Gwen! You Won!

I know there has been a lot of silence since the announcement of the car giveaway, lots of things having to fall into place. Everything is in line, back on the road with tons to share. But first, the car. Tomorrow, I’ll be in Pensacola to deliver the car to Gwen.

Choosing a winner was hard. You’ll remember the process from the last post, if not you can read how it all went down HERE. There were several letters that were top contenders. So if you’re reading this and want to do something for someone, let me know. I’ve got a couple of people who deserve nice things to happen.

What it comes down is that Gwen was the right story in the right circumstance. My car is a putter around town car. Would it be a perfect first car for some teenager? Absolutely, only not being a legal adult makes things complicated. My car would only be a band aide for some of the letters. Though solid, it is not a car that should be someone’s sole transportation to earn a living to support an entire family. My little car could last another 100,000 miles or could die next week (the damn thing has been trying it’s hardest this last week). Honestly, Gwen came really close to just getting a check a couple of times since the announcement. But, $800 later the car that I loved so much is in top shape for her new owner. What if all of that had happened AFTER I passed the car off? Upside, my checkbook is extremely happy to see the car go.

Very few of the letters were from people who had no connection to me. This made it crazy hard. In the end, it wasn’t fair to punish someone because I knew someone they knew. The top 3 letters went through a million readings from about 6 set of eyes before the winner was chosen. After all that….we made a phone call. Of course, I was in a hotel with a bad connection and the video turned out fuzzy. Don’t worry, after a discussion on angles, I fired my cameraman (I kid, mostly).

Is this Gwen? You wrote me a letter…

After all the excitement and shock of the announcement, we forgot about how this is supposed to change someone’s life. What you didn’t get to hear (or see) was all of us breaking down crying when it got serious. At the end of the day, Gwen is 18 years old on the opposite side of the country…you know what, I’ll just let her tell you.

Most of the letters I received were pages long. I would be willing to bet it was the first time they had ever put pen to paper letting their story fill the space. There are a lot of times you pour the words out without realizing what you’ve said. While Gwen has said I can share her story, I have withheld parts of it. She didn’t have a great upbringing. As a teenager, she was taken from her mother and taken in by the people she now calls her parents. This is a happy ending and that’s what we are going to focus on; that is the part of her story that is mine to tell.

Without further ado, I present you Gwen’s winning letter:

Dear Muffy,

Deserve is a difficult word. I was raised to earn and work for everything that I have. I can say with honesty, I have not been proud of all my life choices I’ve made. At one point I learned i had to simply grow the heck up and stop blaming others for perpetuating my downward spiral.  I know the difference between needing and deserving. I’m sure there are far worse of stories than my own. But the truth of the matter is, I have turned my life around, I now am struggling with the ghost of my past and the uncertainty of my future. One thing I always hold on to my Mom’s words of advice, however hard they are to swallow:

I will always remember one of my Mother’s favorite stories… she used to read it to me. It was by Author Robert Fulghum…. ” The fireman responded to a smoke engulfed apartment and found a bed wildly lit on fire. They questioned the tenant after they pulled him from the burning bed as to how the fire started..“I don’t know he said, “It was on fire when I laid down on it”…..

This verse will forever haunt me and remind me that my life situations and choices cannot simply be excused away. Whether or not my life was a hot mess, or a bed on fire…it is ultimately MY choice if I’m going to lay down on it and allow someone to come rescue me, or if I’m going to recognize…hey this fire is probably not the best idea- let me get the hell up outta here.

I am so thankful that my parents didn’t “give” me a darn thing when I was undeserving. They could have easily afforded me everything my teenage spoiled heart desired. A car, fashionable clothes, hair highlights…but they refused. They would never ever allow me anything of serious value unless I had earned it. Trust me, that led to quite a bit of my rebellion as a teenager. However, reflecting back now, as a young adult- I see why they instilled in me the values of working hard and earning every single thing that I own. I have a sense of pride now- not entitlement. I respect my hard work and literal blood sweat and tears that I put into things as simple as grocery shopping for my home. I have to actively think now about the fact that milk is $4.25 a gallon and getting my nails filled is $12.00- so do I want to buy breakfast for a week or have my nails done?
Growing up sucks. It sucks Ass. And I wish I never had to do it. I wish I wouldn’t have rushed through my teenage years with so much haste. I want to go back and make it all right again.
But here I am, 18 years old, Navy wife-  across the country from all my friends and any family that I have. I’ve struggled so darn much just to survive. Struggled for my marriage. Struggled to maintain my sanity. Truth is, my husband is sick. He was just discharged medically from the Navy. We now have no business here in Florida and are heading home with our tails between our legs. Like we “Tried to adult” and failed. I’ve begged for jobs around here…settling for $5.00 an hour working in a sandwich shop. All the while watching all my former classmates and friends start their second year at college. Go to Mexico on Spring Break, gain new internships. Here I sit- trying to be a supportive Navy wife- a WORLD a away from anyone who loves me, no transportation what so ever. This car would mean so much  to me. It would mean that I could actually have the means to continue my dreams and attend college!! I could have transportation to go out and find another job. I have worked so hard to get where I am. My biological parents influences should have made me careless and uneducated, drug dependent,  a parasite to society, and a nobody. I wouldn’t have graduated high school… but I did it 160 credits behind and I graduated on time.
Do I “deserve” a car?? no. I don’t think anyone truly deserves anything they have not earned. My parents didn’t raise me that way. Would this car change my life ? In so many ways I cannot even begin to express. The feeling of being that much closer to actually being a normal adult- and being able to attend college so I can actually make something of myself.
So here is my pledge to you- If at any point I am gifted this car… I vow to you I WILL PAY IT FORWARD. This will not end here. One selfless act truly begets another my mom always said. And I will live up to this solemn promise. If given this act of generosity and opportunity- I will in turn reach down and help the next one in line in the same manner.
I know what its like to envision your life like a burning bed…and I chose to NOT lay down on it and allow someone to come rescue me. If given the gift and opportunity to better my circumstances and education with a vehicle… I will use it to also ensure others see that just because their bed is on fire… they don’t have to lay down on it either.
There you have it. I hit “publish” on this post and get on the highway to Pensacola. I’m 6 hours away, but tomorrow morning I meet Gwen and hopefully change a life.