It's amazing what some new friends, a few home-cooked meals (mmm...pumpkin pie...) and a common cause can do.
Last month I went on my first canning trip (putting in a guiltless plug for Glee Club / Oriana THON here!). And may I reiterate: this is my first canning trip as a student and as a canning chair. I knew my fellow co-chair RJ and I have a lot of responsibilities on our plate, and frankly, the idea terrified me.
I had no idea what to expect, but knew I had to learn fast- I didn't want to let anyone down and I felt that, by being so inexperienced, I already wasn't pulling my weight. I didn't want to be the new girl, the outsider, or the idle officer.
So armed with a "Canning Manual" borrowed from Springfield, the tell-tale THON posters, and a lot of nervous energy, I packed up my sub-zero sleeping bag (can you say overkill?), crest toothpaste and a change of clothes and headed out to Johnstown.
First, my fellow Oriana and Glee Club THON(-ers? is there a word for this?) met up for at a local Italian restaurant to bond over pizza and planning. I learned (and promptly forgot) everyones' names. I worried over which people were already friends, if they would bother acknowledging me and whether or not anyone would notice me reaching for the last slice of white cheese pizza.
This being his home, our Glee Club Chair John knew all the restaurant staff (and seemingly the entire population of the town). So, as we finish our meal, John surprised me saying that- no-we're not paying- we're singing for our food. Well, we are choir kids after all- so I guess it was the first and only logical option. And I can say now, with the utmost conviction, there is no better ice breaker than a few choral versions of Billy Joel tunes sung around a pizza parlor piano.
The rest of the weekend whipped by in a fast-forward montage of canning, eating, (not) sleeping, and more canning. And you can really get to know people when you spend several hours in the cold with them, begging for change on a sidewalk corner. And the rest of time was spent singing along to "Glee" tunes while driving around Johnstown arguably/utterly lost. The frigid October weather warmed up, and by the end of the trip, I had stripped off my shyness like a puffy winter coat.
Sunday afternoon, the remaining cann(-ers?) counted the dollars, nickels, quarters and dimes.
It's amazing how quickly the money adds up.
Each one dollar bill a tired mom pulls from her purse, each handful of change from a pick-up trucks' dash board. Every last gummy penny from in between someone's sofa cushions- it made a difference.
One of my biggest challenges in talking with the people I met was simply convincing them their contribution mattered. And at the end of our trip, our numbers didn't lie.
In two days we had raised $4,618,25.
Yup- over four thousand tiny little donations, tiny little moments a person took from their day to stop and give. To not question or to doubt, but to trust that their actions mattered in a way that extended far beyond the tired-looking college kids in sweatshirts and signs standing before them. It's hard to see the grand total in a hand full of pennies- but it's there. I stood there, watching these everyday people who understood that hope comes in all sizes and looks a lot like a five dollar bill. That maybe their Starbucks' Macchiato could wait. Because they saw that in our cans was something greater than the sum of its parts (or..coins rather) - well, that helped me see. More so than I could have imagined.