The first time I stepped foot into the middle of a Lazarus event I knew that I was in the midst of a good thing.
Almost five years ago to the day, I agreed to help out with the tear-down section at Health Day. I had recently become friends with Allison McGill, and you couldn’t be friends with Allison without being drafted into service for a Lazarus event. I asked Allison what job has the hardest time finding volunteers. She told me tear-down. I said, “I’ll take that job.”
A week later I stood on a downtown Atlanta street in the middle of what could best be described as a carnival-like atmosphere. Tents were scattered everywhere. People were singing hymns. There was even a dunk tank. The event was just wrapping up, so I found Allison (on the roof of a building giving orders through a walkie talkie like a field general) and told her to tell me what to do.
I spent the next three hours breaking down tents, loading tables and chairs into a moving truck, and loading everything back into storage until the next event. I was dog-tired at the end of it, but the sense of joy I felt was stronger than any muscle soreness.
Over the next five years I helped out primarily at Lazarus’ three annual Atlanta events. It wasn’t always easy. One particularly hot Health Day I took on the task of helping fill dozens water coolers and hauling them back and forth across the street to the drink station. I came down with strep throat the day before one Christmas Dinner, but I kept my commitment to help prepare mashed potatoes (don’t worry, I used a whole bottle of hand sanitizer while preparing it).
But it was often just as fun. My wife and I spent our first year as contestants in the Super Bowl Party & Chili Cook-Off convincing skeptical clients and volunteers that our bright green chili was not only edible, but delicious. I’ve torn down the streets of downtown Atlanta on more than one occasion in the old Golden Malted Waffle van to deliver equipment for event set-up.
But the one thing that has stuck out the most over the years about Lazarus events is the atmosphere. Volunteering never feels like hard work even though you work hard. It feels like you’re throwing a party for all of your friends. That year I practically force-fed people our green chili (which ended up finishing fourth place) I spent the evening huddled around a space heater with a group of people cracking jokes about the Super Bowl commercials. I spent one Health Day making plenty of new friends by handing out a mountain of sack lunches that we had prepared for all of the clients and volunteers. We then handed out seconds once we realized we had made way too many of them.
If you had to summarize Lazarus in one word, that word would be kinship. And nowhere is the spirit of kinship stronger than at a Lazarus event.