Three years ago on Easter Sunday, I had made enough money selling my teddy bears to finally leave living in the woods, in that little spot 20 miles from the nearest town with no car. I had made a great friend while living out there. In order to ship the bears that had been sold I walked 3 miles up to the nearest little hamlet where there was only a sheriff’s station, a convenience store, and a post office. Every day I would walk three 3 miles up and 3 miles back just to ship those bears, and one day a car pulled up beside me and said, “I see you walk everyday. Do you need a ride?” I soon came to discover that he was also in a similar boat as mine. He had no choice but to move so far away from civilization, he knew no one out there, and was struggling just as bad as I was. When he dropped me off, I told him to come over sometime if he wanted some company. He did. Often. We’d play cards, sit out in the grass and talk about our dreams, what we wanted out of life. We’d share our food. He’d give me lifts up to the post office so I wouldn’t have to take the 6 mile trek. He became a very good friend of mine. And once I had made enough money selling teddy bears, it was time to go and he offered to drive me four hours down to Orlando. So on Easter Sunday of 2011, Mario and I piled into his car and left the woods for good, with great thanks to all of you that supported me from the beginning and with many thanks to Travis who said to me when he dropped me off, “You’re gonna survive. You’re good at that. I’m gonna try, but I don’t think I’ve got the same fire that you do.”
I never saw, nor heard from him again. But, I’ve thought of him often.
On this last Easter Sunday there was quite a bit of nostalgia playing through my memory. I was resurrected that Sunday that Travis drove me out of the woods and into my future. That was the moment I gained something. I was so used to losing everything, however, that was the day that I GAINED, FINALLY, something….hope, a future, a purpose. I spent the day thinking about that….And three years after that I was now ready to make another leap into rebirth.
This Sunday though, I was met with something that I had never expected. I discovered so many people are disappointed in me. I never saw that coming. But, I understand it. I crumbled. I was shaky. I contacted two very close people to me. My friend in Wyoming and a new friend in the Netherlands. I told them how devastated I was. It was never my intention to anger anyone. I felt like an absolute disaster. They both reminded me, that for the many people who are disappointed and angry, there are still quite a few that believe in me and wish to see me succeed.
“I’m gonna try….but, I don’t think I’ve got that same fire that you do.”
And that kept haunting me. He drove me out of the woods and back into the world because he believed in me. He saw something in me that inspired him. He saw that I had a chance….because of that fire in me. Its amazing how a month long friendship became a lifelong sense of purpose and duty.
To all of you that believe in me, I owe it to you to continue. I owe it you to continue surviving. Scratch that. I owe it to you to THRIVE. You’ve invested in me not only your commerce, but your hope. That a little man with a set of knitting needles doesn’t just knit teddy bears, but reminds with his writing about his life and his craft, that hope, determination, community, and civility still resound loud and strong in a world of screaming and yelling.
I cannot apologize enough for not having some of your bears out on time. I am doing my absolute best to make everyone happy and get them done in a timely order. And I’ve seen some argument about how I can sell bears if I haven’t delivered the ones that were already ordered. Well, I have to keep moving forward, keep going. I have to survive (quit saying that, I tell myself, say THRIVE). Since my first sell in 2011, I have knit and mailed nearly 1700 bears by now. That is a LOT of teddy bears. And they keep going out everyday. One after another. And though some may be late, they always arrive. They may not be on time, but they get there. And I have some of the most amazing supporters anyone can ask for. They defend and say, “It was worth the wait. That little teddy bear showed up on my worst day and made it better.” That matters to me. That keeps me going.
So, to those of you that have not received your bears, they are coming. I apologize for the delay, but they are coming. And I promise you when you open that box and see him wrapped in that little brown paper with only his eyes peeking out, you will melt. And the tag wrapped around his neck with a note from me will remind you that no matter what happened, that little bear was worth the delay. You have something to cling to, to hold, to bring into actual life all the hope and joy you’ve wanted to see exist in the world.
It is because of this that I spent Easter Sunday thinking about all of you that took me out of the woods, out of homelessness, and into life, into purpose. And I made a decision that the future of this blog, the future of these bears would rest in your hands. This endeavor of mine rests on what you want. I’ve been told I don’t communicate enough. Very well. I give you my pledge that every single email be answered, and that this blog will also feature YOU. You can say what you want, good or bad, but it must be written with your name. No screen names. It must be your name with contact information. And I’ll post your writing here on this blog as a featured guest. Good or bad. I want to add more video content. I want to do more video blogs showing you the process of this knitting of mine. I want to offer more interaction. More skyping, where you can talk to me and speak with me. Ask me why I’m doing well, or why I’m aggravating you. I want us ALL to be involved in this. I owe my everything and anything to YOU….and I want to be more accessible in more than just emails. I want us to be a community. If you’re mad at me, I’ll listen. If you have questions about knitting with double pointed needles, I’ll do what I can to help you. If you want to show me your own projects, I’ll look at them and possibly share them with others.
So, I guess my announcement is, this blog is now in your hands. If you want me to go, I’ll go. I’ll shut this down and go. And then figure out what to do from there. But, if you want me here, if you want us all to be a part of something that can really do some good (by reminding me of being bad at things), I’m in. If you want this to be a community, a place of refuge,
….if you are.
The future of this blog and these teddy bears is now in your hands.