Just when I think I’m done with getting emotional about this journey, Dean Cavenaugh, Jerrid, and Meredith find a way to bring it all back to the surface, and I have to say I love them for it. Once again, I got up this morning knowing that we were going to have an eventful day, and once again I underestimated how much it would affect me (I think I’m noticing a trend here, what about you?).
After driving though downtown Orlando, our final stop was at the Coalition for the Homeless headquarters for Central Florida. Walking into the area, I could see fathers, mothers, grandmothers, and children all roaming around the grounds. The first stop we had when we got there was at the front desk, where we met Jenn, who works at the coalition. She was extremely sweet and easy to talk to, and made us all feel welcome and comfortable. After some brief introductions and a little description of what the Coalition stands for, Jenn gave us a tour of the facilities. As we were walking through a hallway towards the back door to the daycare center, a man walked into the building pushing a cart with boxes for the coalition, and behind him ran an adorable little boy. I only got a glimpse of him as he ran by to catch up to who I assumed was his father.
After taking a look at the daycare center, then an area of the building where residents get the chance to earn degrees while staying in the coaliton (which I thought was amazing, by the way), we learned that we were going to get to do arts and crafts with some of the mothers and children. That actually got me excited; I was hoping we would get a chance to lift up their spirits in some way, even though our impact on them may be small. When we walked into the dining area to meet the kids, I saw the little boy from the hallway. He looked so sweet, I immediately started talking to him, and eventually sat next to him to work on crafts. His name was Nelson, and he is the most amazing little 4-year old. Not only is he super polite, always saying please and thank you, but he is extremely smart as well. I got him paints to work on decorating a picture frame, and he couldn’t find the color pink, so he immediately starting mixing white and red to make the color he wanted. It was so much fun to talk to him. He is just such a bright kid. I also met Nelson’s dad, who came to sit with Nelson and I and make a frame of his own. He was also extremely kind, and ran to get us anything that we needed, from paper towels to wipe paint stains to a bucket of water to clean the brushes.
As Nelson got more and more comfortable with me, he eventually moved onto my lap to work on his painting, putting coat after coat of pink paint to make it perfect, paying special attention to every corner. While he worked on that, I made him a frame with his favorite colors, blue and green, and he helped me pick out the letters of his name from a sticker bin to put on the frame. When he finally declared that his frame was finished, he turned to look at me, held up the frame, and said “I made it for you!” It was at that moment that my heart just melted. Here was this incredibly amazing little boy who unfortunately didn’t have much in this world besides his parents, who spent so much time and attention on this frame, and he had been making it for me, a person he had just met. Looking at this sweet little boy, it took all I had not to break down in front of him. When it was time for him to leave, I handed him the frame I made for him and walked him to his father, who was now across the room. Before they left, Nelson wrapped his little arms around my legs, and I immediately picked him up and gave him the biggest hug I could manage. As he said goodbye, his father thanked me for spending the day with his son, and all I could think was no sir, thank you.
Children like Nelson are plentiful at the Coalition for the Homeless. After meeting him, I know for a fact that I will be back to the coalition as a volunteer, and I think everyone who can should do the same. Here’s a link to the website for the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida. Please check it out: