Christmas Day At Mariners Inn

It's Christmas Eve.  I've developed bronchitis - but I'm still moving forward with my plans for the day - box of Kleenex and cough drops in hand.  I've been out to do some last minute gift shopping and now I'm home.  I've fixed a cup of tea and started going through the pile of Little Bit Love Notes that people wrote and collected to send to me.  Before tonight, I had not gone through and actually counted how many Love Notes I had received.  And all of the estimates I'd worked through had fallen short of the 100 note goal I had set for myself.  So as I sat on the floor I started to count Love Notes.  And to my surprise, I had surpassed my goal!  Full blown excitement has now set in!  

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Once I sorted through the lovely notes, I began to stuff the Little Bit Holiday Cards.  In each card was a Little Bit Love Note and a Little Bit Card.  While I'm stuffing envelopes I stop and read some of the wonderful messages people wrote.  They opened up their hearts to strangers and cared enough to simply share a bit of encouragement.  I got notes from friends near and far.  Mr.  Whitley, a co-worker and friend, had his eighth grade students write some notes.  T. Gedda, a great friend who is doing some substitute teaching, had some third graders write some notes.  Arlene in NYC carefully crafted 15 little origami styled love notes and sent them to me.  Leslee wrote and decorated her love notes with stickers and such.  Monique penned some by hand.  Mikiah, Mikki, Medina, and Tracy all emailed me poems and messages filled with powerful words to help mend some broken hearts.  So as I stuff envelopes, I read some of the most beautiful things.... Click on each photo to get an up-close-and-personal view.  

By the time I finish reading some notes, stuffing envelopes, coughing, sneezing and drinking my tea, it's well after 1 AM.  I know I had to be at Mariners Inn by 8:30, so off to bed I go!

Christmas morning.  I'm up and excited about seeing my first Little Bit Project campaign reach a successful conclusion.  While I'm dressing my dear friend Tracy calls to let me know she wants to go with me to distribute the cards.  I swing by and pick her up - and we are off!  

                           My friend Tracy and me - ready to roll!  

                           My friend Tracy and me - ready to roll!  

When we arrive, we are warmly greeted by the men at the front desk.  They welcome us inside and take us to find Stephanie.  She has been my contact person at Mariners Inn since I started The Little Bit Project.  It's really great to see her.  We all go into the conference room and wait until the gentlemen have all finished their breakfasts.  Stephanie introduces me to the members of the staff who are present, and there are a lot of them!  There are also some other volunteers who have come to help make Christmas special for these men.  Mariners Inn is a homeless shelter and treatment center for men in the city of Detroit.  The energy in the room is amazing.  All of these different people have gathered to show love and make the day brighter for the men in this place.  It's just beautiful.  

Once breakfast is done, we go across the hall to the cafeteria.  The place is full of gentlemen - many sitting at the tables, some standing in the rear of the room and others along the sides.  There is a lot of positive energy in the room.  People are smiling, laughing and talking wth each other.  I'm just excited about putting these cards into the hands of these gentlemen and I'm hoping they will receive them with the same love I want them to feel.  

                            A mock layout of the design for this year's Little Bit Holiday Greeting Card.

                            A mock layout of the design for this year's Little Bit Holiday Greeting Card.

After a few people speak, it's my turn.  When I arrived, I wasn't planning to speak.  Stephanie told me I would say a few words right after we entered the cafeteria.  I was nervous, but thought I would be alright if I just spoke from my heart.  And that is what I did.  

I told the men that I started The Little Bit Project from my heart.  I told them that its purpose was to encourage and spread love.  I let them know that there was no other place I wanted to be that Christmas morning than with them; sharing something close to my heart in hopes that I could reach theirs.  I explained that friends and students had taken time to write well wishes especially for them.  I expressed my hope that they would use The Little Bit Card as a personal affirmation - a reminder of what is possible if they keep their faith and their focus.  I told them I had faith in them, and that I loved them.  I told them everything would be alright.  And they clapped.  And they said Amen.  And they smiled at me.  And at that moment all nervousness was gone and I just felt proud.  Proud of setting my mind to something and seeing it through.  Proud of the potential impact that my words, or actions could have on their futures.  Proud that one of my dreams for The Little Bit Project was coming true before my eyes.  

After I spoke a few others shared their thoughts.  Some of the people who spoke serve on the board at Mariners.  Some work there as counselors.  They all spoke with passion and compassion.  But the words that will forever stick with me were those of the gentlemen who reside at Mariners Inn.  One man shared that in his 66 years and all the Christmas celebrations that went with it, this was his first Merry Christmas.  Several said that it was the first Christmas they could remember being sober.  Everyone was supportive of each other.  Everyone listened to each other.  Some of them men cried.  Through it all my pride remained.  I was proud that I was able to witness these men admittedly being as honest with themselves as they had been in their lives.  

When my friend Tracy and I handed out the cards all of the men thanked us.  Some wished us a Merry Christmas.  Many of them said thank you and hugged us.  They thanked us for being there, for caring, for listening.  

   One of the Little Bit Love Notes being read by a resident at Mariners Inn.

   One of the Little Bit Love Notes being read by a resident at Mariners Inn.

As we were leaving, one of the men came back to me and said, "And this is called The Little Bit Project?"  I responded that he was correct.  Then he paused, smiled and said, "Well, for it to be called The Little Bit Project, you are doing big things."  And that was all I needed to hear.  

       The staff of Mariners Inn, some of the volunteers, and two of Detroit's finest - Christmas Day, 2015

       The staff of Mariners Inn, some of the volunteers, and two of Detroit's finest - Christmas Day, 2015

For more information about Mariners Inn or to see how you can help this amazing organization, visit their website by clicking here - Mariners Inn.