Saturday, December 31, 2011

Cowboy Up Dinner & Auction

The number of ways our family has been blessed this year is endless.  We are thankful for every single blessing, big or small.  But I would be remiss if the Cowboy Up Dinner & Auction was not on my 20 Great Things list.

I like to take the Hickle family out of the picture when I think about that event, because it really had so little to do with us.  We were the recipients of incredible amounts of support and kindness, but we could have easily been any other family in our community going through the same thing.  It was the biggest firsthand example I've seen of a community coming together to support a family.  Actually, I use the word "seen" loosely.  We know about the event, but weren't there to be part of it; Keith wasn't able to be out in public yet. That night, we drove by the high school while it was taking place, and both of us cried the rest of the way home.  Seeing the parking lot and surrounding streets filled with cars driven by people who were inside to support us was our most humbling experience ever.

There are many details I don't know about the auction.  What I do know is that it began as a spaghetti dinner and bunco game, intended to raise some money for us.  They figured 50-75 people might attend.  I remember when I received the e-mail from our friend Rene', saying that she and a few others wanted to organize something simple for us.  I couldn't even reply because my answer was "no" and I didn't want to hurt her feelings. I told our friend (and pastor), Scott, how I felt, and he told me that I would have to be willing to start accepting things from others.

What started small turned into something bigger than anyone imagined.  There was not an exact head count, but they figured over 600 people came.  People at the auction began texting us pictures of the crowd and sharing stories of all that was taking place. God Sightings were shared with us that night and for months to come.  It turned out that the food prepared for about 350-400 was enough to feed everyone.  Hundreds of donations filled tables for the silent auction, while still more were auctioned off during the live auction; there were tables lined with beautiful desserts; a musician friend had written a song for Keith and performed it that night for the first time; people generously gave to support our family, some of them we've never met;  Rocking Bar H t-shirts were made and sold... now,when I go into a store uptown and see a stranger wearing that shirt, or go to the school and see a child wearing that shirt, I can't even explain the emotion attached to that.  What a beatiful event, yet like I said, it had so little to do with us.

By far, the most difficult part of Keith's illness for me was being on the receiving end of generosity.  Money, most of all. When the auction was done and a group of friends came to bring us the proceeds, I wanted to give it all back. One part of me didn't want to swallow my pride enough to admit we needed help.  The other part of me, also prideful, didn't want to be under the scrutiny of others as life after the auction unfolded and people knew we had been generously gifted.

I'll admit I've struggled with scrutiny since the auction.  My concerns for how we would ever live our lives as normal were confirmed in the months to follow.  I tend to worry about what other people think, so it's especially hard on me.  The Bible tells us not to seek the approval of man, but to seek the approval of God, and I have to remind myself of that often.  One day, I asked a friend of ours, "How can we ever live normally after the auction, and after all the generosity we've been shown?  I feel like we have to re-pay everyone."  He replied, "Everyone is doing this for you so that you CAN live normally." 

The auction brought about even more goodness to us than being surrounded by the love of an incredible community, led by a group of true friends. It brought the lesson of continuing to keep our eyes on God, and following Him, even at times when we're feeling the pressure of the world.


Above and below, some of the faces who made the Cowboy Up Auction come to life.  They represent so many whose love have filled our hearts with gratitude.




As much as I wish we could have been there in person, it obviously wasn't God's plan for that to happen. We're humbled that it was His plan for us to receive the blessings we did, and we will always, always remember the love that He showed us through the hearts and hands of so many.

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