Near and far, the 'little things' matter most
Right now, as we're watching our nation's families deal with the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, we're seeing neighbors helping neighbors in ways we may have never before imagined. In every borough, every township and in every city you can be assured there are helping hands reaching out, both in the form of big things and little things.
For me, the 'little things' usually appear as tiny nuggets of information gleaned from conversations on entirely different subjects, or from observing a small gesture of kindness someone performs not knowing anyone would notice.
Most of us inside the O. Bruton Smith Building are thinking about the fans we know who live in the hardest hit areas, worrying about the members of our Bristol family we know call those communities home. I'm thinking about the 'little things' many have told me about their hometowns, and how their reality now is forever changed. At the same time, I'm still reflecting on the 'big impact' of another recent 'little thing' for those of us who have the privilege of calling Bristol Motor Speedway 'the office'.
Each year on the anniversary of the passing of our former President and General Manager Jeff Byrd, our team takes on a community project in honor of him and what he stood for. It’s been two years now since his passing, but his generous spirit of community and genuine delight at being able to help others still surrounds us every day.
This year's project allowed us to join forces with The United Way of Bristol TN/VA and Feed The Children, an organization whose vision is quite simple – work toward a world where no child or family goes to bed hungry. In honor of Jeff, our contribution back to the community this year was to provide 800 families in our area with boxes of non-perishable food and household cleaning items. Hearts and hands worked for weeks to pull all the elements together, and on two separate days our team manned the distribution stations.
There were so many touching moments on the afternoon I participated, some that broke my heart and some that left me smiling for hours. But it's the side conversation with the principal of a nearby school – one whose students were receiving hundreds of food boxes – that left the most lasting impression. She shared that her school had gone over 'the 100 mark'. Her explanation left me stunned. In a school of 2,000 students, over 100 of them are now homeless.
The conversation was a little thing in the midst of a bigger project. And again, it's the little thing that's had the biggest impact. I'm sure the numbers are similar in school districts all over the country, and it's staggering to let that reality sink in sometimes.
As I take in the news reports of Hurricane Sandy’s rising damage toll, I can't help but struggle to comprehend how many more families are homeless now. Jeff Byrd's heart was huge, matched only in magnitude by his love of serving others.
I'm pretty certain the families who make up 'the 100 mark' were among those he would have hoped to help with our most recent project. And I know his heart would go out to all of these other families who are now our nation’s new homeless. In the midst of preparations, festivities and post-event assessments that the Bristol team deals with on a day-to-day basis here, it’s projects like the ones close to home – and the storm recovery efforts that are close to our hearts - that remind me to count my blessings daily.
I love being part of a team that cares about serving those around us. It would be easy to overlook the need amidst the energetic atmosphere Bristol is known for – and that’s why I welcome the 'little things' that force me to put things in perspective.