Color Me Rosy

give your attitude a high-five

Subs for Santa

Sitting near our Christmas tree this morning, before the kids woke up, looking at the mound of colorful presents spilling out from underneath, I was feeling pretty blessed. I love Christmas, the lights, the music, opening presents, food and spending time with friends and family. How could I ever complain or have want when we have the ability to spend so much money on trivial things. Sometimes I catch myself thinking of a bigger house, a bigger car, a lager paycheck or even a new bicycle - not to replace the one I have of course but you know, I need a separate one for 'commuting to work'. I'm grateful for the perspective that brings me back into focus.

Every Christmas season the company I work for searches for an opportunity to bring some unexpected happiness into the lives of families who are experiencing challenges. This year one of my co-workers learned of a program in the Las Vegas area called 'Subs for Santa'. A program similar to the United Way's Subs for Santa but in our area it is run by just a few volunteers.
The families chosen to be sponsored by our local Subs for Santa are selected through the school district; whenever a teacher or school administrator has knowledge of a student's condition they have the opportunity to forward that information to the Subs for Santa program. My company was informed of five families in need and we received a few details about their ages and number of siblings.
The majority of them resided in North Las Vegas. For those who live in this valley, we all know the type of city North Las Vegas is since it has the highest rate of... really everything bad in the state. It was up to us to find gifts, groceries and anything else we thought these families might need, and we were to deliver the gifts on December 21st. We were responsible for contacting the parents or parent (since most only had one) of these families to find an appropriate time to stop by. While sitting in a meeting at work one morning, I was pulled out by a co-worker who was trying to call a family and needed help, they only spoke Spanish. Having learned Spanish as a missionary in Venezuela, I was confident that it would be a quick conversation so I could go back to what I was doing. 15 minutes later my attitude had changed. The story that unfolded after I asked a simple question was difficult to hear, but all too common. The mother had four children in her house, her husband had left years ago and that day she had just lost her job. Through tears she explained why we might not ever be able to stop by, she was afraid. Afraid of being evicted, afraid that her children wouldn't make it through school, that her oldest son would choose the same path as his father, afraid that there would not be enough food to last another week. I said what I could, "have faith in God, we would like to help etc." but I mostly just listened. I decided to call back the next day to see if see was feeling better and to see if stopping by on Saturday would be okay. Saturday came; we attended an awesome company Christmas party, went bowling, and ate pizza, not a care in the world. In the afternoon we gathered to go deliver our gifts to the sponsored families. I knew which one I would visit. As we approached the neighborhood I was taken back to Venezuela, concrete walls, bars on everything, crumbling houses, abandoned buildings, roaming dogs, all just minutes away from the capital city of indulgence and excess. I walked up the empty cracked driveway as a dog with matted hair yapped at my ankles, knocked on the door and stepped back. A young girl peeked through a broken window fixed with duct tape. I smiled and waved and she ran away. When her mother appeared I introduced myself and asked if we could bring in a few things, tears immediately welled up in her eyes and she invited us in. An empty living room except for a tattered futon and a concrete floor was all we found. We felt very good to be able to fill it. We emptied our two vans full of groceries and gifts and made several trips to carry them inside. It was a humbling experience, it was a wonderful opportunity to help, and thinking back about it now I ask myself, "What else could we have done?" There were so many houses in that neighborhood, and so many neighborhoods just like it. I am so thankful that during Christmas we are reminded to help others, maybe we need to be reminded more often. Our help doesn't always have to come in the form of gifts purchased at the store, it can be listening to someone on the phone who has had a rough day, a smile and a wave, advice, prayers, service projects, volunteering. Feeling peace and fulfillment in life doesn’t come from what we make, or get but what we give. So we have had our reminder, let us never forget and find some way to share our blessings all year long.

A Good Deed Here, A Good Deed There...

Some people hit the high seas and go on a cruise for vacation.  Others road trip across multiple states or fly across the country looking for their next adventure.  Me?  I drive the 2.5 hours to Cedar City and mingle with the small town, home grown folks inhabiting Southern Utah.  It's okay to roll your eyes.  I do.  Or at least I used to.  

There is a "must do" list I have for whenever I am in Southern Utah.  Brad's Food Hut is at the top of that list.  It's greasy, deep fried, saturated-in-anything-that-might-cause-a-coronary deliciousness.  My mother, the nutritionist, will deny it if asked but might possibly be having a small love affair with their fish'n'chips and dirty Dr. Pepper.  It's that good, y'all.  Anyway, I was sitting in the drive-thru after having ordered when one of the girls working comes to get my payment.  The total: $23.48.  When she returned with my card and the receipt, I checked out the amount paid and had to double check the numbers staring me back in the face.  $8.48.  As if reading my mind, the girl at my window explained the difference, "The lady in the car ahead of you comes in once a week and pays an extra $15 for the car behind her," before hurrying back inside.  The mysterious woman who paid for more than half of my order was gone and I didn't know who to thank.  For once, I was speechless.  I've heard of this kind of thing happening but never has it happened to me.  I couldn't believe it.

I'm not entirely sure why I happened to be the recipient of good deeds on my last trip home, but the occurrence at Brad's wasn't the only one.  My grandmother woke one morning having a major craving for pancakes.  I've tried to get a handle on my culinary handicap but have yet to master the pancake flip.  I wasn't about to attempt it, especially since my grandma wanted them so much.  The solution to my problem came in the form of IHOP.  You want pancakes?  Why not go to the International House of, right?  

I have a daughter.  She has this condition known as "three years old".  Most things she does are unpredictable.  But there are some that roll around like clockwork and most of these things involve the bathroom.  We get in the car and she suddenly needs to go.  We sit down in a restaurant and she can't possibly hold it any longer.  That morning, at IHOP, was one of those instances.  We deserted our booth and rushed to the bathroom.  Business done, we returned to find what appeared to be a hastily written note and a 5 dollar bill in the middle of our table.  "We noticed you had kids and remember how expensive it can be to feed them.  Hope this helps."  In between wondering how loud my kids had to be for someone to notice they were in the building and looking around for a clue as to who left the note and money, I was touched.  This was random act of kindness number two in the span of a few days.  

A week that I expected to be unremarkable has changed my outlook on life and people.  I am ashamed to admit that I get a little frustrated with the lack of compassion in the world.  I know there are great people out there.  I read and hear about amazing stories of service and selfless charity, but often times the negative overshadows the positive and I forget that maybe there is a little hope in the world.  Maybe, just maybe, there are people who really do care about the big picture.  It's nice to be reminded and an ordinary trip to Cedar City, Utah, has definitely brought a little spark into my life.  To top it off, I probably won't be rolling my eyes the next time my mother requests us home for a visit.  

OK, what do you want.

"You are being really, really nice to me for no apparent reason... what do you want?" - I thought to myself. Upon arriving to the 'Western Hotel' in Gunsan, Korea I waited at the check-in counter for several minutes. Eventually a small Korean woman entered the lobby saying, "no no, dinner not until 5 o'clock." I replied that I just needed to check in, I had just arrived. "You write name here, take key." was her response. "No credit card?" I asked. "No, I get later." she replied and hurried of with a basket of laundry. I found my way to the room and started to get settled, turned on the TV to break up the silence. Several minutes later the same woman knocked on the door and when I opened it she said, "you very tall, need bigger bed" and handed me a key to a different room. I collected my things and she showed me to a bigger room with a bed that would allow my head and feet to be on it at the same time. I was wasted, 20 hours of traveling and even though I hadn't eaten in a while I laid down and fell asleep. The next morning, downstairs by the front desk the woman walked by again with another load of laundry, she paused and I asked if she could call a taxi to take me to the airforce base nearby, "no I drive you, just minute" she replied and hurried off again. This will be interesting, I thought. She came back with some car keys, showed me to her car and took me to the back gate of the base herself. It turns out that this woman, one of the hotel's owners, does the laundry of her guests and cooks breakfast and dinner for them every day. That evening I hid my laundry deep in my bag, but at dinner there was no hiding the huge pile of anchovies she placed on my plate. Standing over me she waited until I ventured to try it, somehow I managed to keep it down and return a smile. "Why are you being so nice" I kept thinking.

Downtown Gunsan

There is a Korean proverb that says, "A great river does not refuse any small streams." Its meaning was pretty clear to me, there was no way to deny the generosity of this old hotel keeper. Do we live our lives graciously allowing others to serve us? Or do we keep thinking to ourselves, "OK, what do you want." 

Sunrise in Incheon








A Culture of Gratitude

My job gives me the opportunity to travel frequently, exciting at times, but always tough to leave my family for weeks at a time. For the past few weeks I have been in Japan, my first time visiting the land of the rising sun. It has been a great experience. It's humid, foggy at times, even though I'm staying right at the base of Mt. Fuji for two weeks the fog has only cleared enough for the ominous silhouette to appear twice and only for a few hours at a time. A stark contrast to the mojave desert that I begrudingly call home. Tokyo seems like a city that never ends, tightly packed with buildings, woven together with highways and canals, narrow streets lit up with neon lights like the Las Vegas strip and dark alleys that never see sunlight. But beyond all that one thing has impressed me most -  from the time I left the Narita airport just outside Tokyo I have been impressed by the amount of time a person tells me "thank you" and bows; buying a bus ticket, boarding the bus, giving them my bags to put on the bus, getting off the bus, getting my bags from under the bus, getting in a taxi, when the taxi reached my destination, paying the taxi driver, getting my bags out of the trunk to name a few. What is it about the Japanese that causes them to offer so much sincere gratitude for common acts. I sometimes pride myself on my ability to articulate sarcasm, but here even after the 5th thank you for buying some bananas I never felt a hint of it from the store clerk. Even the Japanese phrase for thank you sounds more sincere to me than my own, maybe its just because its new, foreign, exoteric but I don't think so. Such a trait could only exist as a remnant passed down from respected ancestors, as it is so engrained in this society. It feels good to give thanks, I felt good being thanked so many times. Try it out, see how you can build others up by offering sincere gratitude. Next time you see me don't be surprised if you get a bow - arigatōgozaimasu.


Small Town Generosity

In the town of Beaver, Utah, there is a little sandwich shoppe.  Good food, cute decor, and that small town, home grown quality that makes customers feel at ease and welcome.  Beaver is about 45 minutes away from my home town so I was able to stop in and enjoy a fresh cut sandwich from Patti’s Place.

A handful of items filled the menu, a few tiny tables filled the room, and witnessing a good deed nearly had tears filling my eyes.  I’m not an emotional person.  I keep things pretty well tapped down.  But for some reason, the atmosphere in Patti’s Place is special.

A local gentleman stopped in for a bite.  I don’t know his name.  I don’t know his story.  But for this, it doesn’t really matter.  He ordered and reached in his pocket to pay.  They brushed his attempt aside and gave him his meal “on the house”.  From my seat near the back of the room, I watched this interaction with a lump in my throat.

I’m not sure if this happens often or the reasons behind such an act, but I do know that whoever Patti is, well, she deserves a pat on the back.