The last few weeks have been contentious to say the least. Every time I turn on the television, I hear about crime, murder, riots, attacks, and our nation’s political scene has become very ugly.
I wrote an opinion piece for this newspaper last week and received several hateful and rude comments regarding what I thought was the exercise of my First Amendment right to freedom of speech.
I guess they did the same, but I chose not to threaten anyone or resort to profanity or name calling. I am above that.
People can’t seem to even have a civil disagreement anymore.
But in the middle of all the ugliness, a star shone bright last Friday night when Angie and I volunteered at the Night to Shine event at Christ Temple Church in Huntington, W.V.
We saw men and women give their time to a tremendous cause. They all rallied together, and it made us feel rejuvenated and restored our faith in mankind.
The prom for people with special needs was one of about 600 occurring at the same time across the United States.
The Tim Tebow Foundation sponsors the event, and this was the fourth year the church played host.
Angie and I were blown away and amazed by what we saw.
About 450 volunteers were on hand to make sure the 250 guests and 200 parents were treated to an unforgettable night.
For a few hours, they dressed up in their best and were treated like royalty. The ladies got their hair and makeup done by volunteers, and they got to choose stylish gowns and jewelry to wear.
The men had their ties tied just right, and I saw to it that their shoes shined bright.
I wore my tuxedo, and Angie stood out in her beautiful black dress. But we were there to serve. Our job was not to just shine shoes but to also make all who stopped by feel important and have a memorable experience.
For two plus hours, I stooped, wiped, cleaned, and shined shoes. Some were covered in dirt, but when I put them back on the ground after three or four minutes of elbow grease, they sparkled. I knew the recipients felt pride when they left my room and walked the red carpet with their dates.
It was my pleasure to do this.
I felt humility along with a sense of accomplishment, and I was also overcome with gratitude and thankfulness. Angie and I have two healthy sons and two amazing daughters-in-law. We enjoy a granddaughter who just turned five, and our grandson will make his appearance in May. We are blessed.
The parents at this event were overjoyed when they saw the expressions on their son’s faces after I completed my task.
But I could also see a look of exhaustion in some of their eyes camouflaged inside the brief smile. They are true champions for what they do every day to take care of their special children.
While the dancing and dining was going on in the main ball room, parents were treated to a meal and massages upstairs. They got a brief respite from their everyday lives.
Event coordinator Anneliese Caserta thought of everything. She is Wonder Woman in my eyes. She organized hundreds of volunteers and walked around with a plastic box of snacks to keep herself going. She was spectacular and has a heart for giving.
I was amazed at how well it all came off and how happy everyone appeared. Mounds of food were donated, there were limo rides for dates, and a color guard who raised swords when the guests entered. The names of each couple were announced prior to their red-carpet grand entrance, and paparazzi snapped pictures as family and volunteers applauded.
People with special needs are indeed unique.
One gentleman who came in to have his boots shined was able to calculate what day of the week people were born within seconds of hearing their birth dates.
Angie talked with him and told him our sons’ birthdays. He whipped off that they were born on a Tuesday and Wednesday. He was right!
I can’t do that. I have enough trouble remembering their birthday each year. He was beyond special and has an unusual gift.
Each person who attended had a special date, a volunteer who gave of their time to make sure the night was unforgettable and magical.
“I came here to help out, and I am getting more of a blessing by doing this than they are,” said Bethany Copley from South Point, Ohio. “This is amazing. It’s overwhelming too and just makes me feel good to do this.”
The smiles we witnessed were genuine and sincere.
When I finished with each customer, I asked if they were satisfied. No complaints. Thumbs up! I knew they appreciated my efforts, and my goal was to provide a grin from ear to ear and a sparkle on the tips of their shoes.
Although I did not wash their feet, I came close. Angie helped to guide them to their stool where I took care of their shoes. I had all I needed for the job.
And when each one left, we felt like God had shined our hearts a little too.
* We demonstrated kindness and love without boundaries.
* We tossed aside any notions of a social status. This was not beneath us.
* We humbled ourselves to service.
Charity suffereth long and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up. Does not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil. Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth. (I Corinthians 13: 4-6)
What can you do? Would you shine shoes? How can you put a smile on someone’s face?
Here are a few ways you can be a blessing each day:
* Engage in a random act of kindness.
* Leave a positive note or send flowers to a friend for no reason.
* Make amends that may be long overdue.
* Invite a stranger to your next church service.
* Pay for the coffee for the person behind you in line.
* Volunteer at a food bank.
* Visit someone in the hospital.
You don’t have to wait for next year’s prom to roll around. You can make someone feel special today.
Angie and I will never forget what happened to us last weekend. We were touched because in this hustle and bustle and selfish world, we watched people come together to make sure one night was special. We were honored to participate and help make someone’s night shine.
Del Duduit is an award-winning writer and author who lives in Lucasville, Ohio with his wife, Angie. They attend Rubyville Community Church. Follow his blog at delduduit.com/blog and his Twitter @delduduit. He is represented by Cyle Young of Hartline Literary Agency.
His first book — BUCKEYE BELIEVER - 40 Days of Devotions for The Ohio State Faithful —can be purchased on Amazon.