Buckle your seat belts, you are about to be inspired!
Today is the 5th installment in our series. When I first imagined this series of guest posts from my friends answering the question “What does being brave look like to you?” I thought of my friend Chris Bailey first. I have introduced you to Chris on my blog before. In fact, I would invite you to go back and read THIS post after you read Chris’s words below.
Chris and I grew up in Arlington, Texas. He was one of my sister’s best friends in high school and we reconnected years later on Facebook. I have been inspired and challenged by Chris’s example repeatedly. Chris loves BIG! Although he does not consider himself a Jesus guy, I often tell him he acts more like Jesus than many people who do (including me.) He accidentally started a movement called Everybody Love Everybody and he lives it everyday. Currently, the ELE Facebook group has over 56,000 members! His enthusiasm for helping people and spreading love is contagious and I can’t wait for you to hear his story.
Welcome, my giant-hearted friend Chris Bailey a.k.a. Santa
I don’t remember an exact point in time when I thought I should be the guy that helps others. It kinda happened organically. When I was a kid, I collected money door to door for Jerry’s Kids. I liked to do walk-a-thons for charities. I just thought that was fun. I never thought of myself as making an impact….just having fun.
Fast forward 25 or so years. One day, while trying to make room for Santa to come see my 2 year old son, I was cleaning out his playroom. Clearly, the only thing wrong with his toys, is that they no longer held his attention. I didn’t want to throw them away. I had an idea…..I would drive over to the Section 8 Housing Projects and see if the kids there wanted them. Well….THEY DID!!! It was so nice seeing kids appreciate someone giving them something (even if it wasn’t new), that I decided I would start doing this every year. Fast forward again…..Facebook came out, and I decided to ask my friends if they had any toys they would like to donate. They said, “Yeah, but we would like to go with you.” OK!!! Cool. Let’s all meet somewhere and go together. Bailey’s Annual Toy Drive was born.
It didn’t stop there. Over the years, it has grown exponentially. This past Christmas was our 15th Annual. My friends and I delivered TWO 26 ft long and one 18 ft long U-Hauls FULL of bicycles and toys. I now grow my beard out for the 6 months leading up to the delivery and dress up as Santa. I absolutely LOVE that these kids KNOW that there IS a Santa, and that he didn’t forget about them.
HERE IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART: none of this costs me a single penny. Literally ZERO. The trucks are donated. The toys and bikes are donated. Everyone’s time is donated. We provide Christmas to about 250 kids for ZERO DOLLARS.
One day, just before Christmas, I was the designated driver for my wife and her friends to an event in Dallas. I was to drop them off, and then just kill some time until they called me to be picked up. While driving around Dallas, I saw a guy standing outside of a 7-11. It was about 9:00 and it was FREEZING outside with crazy winds. I went in to the 7-11 to get a drink. On my way out, I asked him if he was hungry. He said he was. I told him to meet me at the fried chicken place right next door, and I would get him some dinner. He got a warm meal and a warm place to hang out for a few hours until they closed. I know it didn’t change his life, but maybe it just made today a little better than yesterday.
That night, I decided that my New Year’s resolution was going to be to feed or help at least one homeless person a week. Seriously…not a tough commitment. That was about 6 years ago, and to this day, the only New Year’s resolution I have ever kept.
BUT, it turns out, ONE was not enough for me. When I find myself between sales appointments, and in a part of town where I might be able to find some of my homeless friends, I try to USE my “down time” wisely (there really is no down time, just time you don’t use wisely). I will go to Jack In The Box and buy 100 tacos. It costs $53.58. Then I will go walk down the street and just hand them out. I have never once had a bad experience. Never felt unsafe. Never even had someone be rude to me while doing it. I also may buy 75 McDonald’s burgers, or maybe 10 pizzas…..Whatever. They are very appreciative. I do this at least once every two weeks. Here’s how: I get paid every two weeks. I have a separate account that I have 2% of every paycheck deposited into. IT’S TWO PERCENT! I never miss it. That 2% is used at my discretion, but is ONLY used for helping people. I have helped single moms keep their electricity on. I have bought diapers and baby formula for struggling parents. I have paid for prescriptions when someone couldn’t afford them. There is also ALWAYS money left to help or feed my homeless friends. Last year, best I can figure, I fed or helped approximately 1750 homeless friends, with money I didn’t miss at all.
Every year, I post on my neighborhood Facebook page that I am taking donations of blankets, coats, and sleeping bags. I can usually get a pickup truck load in about 72 hours and deliver them. SUPER EASY thing to do. This year, I had an idea: I made an Amazon Wish List for sleeping bags. Anyone could click on the Amazon link and order a $25 sleeping bag, and it would ship directly to me, and I would deliver it. WELL…I had NO IDEA what was about to happen! From December 26th to January 26th, I received and delivered 733 sleeping bags to my homeless friends. I met a young lady named Leslie. I handed her a sleeping bag and she said, “Thank you so much. It was so cold last night (mid 20s). I slept on the sidewalk, and all I had to keep me warm was this sweater.” WOW!!! If you think you can’t change someone’s life- that sleeping bag changed Leslie’s life.
In January, while handing out sleeping bags, I met a lady named Wanda. I overheard her talking to her friend Sandra. They were talking about how they were about to get off the streets. Their name was on top of the list to get out of the shelters and get an apartment. I stuck my nose where it didn’t belong and asked them, “What are you going to furnish your apartment with?” Wanda said, “Ummm, nothing. All I have is the clothes on my back.” I told them, “Don’t worry. I am going to furnish your place for you. I will get EVERYTHING you need.” They started crying. I don’t think they believed me, but I gave them my card with my cell and told them to text me when they got their keys. A few days later, they texted that they were getting their keys in a week. I posted on my neighborhood Facebook page that I needed home furnishings for 2 wonderful ladies that were getting a place, and I posted their pictures (to make them real). Within 72 hours, I had each of them a bed with all of the bedding, linens, towels, toiletries, cleaning supplies, leather sofa, leather chairs, 50” flat screen TV, pots and pans (nicer than mine), dishes, silverware, groceries and about $700 in WalMart gift cards for clothes. ALL OF IT was donated by my friends, and even total strangers. We literally changed Wanda’s and Sandra’s lives. It didn’t cost me a penny. NOTHING! Just thinking outside the box.
(From Kelly: See link below to tour Sandra and Wanda’s new place! Chris has started a YouTube channel to inspire others to get involved and be forces for good in the community. )
When I don’t have “stuff” to deliver, or people to feed, I JUST SPREAD THE LOVE. I have a sign that is about 2’x3’ and in big black letters says “EVERYBODY LOVE EVERYBODY” I spend at least 30 minutes every day (weather and health permitting) standing on the busiest street corner I can find, and I just hold my sign for everyone to see. It’s not going to change anyone’s life, but I DO have people pull over to give me hugs and tell me it DID change their day. THAT’S why I’ll be back out with my sign again tomorrow.
One more thing…..I haven’t always been like this. I was raised by an abusive, racist father. I grew up using the wrong words. I told the wrong jokes. I was not heading in a direction that I was proud of. I CHANGED!!! BE BRAVE!!!! When someone says, “People don’t change.” I say, “Not if they don’t want to.” Truth is, people can absolutely change. If you are reading this, I challenge you to help a total stranger than could NEVER pay you back. It WILL change you.