Saturday, 13 August 2011

A Good Deed in a Naughty World...


How far that little candle throws his beams!
So shines a good deed in a naughty world.
~William Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice





My blog today is dedicated to one of the most beautiful men I know. Tom Webb. 

And this day, by coincidence—as I’d already planned the post—is his birthday. So I not only am able to celebrate the work of this man I’m simply mad about but I can also celebrate his birthday.

Tom, it IS okay to tell everyone that today is your big 5-0? Fifty years old today! 

Tom is a hero. Not one whose name you’ll see in People Magazine, but one of those priceless souls who works behind the scenes for a huge cause—serving individuals and families living with HIV/AIDS.

He is the Director of Finance for Living Room, a non-profit agency in the metro Atlanta area. This agency provides emergency housing related services (utility support, rent/mortgage payments), housing referrals and subsidized housing support. Their goal is to help low income and/or homeless people and families find housing, and assist them in moving to some kind of permanent housing.

Living Room was founded in 1995 by a nun who worked with Trinity Community Missions. She worked with Grady Infectious Disease Program (IDP) and saw a need for people who came in to get hooked up with housing. Eventually, it was incorporated as an independent nonprofit organization. They have served more than 21,000 households since formed.

Tom says of himself, I am really just an average guy. I decided to take the talent I have for accounting and finance and use it to help those who need it most. I am VERY good at stretching a dollar and using it to get the most bang for the clients.  I am told by other staff I am good at learning program, and translating it to finance and explaining how we arrive at financial decisions. Also at learning how to streamline operations and utilizing staff and resources to get the most work done for the least amount of money, so we can use as many dollars as we can to get to kids, HIV positive individuals, or whoever needs to.

Let me tell you something. I know Tom, and he is no average guy. He’s a beautiful soul. He makes me smile. Every day. Not only because I’m aware of his magnanimous heart and his quiet but huge work in his field, but because he’s simply a lovely heart. 

Tom—close your ears, my friend—is truly one of those wonderful men who fit the classic female complaint, All the good ones are either married or gay. He IS gay; but, if he were not, I’d be knocking at his door because he’s strong but tender, fiercely protective of his friends and—well, hell, he calls me McCarol. How could a girl not love that? 

Okay, now that Tom is thoroughly blushed out by my shameless gushing, let me tell you how he got into this vein of work.

In his own words: I lost several very good friends—one especially—to HIV and AIDS. My best friend from the age of 12 contracted HIV, and he decided rather than to ask for support and love, went to the west coast, where he went to college at Stanford, and die unannounced and unmourned. I didn't even know what happened for three years until I finally found a cousin of his who I went to school with. She told me, and I just can't tell you how it made me feel to know he died alone because he was afraid to ask for help. He was too proud. So, I try to do what I can to make sure another Jim doesn't have to happen.

Much of Tom’s story is best told in his own words, as he told to me. To give you an example of some of the things my friend has seen up close and personal is this account from another agency, The Bridge, where he worked prior to Living Room: It broke my heart to hear some of the stories of these kids. One young boy had been forced to have sex with his mother and sister, and it was videotaped for his mom and her boyfriend to sell for money. He was also prostituted for money so they could buy drugs. When he came to The Bridge, he was about 13 years old, a tiny beautiful little boy who had already been in 20 out of home placements. We helped him learn to deal with his issues of trusting adults and knowing how to interact with people who didn't want to use him sexually. He was eventually able to move to another placement, either a group home or foster family, I can't remember which, and was doing very well last time I heard. 

I got to interact with these kids, learn to love some of them as very special to me. They called me Mr. Tom, and I always kept this huge bucket of candy in my office so they could come up to see me and get a treat when they were on good behavior and wanted to come talk. I became almost a mentor to some, and some of them would come just to talk to someone who didn't judge them or want to provide therapy.  We all learned to talk the same strength based, family focused way of dealing with the kids (identify their strengths and support them in those traits, and not buy in to their behaviors that didn't work well for them).  

We had a pet therapy program, and the kids would love and handle pets and even talk to them where they couldn't do it with an adult.  I would bring my new dog in to work, and they would be able to work with our Animal Assisted Therapist, with a pet, to learn trust, impulse control and empathy.  

Tough stuff, isn’t it? Hearing Tom’s account of such horrific treatment to such innocents made me grateful that—although we weren’t wealthy and there were many things I could not provide for my child—I knew my daughter had love in our home. Sometimes we take this free but priceless commodity for granted. But I’m betting Tom, after his eyewitness experience with kids and families less fortunate, would tell us to cherish our love-filled homes. 

Tom said this to me: I am really nothing special, McCarol, just someone who does the best he can to help somebody else with what meager talents I have. No shit. What I want people to know is, anything they have to offer agencies like the ones I have worked with is appreciated, whether it is time, money, or sometimes just mentioning it to a friend who may know someone who knows someone with deeper pockets. 

I disagree with Tom on his not being special. He IS something special. He’s an urban angel. He’s a wonderful friend. He’s…Tom!

Tom, my friend—and, I swear sometimes I think my guardian angel—I adore you, I admire you, I love you, you unselfish man. You inspire me, you make my heart smile with hope. The hope of knowing there are caring hands for those who need them most. 

So can you all see why this is such a special day? This wonderful, quiet hero turns fifty today! 

Wishes for a happy, happy birthday to you, Tom! Wish I could be there to give you a huge hug in person and to share some birthday cake with you, and to sing—at the top of my warbling lungs—For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow! A DAMN good fellow!

The willingness to share does not make one charitable; it makes one free.  ~Robert Brault

31 Comments:

Monika said...

In the past few short weeks, I have been privileged and honored to call Tom a friend. A random meeting on Facebook, something struck me as so genuine in him, that I instantly fell in love with him. I had no idea about all of this and I have to say, it brought me to tears. It takes a special person to do what Tom does, and I am so incredibly blessed to know him.

Thank you for such a beautiful post, Carol. No one deserved it more.

All my love to you, Tom and Carol.

*hugs*

C. Zampa said...

Thank you so much for visiting, Monika!

I agree 100%. There is just something so wonderful and genuine about him, it warms my heart, and I'm honored to know him as well.

Hugs to you!

paakwesi said...

Thank-you so much for sharing this about such a wonderful person. Mr. Tom, Happy Birthday. Many Happy Returns. Stay Blessed Always. Thanks for sharing Mr. Tom with us, this makes for a very special day about a very Special One.

C. Zampa said...

Thank you for visiting, 'Paakwesi'. Tom sure is special, and it is wonderful that the blog fell on his special birthday, too.

Nice to have you here!

0200a106-b226-11e0-a33d-000bcdcb5194 said...

McCarol,

I truly am not worthy of all this - I appreciate you talking about all the wonderful agencies I have had the honor to be associated with. It is the great missions that we serve that is important, and the ones of us who work with them, well, we are just a small piece of the puzzle.

If I had anything to say, it would be, "Take the time to say a blessing for your family and friends, your health, and what you have. Take a moment, too, to share a smile or kind work with someone who doesn't and who may be hurting inside, or GIVE something of yourself. You never know when or where you can make a difference".

Thank you so much, McCarol. I love you.

Tom

C. Zampa said...

Happy Birthday, Tom! I love you, too, and respect you.

If puzzles didn't have those 'small pieces' like you, my friend, they would never be complete. I'm so grateful for those wonderful pieces of the puzzle like you.

Thank YOU for allowing me to share you and your work on my blog!

Hugs and love to you!

Cassie Exline said...

Happy Birthday, Tom! You sound like a great guy and they are hard to fine. Carol, the post touched my heart. Best to all.

C. Zampa said...

Hey, Ms. Exline! Good to see you, sweetie, and thanks for visiting!

Tom is indeed a great guy.

Lou said...

Carol, thanks for posting this wonderful blog. Tom, thanks for being Tom. Seriously.

Lou Sylvre

C. Zampa said...

Hey, Lou! Thank you for visiting! Yes, being Tom is a special thing to be. I'm so happy that he is who he is.

Sue Brown said...

This is such a brilliant post about a very special person. I adore Tom, and am thrilled to read more about the important work he is involved in.

Thanks Carol xx

Erik Orrantia said...

Inspiring story! Tom, thanks for all your work to make the world a better place...and Happy Birthday!

C. Zampa said...

Hello, Sue!

I adore him, too, and he is just going to have to put up with our gushing over him, isn't he?

He inspires me to dig deeper into my heart to see how I can serve. Inspiration.

C. Zampa said...

Welcome, Erik! Good to see you, my friend!

Thank you for visiting!

Amy Lane said...

Is it gush over Tom day? Because it's long overdue. He's awesomesauce, pure and simple--kind, understanding, funny, and warm. Getting an e-mail or a tag on Facebook from him is like getting a treat or a prize--and knowing that his big, generous heart is doing good, generous work is one of the things that keeps giving me faith in the world. Thanks, Tom, for all that you do.

C. Zampa said...

It is indeed Gush Over Tom Day..and you're right, Amy, it is long overdue.

And, boy, does he ever have the biggest, most generous heart around.

Thank you for visiting!

Nancy Sheffield said...

Ms. Zampa, amazing description of Tom....and spot on! As someone who has worked directly with him, I would like to say he is at his absolute best, behind closed doors! This special special man, on more than one occasion offered me his ear....behind the closed door of his office where I have ranted, raved, and even once had a stomping little fit. He was my "safe place" when the going got tough....sometimes he never spoke a single word.....just looked at me and smiled that big, awesome smile and I knew, he knew, exactly what I needed to open that door....and get back to the business at hand. Miss working with you Tom! Happy 50th dear man!!

C. Zampa said...

Nancy, welcome!

And thank you SO much for sharing this beautiful part of this beautiful man! And why does it not surprise me at all to see he really is---in person---as wonderful as he is to those of us who only know him in the cyber world.

Thank you for visiting!

Rawiya said...

What a great post!

He is one of those real heroes.

Heartwarming Carol!

A such thing as an angel on earth, I think

C. Zampa said...

Rawiya, thank you, sweetie, for coming by.

Yes, Tom is an angel. Truly an angel.

Sharon S said...

Thank you Tom! You are truly a wonderful, kind and caring person.
BTW...happy birthday.

And Carol, thank you for sharing his story.

C. Zampa said...

Sharon, thank you so much for visiting!

I agree, Tom is 100% truly wonderful, kind and caring.

He's an inspiration.

Lisa Alexander Griffin said...

Happy birthday, Tom! :) The world needs many more special people like you. Thank you for all that you do. :)

L.C. said...

What a beautiful post and a beautiful man. I hadn't heard of Tom before today, but I can't tell you how happy I am to know he's out there.

Happy Birthday, Tom!

C. Zampa said...

Thank you for visiting, L.C.!

He is indeed a beautiful man. I'm happy to know him and happy to introduce him to others!

C. Zampa said...

Hugs, my friend Lisa! Thank you for stopping by!

Oh, what a world this would be if there were more like Tom! He's inspiring, for sure.

Joylene Butler said...

A very special happy birthday, Tom. Sorry I'm late. I had no internet access yesterday. Hope the year is fabulous because you certainly deserve it. Thank you for all you do. And thank you, Carol for sharing Tom with us. It's a wonderful world because of people like you two.

C. Zampa said...

Hey, Joylene!
Thank you for visiting. Glad you got your internet back!

It was my pleasure to share Tom's work...spreading the word.

Hugs to you!

0200a106-b226-11e0-a33d-000bcdcb5194 said...

You guys are way too much - stop making me get all teary! I have been a little under the weather this week, and just felt like checking back in and found all these kind words. It is a blessing to have friends that appreciate the work not just I, but a lot of people do, to make the world a little better and safer place. Special thanks to Nancy - she does pitch a nice hissy fit!

C. Zampa said...

Thank YOU for allowing me to feature the organization and you!
Hugs and hope you're back on your feet soon, angel man.

Joylene said...

Carol, I have something for you on my blog.