Last winter, my organization was chosen to be the nonprofit beneficiary of an event in our community called the Holiday Ball. It was organized by the rotary and usually attracted a huge number of people.
(Photo above is not actually the same Holiday Ball – I couldn’t find a good photo so I borrowed this one from the internet.)
It was a big buzz around the office – us being chosen for the ball. The tickets were expensive but one of our board members generously offered to buy tickets for our small handful of staff so we could all go.
As the event neared, a coworker and I were working at the shelter one evening and after things had calmed down, he asked me if I was planning to go to the ball.
I said I planned to, and he asked who I was going with. As it happens, I was single and didn’t really have anyone to take to the ball. That wasn’t a huge deal and I told him so.
As we were having this discussion, one of our clients was standing nearby. His name was Randy and we knew him quite well as he had been a long-time client of the outreach program and had stayed at the shelter almost every night that winter.
Randy is an older gentleman, a veteran, short and wiry, and can be a bit cantankerous. He also was undergoing treatment for cancer during that time and was having a miserable winter.
But, that evening, he overheard us talking about the ball and he jumped right in.
“Miss Christina, you just let me know if you need someone to go to the ball with you,” he said chuckling.
I laughed, “Thank you, Mr. Randy. That is sweet – I’ll let you know.”
“Yeah,” he continued, “I know the tickets are expensive and all but I’ll just go fly a sign on Main Street and ask for donations:
‘Need funds to take lady to the ball'”
He was joking, of course, but something also told me he would do it if asked. It wasn’t a romantic thing and it wasn’t inappropriate – it was just him returning the human kindness that our whole staff tried to show each night.
“Need funds to take lady to the ball.” The conversation stuck with me and those words still pop up in my memory from time to time and make me smile.
As it turned out, I went to the ball solo and had a fine time. I wore a fancy dress and heels and looked around at all the other people in their fancy outfits and thought the whole time about our clients getting settled onto the floor of a church a few blocks away.
What a world.
But the ball generated a large check to support our services and we were able to keep our shelter open for Randy to stay at through his cancer treatment.
Last time I saw him, he was looking better. He said he had finally told his adult children about his illness and they had invited him home to live with them and his grandchildren. He was thinking of arranging his affairs here and moving in a few months.