On Aug. 25., 2017, as Texas began to feel the wrath of Hurricane Harvey as the Category 4 hurricane became the first major hurricane to strike southern Texas since Celia in 1970, two Wildland Firefighters, Kevin Conley and Jay Anderson from Montana, left their jobs to go help those who were looking at their life in tatters after the catastrophe natural disaster. (Read the story here.)
Fast-forward to 2018, and Kevin is back at it again — helping those in need.
This time, he embarked on a bicycle tour from the Canadian border to the Mexican border, spreading hope (and food) to the homeless along the way.
In an open post on Facebook two weeks ago, he wrote:
If life has taught me one thing, it’s that time is something that we can never get back. See the time, like the ocean, is constantly moving, constantly changing and moments are rising or falling. These moments we have in time are what make us who we are. What we make of this time, how we share this time, how we look at time – is up to us to sculpt.
I want my time to be happy. I want my time to be fruitful and meaningful. My heart tells me to spend this time giving back to others, enriching others souls and spreading smiles and laughter constantly. Like the ocean, sometimes my giving soul is powerful and has big waves and at others I let the waves crash and take time to myself – exploring the mountains, singing with the wildflowers and feeling the sizzles of the setting sun.
A few days ago was a peak of my waves. It was Burgers and love, day whatever. Cloudy, on the brink of rain as I pulled up to Dicks Cheeseburgers. We have a deal where I call them 30 minutes ahead of time so they can have 30 burgers ready for me when I get there.
When I arrive, There is a couple on the sidewalk as I pull in. With a sign, asking for help, food and writing about there struggle.
I get my burgers and as I load them into my car, I walk over and ask how they’re doing and if they’re hungry. Unbeknownst to them, I have sleeping bags, beanies, socks, tarps, and hugs tucked into my Subaru and heart.
Mind you, they’re sitting/standing 30 feet from a burger joint with hundreds of customers an hour and they’re still hungry. I grab a couple burgers for them both and started to talk to them. They had real names but the names they like were Oger and Ladybug. Oger used to work at a public school and because of the way he walked, the students called him Oger and he likes it and stuck with it. As they dug into there burgers, I asked if they needed anything else.
They said no, burgers are enough. So I said what about socks, you know switching out socks is good for your feet. They responded oh yeah, we would love socks. Next, came what about your heads, do y’all have beanies and then I threw those out. Next was, where do y’all stay, they replied – over there in that parking garage. I asked about if they had sleeping bags and they said they did. I asked are they in good condition and they told me yes, as I pried a bit Oger told me they had tons of bugs in them and were very dirty.
They were happy with what I gave them and wanted no more, however, I continued. I said well, I have two brand new sleepings bags for you. I snagged them out of my car and laid them next to them. They both started to get very emotional. Through this whole moment ladybug kept saying ‘who are you, who are you’ ‘why are you doing this.’ There is a lot more to this story, how Ladybug is, is going to rehab soon because she wants too and how Oger is sober and fighting to keep them both strong and healthy. This moment I shared with them, this time, was one of the most important and memorable meaningful moments of my life. Making another human(s), people, friends, smile and feel loved for a moment. This meant the world to me and I’m sure it meant a lot to them.
There are a lot of untold stories with my journeys helping others. I don’t do this for any thank yous, praise or that a boy. I do this because my hearts tells me too, because my parents raised me to be a giving and grateful man. My parents have done so much for this world, from helping veterans to Down syndrome folks to cystic fibrosis folks to homeless work to delivering bikes to unfortunate children in DC on Christmas Eve when I was about 6 years old – my parents’ hard work for others has truly crafted me into the man I am today. I help others for the simple reason that we all need love and to me, compassion to others is so important. Why not make someone else’s day better? I am able, so every chance I get I will go out of my way to help a friend and help a stranger.
Time, you will never get it back. Moments come and go. Make the best of your time, make your moments meaningful and full of love and compassion. Chase waterfalls, help people, hug strangers, hug your parents, listen to people and most of all love yourself and the world around you.
And to end this. Smile, it’s the easiest thing you can do!
This is Trees and I.
200 burgers and counting.
(see the orginal post below)
From the road, Kevin relayed his rather excellent new adventure.
“I’m riding my bicycle from the Canadian Border to the Mexican Border, 1,850 Miles and attempting to raise money to help homelessness in Seattle, Washington,” he tells Kindness and Hope. “I absolutely love riding my bicycle, the freedoms, the big climbs and descents the fresh air in your hair, the long 100 mile days, the people, the pushes and the peace of nature.
He adds: “I also have a deep passion for helping others – so I choose to dedicate my ride to help others in need.”
He says, along the way, there have been encounters which have been nothing short of heartbreaking.
“Truthfully, for me every homeless person I spend time with or eat breakfast or a meal with or share a hug and love with is heartbreaking,” he explains.
“Knowing, that I get to leave, I get friends to call and friends to spend time with, that I can go take a shower and order a pizza and travel around the country freely and go for adventures. As I know, they will still be stuck on the streets for who knows how many months or years. It breaks my heart leaving them, but I try to live in that moment and give them all I can for a few minutes or an hour.
“It just breaks my heart that so many people in our country and in this world are going through such difficult times and treated so poorly.”
But there are moments, too, when he realizes how the smallest of things, can really make a difference in someone’s life.
“It’s uplifting when I see a couple outside on the streets, with nothing,” Kevin says. ” They don’t know it, but in my big backpack, I have a couple sleeping bags, gloves, beanies, tarps, a tent, socks and some food. I ask them, what they need… Do you need a new pair of socks, they always reply ‘yes’ and then I go down the list and whip everything out of my backpack and hand it to them, share our names and give each other hugs and share tears on the sidewalks.”
He continues: “That moment of giving someone with nothing, a little something that will help them to stay warm and brand new stuff to make them happy for a moment. That inspires me to continue on a path of giving and when we share tears it makes it even more impactful. That simple moment of helping someone and how they are touched by it – is so special that words can not describe it. The power of love is a power that can’t be destroyed – a power that is too strong to describe, we must feel it and spread it.”
In his eyes, the common misconception of the homeless is so far removed from the reality of those out on the streets.
“The misconception is that every homeless person is on drugs or alcohol and that’s the reason they all beg money for,” he says. “It’s absolutely not true, I’ve worked with thousands of homeless people, PEOPLE, we all need love and I’d say nearly 80% were clean off drugs and had mental illnesses, were battered women or just were down on their luck. No matter what, I don’t blame a person in that condition to want to use drugs or alcohol to escape that rough life for a few minutes.
“We must all love each other – no matter where we are – spread love, spread food, and money to people in need, spread a smile, spread human connection – we are all one, let’s fight for each other and make this world a better place!”
What more can we ALL do to help this escalating issue?
Kevin says matter-of-factly: “Education. Teaching. Listening. Seeing people as people and treating everyone like family and friends and with love, dignity, respect and as a human being. We all need love.”
Kevin has now completed his bicycle journey, but not his life journey of helping those who need it the most — and it’s not too late to donate to his charity as he continues on his mission of giving back,
You can help him make a difference, by clicking HERE.