One of my favorite actors, Jeff Bridges, known by some only as The Dude for his role in the 1998 comedy-thriller The Big Lebowski, was the recipient of this year’s Cecil B. deMille Award at the Golden Globes Sunday evening. The award, one of the most coveted, from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association honors someone in the film industry each year who also engages in the world around them as an activist or philanthropist. 

  His acceptance speech began somewhat erratic leaving many to wonder momentarily if he had consumed too many White Russian cocktails and would now be forever known as The Ramblin’ Man. But, that is quintessential Jeff Bridges who is known to say whatever is on his mind; and by the time his six-minute speech concluded, critics were describing his remarks as amazing, though maybe slightly awkward. He finished in dramatic fashion using a metaphor “trim tabs” to describe the small things humankind can do to make a positive impact.

    “Just remember, we’re all trim tabs! We all in our own small way, have a huge impact on the direction we’re heading collectively.” He then proceeded to “tag” everyone in the audience to go out and make a difference.

    If you don’t know what a trim tab is, you aren’t alone, I had to look it up. It’s a small propeller used to steer a huge ship.  

    I was tagged this past week. A friend, Shawn Cole, introduced my family to the Mercy House, a non-profit in the Washington Park community – located in a food desert, where the per capita income is lower than 99% of the neighborhoods in the United States and 85% of the children in this area live in poverty. Mercy House began serving food to the neighborhoods children, elderly and homeless two-years ago and just recently received their non-profit status.

    Shawn is very involved with the Mercy House and she invited our daughter Olivia to join her children Jackson and Mary Elizabeth for a day of community service where they assembled Blessing Bags that will provide food, socks, water and information on community resources for the homeless and families in need.

    When I arrived to pick Olivia up I received a quick tour, met a few of the volunteers along with some of the consumers and spoke with founder Rev. Ken Austin. Ken serves as the Executive Director of the Mercy House and is pastor of the New Walk of Life Church. He is quite an admirable fellow.

    The Mercy House not only provides a safe haven for homeless people to get a hot meal, take showers, and wash and dry their clothes. It serves as a place for children to stop in for tutoring and receive an after school snack on their way home each day. During the holidays they feed neighborhood kids who might not otherwise eat because for many the only guaranteed meal is the free lunch provided at school. 

     The food pantry has the capacity to serve three meals a day to 50 families of five. The Mercy House also serves hot meals six days per week to the elderly, the homeless, and kids that are not in after-school programs. Also provided are parenting classes, job training and so much more.

     I’ll be going back and back again. And maybe the Mercy House isn’t your thing, but not to worry, there are plenty of volunteer opportunities around the city. Might I suggest you take that road you were always a little scared to follow and try something outside of your comfort zone. It will definitely enlighten you.

     We each can make a difference. As Jeff Bridges said, “We can turn this ship in the way we want to go...  You’re all trim tabs – tag, ,you’re it!”

     Let’s all begin the New Year with good deeds and giving back to our community. Consider yourself tagged to make a difference this year.

     Like most non-profits the Mercy House is always in need of financial help. Many of the services they provide come with a cost and they’ll appreciate anything you can do.

     The Mercy House is located at 2412 Council Street and open Monday – Friday from 10am to 7pm, Saturday from 10am to 2pm. Contact Mercy House at 334-676-3040 or visit http://mercy to volunteer or make a contribution.