I'm going to preface this post with the following words : There will be only one photo in this post and I didn't take it. I'm not nearly as good cultivating and arranging words as I am photographs, so please bear with me.
0600 comes pretty abruptly when you're accustomed to an 0800 wakeup call. It's cold. It's snowing. It's blustering. It's one of those days when you'd just love to lay in the comfort of your warm bed. You have an idea what the day has in store for you but the cold cuts through you more than you had imagined. The heated seats in the car have since stopped warming and the coffee has turned cold. You're sure the doors on your car and house are locked, the windows closed, the heat at the appropriate temperature. You find yourself in what is to be a place of regeneration, strength and encouragement surrounded by mounds of clothing and like-minded people willing to leave the comforts of their lives for a few hours to help make a difference. You find yourself with a few that you call family. That you're proud to call family. That you're honored to call family.
Outside, the cold comes quickly. Briskly. Abruptly. Enveloping your body with its icy fingers. You're prepared. You've got your layers, your boots, your hydration and snacks. You've got a group of people with you. You're not alone. In your hands are jackets, hats, gloves, scarves, hand warmers.
A blue and silver rain fly on a poorly designed tent is flailing in the wind and snow. A voice, barely audible, comes out from the tent with thanks for the items left. It's too cold to come outside. There are strange voices and it may be dangerous. It will be investigated later.
An overpass looms above, providing shelter from the elements. The monochromatic landscape dims just a bit, maintaining it's lack of color as you approach. Others sling their legs over a barricade, carrying bags of cold-weather clothing. As they call out and wait, no one comes to the opening in the roll-top door but they're there. You follow suit, swinging your legs over that barricade and unload what you've been carrying in your arms. You're doing what you came out to do.
The jacket that I was carrying had been hanging in my closet for two and a half years. My brother would wear it to the race track. He loved it. He loved the silly circular patch with the yellow chicken holding a checkered flag in its beak. Moreso, he would've loved to have seen it on the back of a veteran who really needed it.
A freighter seemingly floated in the mist along the Detroit river as minute crystals of snow seared our faces. Old Glory snapped and cracked as it led us into the wind and around Detroit. People passing by honked their horns and asked what we were doing. Why we were doing it.
What we were doing was this : Roger organized a 10 mile, silent ruck through Detroit in honor of those that have served this country and are homeless. Not only was it to draw attention and be seen but it was also to take direct action. It was to make a difference in the life of someone today. Not tomorrow. Not through an agency. Not through a corporation or business. From our hands to theirs.
The cold was bearable for us. The folks that we were aiming to help struggle against it day in, day out. They don't have heated seats, expensive coffee, climate control or doors to lock. They don't have moisture-controlled base layers or waterproof boots. Warming up afterward with a big meal isn't an option for them. They live every day doing what we did for a few hours, much less prepared than we. It was a small gesture on the grand scheme. It wasn't about us. It was about guys like John who wander the streets of Detroit in search of warmth on frigid days like today. Folks who could really benefit from something as simple as a decent pair of gloves.
I'm so thankful that I have the ability to go do things like this. I'm thankful that I'm physically able to. I'm thankful that I am able to take some funds and purchase items to donate and that I've had the fortune of owning items I no longer need that can be passed on. Something else that I'm incredibly thankful for, that is still very new to me, is having a family to do it with.
It is such an honor to stand beside these men and women. They inspire me, guide me and encourage me. Bring the cold. Bring the wind. Bring the storm. Bring what you may. With a family like this, there is nothing that isn't possible.
Thank you. For your acceptance. For your welcoming attitudes. For being my family.