Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Free Time: There's got to be a morning after.

Note: I just strapped on my ipod and put my music library on shuffle so I could listen while I write. The first song on my personal juke box was Simple Life by the Weepies. So appropriate for right this minute.

It was a day of busy. It was a different kind of productive than finding stuff for free on craigslist.

In addition to working at my real job from 8 to 5, I read and printed out every email I received from yesterday's 9 News story and last night's blog.

My sister and nephew came over for dinner at 5:30. Kathy helped me organize the emails.

My sister also gave me a tremendous, calming focus. Because I want to meet the needs of every person who emailed me.

Kathy and I talked about why I started this Free Time experiment in the first place. What was my purpose? Honestly, I just wanted to see if I could fill a house with quality furniture for free. Then I wanted to give it all away, because I don't need anything.

This whole idea might sound absolutely ridiculous to some people.

In fact I did get a couple of comments from people on my blog and on the 9 News site who obviously thought this project was a complete disservice. I'm selfish. I'm not serving the right population.

Please. A simple experiment doesn't have to get so complicated. And I definitely don't take those comments personally.

It took me a long time, but I'm finally comfortable owning the fact that I'm a middle aged, eccentric hippie single mom of two teenagers who likes the spice this type of project adds to my life. Instead of fitting myself into a tight, uncomfortable box, attempting to live up to what I assume everyone expects me to be, I'm finally comfortable not having to explain myself.

So I'm not going to. Chapter closed.

So back to my Free Time.

In less than 24 hours, I've had quite an overwhelming response.

I received emails from representatives of the 32nd Avenue Jubilee Center as well as the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless. I also got an email from a gentleman whose son is involved with a youth division of the Habitat for Humanity. These people are completely amazing givers, and it's obvious from what they had to say that they understand the profound level of need that takes shape in the person who just sold you your lunch, walked past you on the street. It's that person relaxing on a park bench, the woman sitting next to you on the light rail. People who are living in a state of profound need are everywhere, and they're often overlooked. But not by the folks who emailed me today.

I got six emails from people who have items they'd like to add to my storage area. One woman has a whole house full of stuff she's parting with when she's moving to another city in March. There's a working washer and dryer combo. A recliner, sofa sleeper, coffee table. A tee vee or two.

As of right now, I've received 19 requests (more in my in box I have yet to read) from people who need what I found during my Free Time. But get this: 12 of the 19 requests were made by someone for someone else.

I think that's significant.

And this email had me at Hello. Well, it didn't exactly start that way.

Here's what Michelle had to say:

"Mary, my name is Michelle and I'm an outreach worker for a homeless shelter. I work with the less fortunate. I have a client I am working with now and she has a young child. I have searched all over Denver trying to get her in shelters, but they're all full. I have been able to put her in a motel for the time being. This young woman is very impressive. She very recently became employed, and used her very first paycheck on a deposit for an apartment. She takes the bus every day to work and to drop her child off at day care. She moves into her apartment on the 21st. I know this would help her tremendously, as she is starting with absolutely nothing but the clothes she has for herself and her child."

At 5:01, when I was untethered from my job, I gave Michelle a call.

Michelle is an amazing woman, and it's obvious to me that she picked the right profession. She graduated from Metro in 2009 with a BA in Human Services, with a concentration in high risk youth. She's an outreach worker/case manager for the St. Francis Shelter.

Outreach, in Michelle's case, means that she walks through Denver's less gentrified areas, looking for people who obviously need shelter.

She met my potential recipient at the shelter this past July.

That's where I'm closing the book on this chapter for today. Believe me - the rest of the story is worth revisiting. I have a few more facts to gather, and I want to talk with this woman. Michelle told me she works until 10 tonight. Then she has to take the bus to pick up her child and head to the motel.

And I thought I had a long day.

I don't think she'll be up for talking until tomorrow.

I have so much more to write about, but frankly I'm exhausted. I'm going to close this book until tomorrow, and listen to a little night music.

Note: Poker Face, Gaga, on the ipod, right this minute as I'm finishing. Say what you will. You can't not put a little groove on to this song.


  1. Mary,
    I have some nice tables I would like to donate. Two end tables and a coffee table, I can't find your info to email you so Im hoping you get this. My email is rachie1482@hotmail.com

  2. Yay! If you see this, email me at mnb504@aol.com, or read the blog I posted on Jan. 12!!!