From Brett P.

I regularly enjoy having a happy hour cocktail after work with friends. Several evenings a week I am at a bar in Nashville called Canvas and hang out on the patio that is pretty much on the sidewalk out front. It is very close to the heart of Downtown and there is a lot of foot traffic, so it is no surprise we see a all different kinds of people.

Often, someone will come up and offer to sell us a paper, ask for money, bum a cigarette, and even at times ask us to buy them a beverage. For some of those requests we can't say yes because we aren't allowed to serve a drink or don't have any cash on us, so we usually wind up having to politely decline to help. Not because we don't want to help, it's just that we don't have what is needed at the time. 

Enter Lace Up With Love (LUWL). We're equipped now. Next door to Canvas is OutCentral, Nashville's LGBT+ Center. OutCentral has partnered with LUWL and keeps some of the bags that are created on-hand. Now, we have something to give and the interaction between those in need and those on the patio has become something far more constructive and even more equalizing. It's beautiful.

I can think of three different times that had a significant impact on me, the people around me, and of course the people given bags. 

There is a man, whose name I don't know, that is a frequenter of the area and his demeanor is often harsh and I have admittedly struggled to find compassion for him because of this. On a chilly night, he came to the patio and started his slurred speech and aggressive comments to me and others, and after a few minutes walked a short way in front of the building and just stood there. So I went next door, got a backpack, another generous person on the patio threw in a couple of bucks to add to the bag as well, and he took it. He stayed a while longer standing at a corner of the patio under the heater that is out this time of year- And he went totally silent. He just sat there, his entire demeanor had changed and slowly, he was smiling before he walked away. I can't help but wonder how long it had been since someone had done something nice for him. I hope this might be the ever so slight push into a more positive direction for him and when I see him next, that smile will remain.

Again, sitting on my perch on the patio, a couple of men came up, one in a wheelchair. I don't recall much of a conversation, but I did grab a couple of bags to hand out. I went to the center and came out with the two bags and handed them to them. My gosh, I have never seen two people become so excited. I thought the guy in the wheelchair was going to miraculously jump out of the chair. They both grabbed the bags and held them close and the one in the wheelchair looked up at his friend and in a tone much like a kid at Christmas or on their birthday, he said, "Look! We have bags!" The standing man shook my hand and told me that God blesses me. They left shortly after.

The third occasion was actually last night. He is a seller of The Contributor (Nashville's Street Newspaper) and came up to try to sell some papers. We talked for a few minutes. He has a very charming personality - name is Richard. We talked, and he sold a couple of papers and I saw that he already had a bag, so I thought to myself, what should I do? He has a bag. So, I just asked him, "What's in your bag?" then he handed it to me as if I were someone that wanted to search it and find something. I was afraid that I offended him or anything. Of course I didn't want to search it or anything like that, just wanted to know what he might need. He opened it and there was very little in it. So, I told him to hang on a minute and went to the center to grab a bag. I told him to take it, grab what he needed out of it, and keep it on him but to promise me that he will give the bag and the rest of its contents to someone else. He was thrilled. He really needed some of the toiletries that were in the bag. The conversation then got serious - he was completely surprised that we took the time to talk to him and help him. He is a black man and asked us why, specifically, white people often ignore him, look the other way, shoo him off, or scoff. I was paralyzed by the poignancy of the question and my friend and I could only say we didn't know but that there are people who care about him out there and we loved that he kept his spirits high and his smile bright.

Something else that is beautiful about where I have given out most of the bags thus far is that other people are seeing the impact right there in the moment and that is serving as motivation to donate. Already some of my friends are getting on board and are starting to contribute. It's catching on and it's amazing.

I can't wait to see who I will meet next. To date, I have probably given out about 15 bags and on Election Night, helped stuff that many, or more. To anyone that reads this I can tell you that few things in life have helped me understand my humility and my humanity than beginning this new, and what I hope will be a very long relationship with LUWL, and by extension, the under-served and incredible people living beneath the surface of our city.