in many symbols of their faith and community both in and outside the building. One fun fact of the day is that one of the more unique and artistic symbols (which also will be in the pictures) was even requested to be taken to the Vatican and replaced with a replica (that's a copy).
We came there specifically to learn more about their Refugee Resettlement Program and got to meet Maleeha Siddique, a former refugee from Afghanistan and Mark Chan, who run the program. I'd love to hear more about Maleeha's story, but we did learn that she speaks 5 languages which has proven to be highly useful to refugees coming into their new community.
I know this month we are highlighting homelessness so maybe you are wondering why we chose to "be nice" to refugees, too. Maybe you are also wondering what a refugee is. Well, my sweet boy, a refugee is someone who has had no other choice but to leave their home due to a "well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion." That sounds pretty scary to me.
You were fearless. It didn't matter if you were starting a new "school," hiding in a pitch-black room to scare us, or jumping into the water and insisting on no "floaties." However, we have always lived in America, in a place where you didn't need to worry much about someone coming to do mean things to our family. Not every place in the world is like it is here. I imagine if we were forced to live in a country where mommies got in trouble just for driving you somewhere or not believing the same things the head of the government believes, fear would've found you eventually, too.
I also know that refugees aren't "homeless" in the traditional sense, but to me, home means more than just four walls. Home means having the people you love with you and feeling a sense of safety and comfort. Many of these people have lost family members in terrible circumstances and have endured unspeakable trauma and hardships. When Catholic Charities arrives to pick them up at the airport, some only have the clothes on their backs and a small bag given to them by another agency. They do not know anyone, many don't speak English, and literally nothing except the family they might have with them is familiar. I'm sure it is very lonely and overwhelming to make such drastic changes all at once, so we hope the supplies we brought them help make them feel a little more welcome.
Some literally went from living in camps for many years to getting on a plane and walking into their first apartment of their own. Some of the refugees are not accustomed to the modern conveniences we enjoy in the Western world so it is an even bigger culture shock for them. The Executive Director, Patrick, was our tour guide and told us that they have had people who have tried to cook with charcoal in the middle of their living room because they are used to cooking everything over an open fire. He also shared with us that many of the refugees come from places where corruption is widespread and where bribery is expected. He said that since most refugees aren't familiar with how the laws in the U.S. work, and they have to be taught things like not giving a police officer or person of authority money when encountering them.
There are so many things we take for granted simply because we live in America. Mommy was raised Catholic and Daddy was raised Baptist, but neither of us are members of our original churches now. In many parts of the world, this would be reason enough to treat us with really terrible punishments way worse than time out. You are not old enough for Mommy to tell you all the details about these kinds of things, but just know that we were all fortunate to be born in the U.S. Although Daddy and I aren't Catholic, we appreciate the work this charity is doing (especially for refugees), and are also grateful they serve both the uppercase Catholic and lowercase catholic community. (In fact, we learned that 85% of the people they serve are not Catholic) Another fun fact is that the definition of "catholic" is "universal, including a wide variety of things; all-embracing." You, my forever "Little C," still encompass this better than anyone I've ever met. Help us to keep embracing those who need you and to welcome our newest neighbors so they truly feel that Oklahoma is home.
Mommy's last stop of the day was to the Sunnyside Diner, where they have a public pantry. The sign says, "Leave what you can. Take what you need." It is probably human nature to take more than we need, but something I've observed from the homeless community is that many seem to adhere to this principle. They know there are others like them who are still in need, so they leave enough for others and take what they need. We wanted the people who are in need to have food that is nutritious and will fill their bellies, so we left some tuna lunch kits and an assortment of protein packs. Originally, I was going to leave a third box of tuna kits inside, but something inside me told me that I should save one box back for anyone else I may encounter.
Well, guess what? On my way to meet up with the rest of our group, Mommy saw a lady selling the Curbside Chronicle! I pulled over into a parking lot and loaded a couple of tuna packs into my lap and circled back to be on the correct side of the road to buy a magazine from her. As soon as I got to the light, I flagged her down and she came to my window. I asked her if she liked tuna and she was so happy to receive a couple extra meals. Mommy finally got to buy her magazine. Pretty fantastic way to end another successful Nice on the 9th, Baby Boy.
I love you. I always will. Someday we will all be "home" together and none of us will ever have another fear or heartache again.
One day. One glorious day.
P.S. For all your friends who read the entire super long post: Shirts are still coming soon, but I noticed a large discrepancy in the names, so I am looking into this to ensure that all families who want to have their child represented will have the chance.