Did you know the YMCA has a lost and found? I know most people are probably embarrassed to ask but for me, I hold a special understanding of what can be found at this community center. Not too long ago, I was reminded by my 4 year-old daughter of something close to my heart; from many years prior.
It was a promise! A promise I’d forgotten about until I witnessed my baby girl grasping the edge of the entrance counter at the local Y. She could barely reach but couldn’t resist to wave at one of the many friendly employees.
My wife and I have 4 year-old triplets, two boys and one super-emotionally intelligent girl. We also have a 13 year-old son that’s into anything sports related! So it’s obvious why our local Y is so vitally important to our busy lifestyles.
As a father and provider, I love knowing my family gets great value, developmental skill building and mentorship, all within a safe stress-free environment. We’ve made many friends throughout the years and to a greater extent, the YMCA has become our neighboring family. From holiday events to our kids swim class, my family and I have been blessed many times over and over by their community programs.
Now about that promise I mentioned earlier, the forgotten one lost but recently found. It wasn’t an expensive water bottle, a flashy hat or a pair of headphones; it was me. I was lost within the darkness of depression and the YMCA helped me find my path.
Years ago before my current marriage and family, I was homeless. Although I had a job at the time, I was severely depressed, struggling and recently divorced. In this, I made some hard decisions which lead me to become homeless. One frigidly cold day, while sleeping in my van I decided to pull myself together, but honestly I couldn’t even concentrate. Most days I’d eat at work and stress the rest of the time wondering if I had enough gas to keep my car warm so I could write throughout the night.
Then one day I noticed people going into the Y and that’s when I decided to become a member. Soon I had a place to exercise, shower and write to my heart’s content. From various parking lots and local YMCA’s I continued to write. When the Y closed, I often toggled as the last member leaving, being I didn’t want to appear in distress. Months later I noticed their lost and found area, so I asked for one of the ink pens. I didn’t claim it but I did explain to the employee that mine ran out of ink and I just needed to finish a chapter of my thoughts. My goodness that was a nice pen!
That’s when the promise was made, while the gliding of the pen whisked across the rigidness of gathered paper, I said to myself, “one day I’m going to write a book and donate it to the YMCA!” This, in hopes of encouraging someone in need and that there is a place within the community, not to enable, but to provide tools for personal success.
Since then I’ve donated my first two books to the Y, only not as a homeless man but as a published author. My family had no idea. My job had no clue and the people considered close to my circle were completely unaware what I was hiding beneath the smile; true brokenness. Not only was I in the spiritual war of a lifetime, but I was losing the battle, day by day.
By now I was visiting four local Y’s religiously; the Huber Heights Y where I proposed to the love of my life Kelly, the Downtown Dayton Y which had late hours, the West Carrollton Y where I lost collectively 35lbs and the Kleptz Y in Englewood. Here is where I’ve found the best of friends through staff and members. From social events to local programs, they somehow find ways to always keep families inspired mind, body-moving and soul. Also at the Kleptz Y, I’ve had one of my most successful book signings and not to forget, this is where my wife currently teaches Zumba classes!
Who would have thought that out of the kindness of an employee, an ink pen and a promise within a prayer, I would find what was once lost in me; Hope. To the Greater YMCA of Dayton, thank you! You’ve not only helped to develop the man within me, you’ve helped to raise a strong family within the community. We are members for life! God bless.
Reginald O’Neal Gibson