In October of 1999, I read about an event sponsored by USA WEEKEND magazine called Make A Difference Day and I felt compelled to participate. My mother had passed away the year before and I knew that I wanted to do something to honor her memory. I decided to return to Holmes Regional Medical Center, where she had spent her last days, with the intent to cheer up their patients, however the event resulted in being just as therapeutic for my sisters and me as it was for the patients. With only the help of our children, we delivered stuffed bears and Mylar balloons to the patients. The emotional responses from those who received a random act of kindness were amazing:
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In room 1247, a young frail girl lay surrounded by big burly, leather-clad, biker-types. She smiled weakly as I gave her a balloon and well wishes for a speedy recovery As I got onto the elevator, I heard a deep gravely, "Hey, wait up!" A huge man with a Fu Manchu mustache, shaven head and buckles on his boots was rushing toward me. I was almost frightened. He was the type of man who you would cross the street to avoid. He rushed up, stuck his hand out to keep the doors from closing, and stared at me. That's when I noticed that his eyes were glistening with unspent tears.
"Who are you?" he asked with a voice that was clearly unsteady.
"Just someone trying to make a difference."
He grabbed my hand, it disappeared in his massive paws, and then he did break down. "Thank you so much. That's the first time I've seen my little sister smile since this whole thing started... I don't know how to... Can I...?"
"Let your sister know that I'll pray for her." I gently pushed him away and allowed the elevator door to close. Then I broke down in front of God and everybody else on that elevator.
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In room 1445, a haggard looking man slept in a reclining chair. It was obvious that he was uncomfortable, because he kept shifting his weight from one side to the other. I handed the woman in the bed a balloon.
"Who is this from?" she whispered, so as not to disturb him.
"Who are you?"
Before I could get to the next room her husband caught up with me.
"Who are you, why did you do that?" he asked, looking and sounding totally perplexed.
"Just a little something to try to make her smile."
"Here, at least let me pay for it." I refused. "Then let me make a donation to your organization." I explained that we weren't an organization. With slumped shoulders and arched brows, he said through a throat that was obviously tightening up, "Then I don't understand."
"And that's okay."
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I said all of that to say this, even though I have always been civic minded, my initial start in organized community service was self-serving. It was all about my mother and her memorial. However, from those humble beginnings, we started Gail's House Incorporated. Since then, using mostly personal resources, my sisters and I have developed many programs and projects that we hope will benefit the low-income population of our community and resolve racial disparities. We live in a society where child, domestic, and substance abuse are commonplace. Where babies are having babies, senior citizens are a forgotten populous and under-represented children are stifled by their environment. It is often a misconception that these people do not want to go anywhere. However, the truth is that sometimes they simply do not know where to go. Well, we now welcome them to Gail's House Incorporated., the neighbor that intends to make a difference in the 'hood. We intend to redirect negative energy, while encouraging, supporting, and rewarding positivity.
If it takes a village to raise a child...let the building begin.
- Candy Allen