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~Tuesday~  I dropped off my car bright and early at Thompson-Cadillac-Pontiac-GMC Collision Repair, where after checking it in they had someone from Enterprise come get me to obtain the rental car I'll be using while they're doing the repair work.

Katie, Enterprise Assistant Manager, picked me up in a Chevy Cobalt, and drove me the short way up the street to the rental car place.

While I was waiting for her to get my contract set up, I took out my wallet with a huge wad of cash in it, a lot of it consisting of one dollar bills that I'd removed from my Camry while it's being worked on.

I said to Katie, "You don't need any change do you?"

"We actually don't take cash," she responded.

Whenever I hear that, and thankfully it's not often, I always think, "Is that legal, to not take cash?" It just doesn't seem right.

She must have sensed my eyebrow-raising internal response, and added, "That's to avoid being robbed. When we did take cash, people would know that we might get a huge amount of cash when someone turns a car in, and it made us more vulnerable."

While she was setting up my contract, she was on the phone, and at one point was entering data into the computer, speaking on the phone, and in between that had put someone on hold on another line.

I was making notes on my phone when she asked, "What year, make, and model is your car?"

I didn't answer her, not because I wasn't paying attention or didn't hear her, but because I thought she was talking to the person she was on the phone with.

"Mr. Martin? The year, make, and model of your car?"

Once everything was set up, she gave me a choice of a Chevy Cobalt or a Ford Focus, and I chose the Ford. After doing a walk-around to make sure there were no damages already on it, in parting I said to her, "You're beautiful."

She looked at me, caught a little off-guard it seemed to me, so I added, "And I'm gay, so I'm not trying to pick you up or anything."



Back at home, I added a frozen lunch to my briefcase, and I caught the Wolfline #9 Greek Village bus in to work.

A guy sitting across from me was deliciously hairy. A brainy girl sat to my right and she was reading Siri Mitchell's She Walks in Beauty.



Today's collection of affirmations are the notes I received in my "affirmation bag" over the course of the week on the Alternative Spring Break Gulf Coast trip, doing post-Katrin Habitat for Humanity service with NC State's ASB program.

I didn't get a picture of this year's bags, but last year's looked like this:

ASB 2010 trip affirmation bags


People can put notes in these bags for any reason, day or night, anonymous or signed. This is something that's pretty much done on all of the NC State's Alternative Service Break trips, and it's—by far—my favorite part of the experience, being the affirmation whore that I am. :-)

Note related specifically to my service as driver for the team:


John,

Thanks for driving our butts around! You're great!



Notes related to my service of creating and publishing the team's blog entries for the week:

John,

I read our blogs every day. They're great, and I appreciate you writing them.

John,

Glad to have you as my co-advisor. Thanks for working so hard on the blog.

Joyce



Notes related to the reflection I led on Monday evening addressing the use of the phrase, "That's retarded," and the various interpretations of the word "queer."

John!

Thank you so much for driving the van for us, I would be completely stressed out by it. I thought our reflection tonight was good, people don't think about the power of words often enough.

Blair

John,

Thanks for leading reflection time tonight. I think it is great that you reminded us of how hurtful words can be, even when unintentional. Thanks for being open, too.

Pressly

John,

Thanks for bringing up the discussion of the word queer. I have a gay aunt who is an amazing person, and I agree that people/society need to be more careful with what they say.



Notes related to our Wednesday night's reflection in which people drew pictures to represent pivotal points in their lives and then shared the backstory to them with the team. Being a writer and not a drawer, I chose to share a small piece I wrote that talks about the defining moment of my life to date.

Long-time readers of my blog will already be familiar with this piece. I wrote it several years ago in a "prompt-writing" class, and the prompt was, "Write about running away...":


I ran away into my intended life on August 5, 1978. That's when I married — a woman.

It was like I went through a door — a closet door — that had a sign on it that said, "Your Expected Life."

For 16 years I worked as hard as I could, with the greatest of intentions. I intended to have a good relationship with my wife — and I did — well, all except the sex. My wife and I grew together — we shared life goals and life dreams, and we were good friends. Our families and all our friends remarked on our remarkable marriage. And I intended to honor my marriage vows, of being faithful — and I did — for 16 years.

I intended to be successful professionally — and I was. I had the job at IBM. I had the $200,000 house while still in my twenties, and I intentionally drove around in my BMW.

The years passed and those intentions began to wear me out. I got tired. I got real tired. And then, one day, riding home from IBM to that $200,000 house in that BMW, I wondered, "Is there any way that I could drive this "ultimate performance machine" into that ravine in such a way that I could be sure I wouldn't have to live with an 'intending to die' for the rest of my life?"

That was my turning point. That was the day I decided to live my authentic life. And I look forward now, thinking, "Thank [insert deity of choice here] that I didn't live my entire life here with only good intentions."


And here are the notes I received about sharing that:

John,

Thanks for sharing tonight. I appreciate all that you have done so far!

xoxo
Miriam

John,

Thanks so much for opening up and sharing your personal past with the whole group this week. I think we can all learn from your insight and life experiences and to look to your story as an inspiration and guide to live as our "authentic self" instead of how society says we should.

Tracy


The next three contain affirmations for a variety of things from just "being there" to "making a difference":

John, John, John,

THANK YOU! That day in the mall parking lot when you told me that maybe I should think about my option of leaving really made me sad. I felt like a burden to the team. And I considered leaving. BUT thank you. I could really depend on you if I needed anything. I <3 your dance moves and I wish we had longer. :-)

STAY in TOUCH,
Victoria

Dear John,

Thank you for all the work you did for everyone. You were a great driver, a great spokesperson/blogger, a great leader, and encourager. Thank you so much!

Stay awesome,
Branson

John,

I am enjoying getting to know you on this trip. It is easy to see how much you want to change the world and make a difference, and I think you are very successful at it. I am impressed that you came to NOLA two years in a row, to continue work where you feel needed, as opposed to merely traveling somewhere new.


I've saved this one for last, because it touched me the most for a number of reasons:

  1. It reveals a profound personal growth in its author, which is one of the fundamental goals of the ASB program.

  2. It confirms success in my goal to be a role model on these trips and to change peoples' hearts and minds simply by being my authentic self.

  3. It contains an apology to an entire community.

  4. It's from a guy, and guys usually have a hard time sharing—or just aren't willing to share—this deeply, particularly on this topic, which means that we created an environment safe enough in which to do that.

So, as I said at the airport, Chris, thank you for that.

John,

Thank you for taking the time to come down and drive, lead, and teach words of wisdom. I apologize for anything I said that offended the gay community. I have no right to judge anyone for anything. Living through my life I have never been friends with a member of the gay community so society painted terrible pictures into my head, which created a negative perception. I am pleased and more than happy to say you are my friend and always will. You made me a better, less ignorant human and there aren't enough words to explain my appreciation.

Your good friend,
Chris

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
an0penletterto
Mar. 17th, 2011 07:59 pm (UTC)
Go John, go John, it's ya birthday, it's ya birthday!

(Now I'm doing The Running Man, even though you can't see it)
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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