I’m standing in front of a room filled with parents, teachers and students at the Eugene Country Club. This isn’t a normal crowd for the club.
These are kids who have had tough lives and managed to somehow turn their lives around.
Colleen Bellotti started the Turn Around Awards 21 years ago and I’ve been emceeing the event for close to 15 or 16 of those years.
Students get to share a bit of their story and every year there are many stories that touch you so deeply the room is quiet accept for sniffles and the sound of angel wings flapping in the room.
A girl named Angel took me to the depths of my soul today. She spoke of abuse and bad foster homes and how one day she decided enough was enough and she was going to turn her life around.
We sat there listening and as she talked the pulse of my heart became stronger and the valves in my tear ducts stopped working as streams of water ran down my cheeks.
I sit on the stage next to the students so everyone in the room is looking directly at me but I’m not embarrassed. When Angel finishes I rise to the podium and thank her for reminding me what it’s like to feel. Not to feel sorry or sad but to feel something so deep it hurts.
I cannot believe what children in our community endure. I cannot fathom what it must take for a young man to rise above the crap, on his own, because his parents are no longer around.
I watched parents, grandparents and great grandparents listen with video camera’s rolling as these kids they stood by all these years finally had a chapter in their story read of hope.
I wish everyone could experience what we got to take in today.
I thank God for Colleen Bellotti and her willingness to singlehandedly pay for and put on this program every year.
She is giving hope to what once were the hopeless. She is setting free what the world tries to hold hostage and Colleen is offering truth to those being told a lie by their past.
She doesn’t take much credit for this program and keeps it silent for the most part.
But this is what it means to change the world. You give value to someone who feels unimportant and things start to change.
You pay attention to the pain and the accomplishment and joy is the bi-product.
As I walked away from the ceremony there were plenty of hugs and kisses and tears. Lots of family pictures and lots memories made.
I think that’s what it’s really like to live in community….and I really like it.