Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another chapter of Grateful Heart Monday, where I show appreciation and gratitude for someone or something that’s touched my heart, which for today is for a generous and humble individual named Randy Sutherland.

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Randy at a men’s coffee group here in Toledo and ever since, I’ve gotten to see how great of a guy he truly is. Always friendly and warm, Randy is such an extremely approachable person. I honestly can’t say I’ve ever seen him yelling or mad at anyone. While I’m sure he’s had his moments like we all do from time to time, I have never seen him acting negatively towards anyone. Rather, he usually just has a genuine smile on this face and offered plenty of good conversation.

I really began to see the generosity of Randy with the several parties he regularly opens his house up to for everyone to enjoy during various times of the year. During the middle of the summer, it’s a garden party where people get to see his ornate talent and skills throughout his beautiful backyard. During the fall, it’s his costumed Halloween parties that have been a huge blast for those who’ve attended. And just after every new year begins, it’s his post-holiday get-togethers where guests get to see much of his exquisite decorating and are treated to a fun bash of treats and foods all around his home.

And speaking of decorating, one of the things I’ve come to really admire about Randy is how he uses that talent every year to spruce up a part of the Wildwood Manor House in Wildwood Park when it’s opened up to the public every December for just over a week for special Christmas tours. Randy is quite accomplished when it comes to his eye for decorating, especially there, often using mannequins throughout his displays. One such display really moved me a few years ago in the great room of this Wildwood Manor home, where he uniquely placed a male mannequin romantically proposing to another male mannequin, something that I felt was a very bold move for this ultra conservative area, and one I really appreciated Randy for doing.

While I haven’t ever had the pleasure of hanging out with Randy one on one, I do know from others that he’s a very loyal and giving friend and someone people really look forward to being around because he’s just that nice of a guy.

Selfless, kind, and caring, I’m grateful to be a part of Randy’s extended network of friends and simply wanted to put a little something out there for someone who I think is rather humble and would never expect anything like this to be written about him. Randy Sutherland is definitely someone who deserves some praise and gratitude for once, which is precisely why I picked him as the recipient for today’s Grateful Heart Monday.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to Grateful Heart Monday, a time for reflection upon a single piece of gratitude from my life, which for today is for a gift I feel God has given me to help people feel comfortable enough opening up to me about many parts of their lives, who might not normally do otherwise with the vast majority of others.

Over the years, I’ve definitely come across plenty who initially come across quite distant, closed-minded, and overly superficial in conversation. Yet, in me just being me, I’ve watched as so many of them have opened up about various parts of themselves that have often never been shared with others. I’ve also seen how this has helped them, as much as it’s helped me in the process, as I’m grateful anytime I feel like I’m making a positive difference in anyone’s life.

Like for example, recently someone I honestly didn’t know really at all, other than through a Facebook conversation or two, told me how much they were truly struggling with their life and didn’t know how to keep going. They shared how alone they felt and even at one point had talked about a very painful childhood experience where they were taken advantage of around the age of 14. I was very thankful when they told me how much it meant to them and I was grateful that I had held space for this person for at least our brief connection, as I know it helped them feel slightly less alone in their world.

I feel this gift falls under the 12th Step work I do in the world of recovery from addictions. And while the 12th Step work doesn’t necessarily always apply to those with addictions, it is a part of the step itself. As the 12th Step says, “Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all areas of our lives.” And for me that means to be a vessel, as best as I can, who’s there to help those who might be broken, hurt, or suffering, by simply remaining judgment free, by sharing the pain of my past that I’ve been able to heal from, and to show unconditional love no matter what.

Sometimes in me using this gift, I’ve seen incredible spiritual transformations begin in others. Other times I’ve developed great friendships out of it. And for even those times when an individual has opened up with me and then quickly disappeared from my life out of it being too uncomfortable for them, usually because they feel they’ve shared too much, I’m still blessed in knowing that at least for a moment, I was able to help shine some light into their own darkness.

So, I am filled with gratitude for continuing to work with this gift, to help others feel safe with me enough to go deeper in conversation, who might not normally be that way with others, and I pray that God continues to guide me in further developing this gift for His purposes and His purposes alone.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to the Grateful Heart Monday series, where a piece of gratitude from my life is always shared to start my week off on a positive note, which for today is for the two new friends that came into my life only a few months ago, but have blessed it immensely ever since.

For years here in Toledo, I have tried my hardest to make some deep quality friends and have truly struggled in that department, having only developed one good friend here named Frank that began back in 2014. In Massachusetts, the place I lived before here, I seemed to make good friends wherever I went and had an extremely busy social calendar more than not because of it. I have really missed that and have prayed to God year after year here to bring a few more people into my life who would like to spend time with me, who accept me for me, for my uniqueness, and for the fact that I’m definitely an odd duck so to speak. But for years, that prayer went unanswered and because of it, I frequently attempted to do what I could to make them myself, but to no success.

With most of 2019 being such an extremely difficult year where my focus was more on making it through the many tragedies I had to endure that included a number of deaths and far greater health issues, I didn’t spend as much time looking for friends. That’s probably why I found it so ironic that God chose to answer my long gestating prayer for new friends during the period of my life where I felt I was truly at my worst. And, interestingly enough, both came into my life within a week of each other.

Rob showed up at my men’s spiritual group one evening as a guest, as he had come to check it out to see if it might be something he was interested in. He hardly spoke that night, yet for some reason, I felt a connection with him and was compelled to ask him after the meeting that night if he would be open to hanging out with me sometime. He said he would and within a few days, we met for a meal and it wasn’t long into that meal that we both saw how much we had in common. From comics to superheroes, to movies and wacky humor, to a number of mental and emotional personality traits that were quite similar, Rob is someone who ultimately feels a lot like the brother I never had, like that one who knows exactly what to say to either get a rise out of me or to make me burst out laughing. He’s also someone who’s an incredibly great listener and a man of integrity, always doing his best to keep his commitments. Probably the most fun part of my friendship with him is the fact that I’m gay and he’s straight and the two of us play off of that quite often with each other, usually resulting in deeply infectious laughter. In the four months I’ve come to know Rob, I can safely say I treasure his friendship and am extremely grateful for him being a part of my daily life now.

How I met my other recent friend, Mike, is a whole different story. Mike is someone who loves to post a ton of stuff on Facebook about Donald Trump, none of which is ever favorable. He makes it no secret how much he loathes the guy, and for someone like me, who’s non-political and doesn’t care about any of it, it caught my attention. We’d been connected on Facebook for a short while, but were really only friends of friends, never having met each other. One day, after seeing his umpteenth million negative posting on Trump, I decided to message him about it. It was a great icebreaker and enough for him to ask me if I ever wanted to meet for a coffee, which I did and from there, we hit it off immediately. The best comparison I can make of my friendship with Mike is of those famous comedians, Laurel and Hardy. I’m definitely the playful and childlike Laurel, where he is the far more conservative and reserved Hardy. Somehow it just works and Mike and I’ve grown into a very close friendship with him where spontaneous humor is often our norm. Case in point, Mike likes to playfully make fun of my leaf-free yard obsession. So, one day when a leaf blew in front of his car at a stoplight, he abruptly asked whether I wanted to get out and go save it! I, on the other hand, like to make fun of his obsession about these daily sales flyers that come out on Saturdays in these light blue bags, that for some reason he doesn’t get, so he goes out looking for them on other people’s driveways who leave them and could care less about them. You would think he hit the lottery sometimes when he finds one to grab! We certainly play off of each other well with our respective obsessions and humor and over the past four months have grown to care about each other pretty fondly in spite of being extremely different people overall.

So yes, I have two new friends in my life that I feel God has blessed me with that I am extremely grateful for today and have come to love and cherish. One who feels a lot like a brother I never had. And another who feels a lot like I’ve known him on an even deeper level, maybe even from a past life…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson