Cold. I feel it every night as Toto and I head out for one last potty break before bedtime. Darkness fills the air, and the frost-covered grass crunches at our feet. A thin coating of ice covers the patio. Usually I attempt to hurry up the process to quickly return back into our warm, inviting home. But now I intentionally pause, linger for a moment, and look up at the crisp, star-filled sky. I say a prayer, one of gratitude, thanking God for my beautiful home filled with everything I need and also for giving me new eyes to remind me that others may not have the same blessings.
You see, I had lost perspective in my cozy, comfortable existence. I worried about my dog getting cold on our walks or our quick bathroom breaks, but I forgot that there are people, even children, who are living outside in the cold – in makeshift tent communities, temporary shelters, or even cardboard boxes.
Recently, I received a needed jolt from my privileged existence at a special event called Christmas Gift Indianapolis that benefitted over 2,000 homeless men, women, and children in our city. It was inspired and organized by my friend Bobby Hayden who lived as a heroin addict in a cardboard box for ten years. Bobby knows what it’s like to be cold, hungry, and lost. And now he helps others in similar situations – by providing practical gifts like blankets and warm coats but, as importantly, by sharing his redemptive story. Throughout the year, Bobby and his ministry partner, Lexi Laconi, travel the country sharing their message of hope through Cardboard Box Ministries.
It was the third year of the event, but the first for Toto, and he brought smiles – many of them toothless – to the guests we met. Toto’s story inspired them too. He was once homeless and cold, living outside on a patio with 15 other dogs until God brought us together.
Now Toto is warm, happy, and showered with love. And each night as we head out into the cold, I will remember and pray for those who do not have homes to return to, families who support them, or a dog like Toto to provide unconditional love.
We are truly blessed, and now it’s our turn to be a blessing to others.
Thank you, Bobby and Lexi, for your inspiration and dedication to the homeless people of Indianapolis and beyond. You are Toto-ally awesome!