Here in our studio, there are OMs everywhere . . .
Some are awaiting orders. Others have been bought and are preparing to be packed. There's one - a most special OM - that isn't going anywhere . . .
This is Chris Tibedo's OM.
Chris has, for a long time, been homeless, spending his nights under canvas on the streets of Providence, Rhode Island, not all that far from OM HQ.
Trying to keep warm, striving to stay safe and determined to avoid getting into trouble, Chris' tale struck a chord when we first became acquainted last year . . .
So much so that, having recognized that the same things that inspire us had also been driving his fight to turn the page on an unfortunate chapter in his life, we offered to make him an OM.
This, we said, would be a symbol of our faith in him and our confidence that he could put his problems behind him and leave the streets behind.
Having nowhere safe to keep it, Chris asked if we'd look after his OM for him for the time being.
It seems as though that time might be coming to an end . . .
You see, word has reached us here at OM HQ that Chris has succeeded in his quest to no longer be categorized as homeless. Off the streets at last and no longer reliant on his tent to provide shelter, he is starting to turn his life around.
It is a process that is going to take a little time and Chris is under no illusions as to the task that lies before him. That he is refusing to shirk the challenges ahead is something that serves to endear him to us even more.
Chris has been through a great deal, that much is clear. He admits that communicating through the written word isn't his strongest suit, although he has skill enough to shine a light on the ordeal he has suffered since becoming homeless in 2009.
He describes himself as being in 'a continuous struggle of living life' and 'tears up' as he relives the 'hateful' treatment he experienced on the streets.
'What I went through as a homeless man should never [be something that] any human should have to endure,' he writes. 'The homeless - however we got there - are [seen as] trash, as worthless, as uneducated, as stupid, as people who don't care . . . [I have a] lack of understanding [as to how] others can be so hateful to their peers, peers of the human race. [I don't understand people] who care about color, nationality, gender [and] materialistic possessions. Doesn't anyone care about humans, just plain old people, as they come? If only I could convey to all who read this that [practising] humanity and treating ourselves and all around us as humans would [help to create] the most beautiful country ever to exist. We could call it America. The United States of America.'
He might not realize it, but Chris writes with great wisdom. That, no matter our circumstances, our backgrounds or our beliefs, we are all in it together is the thing that inspires our work here at OM HQ. We articulate this by saying we are all connected. But Chris' words have even greater power than our own.
Here in Saunderstown, we'd like to commend Chris for the strides he has made and the path that is opening up before him. The going might be tough at times, but it seems he's determined to progress. That those he is leaving behind on the streets remain in his thoughts and in his heart underlines that, when he describes himself as 'a good guy', he is selling himself short.
Chris is seeking funds to help him acquire the tools he needs to become a productive member of society, and to avoid 'becoming homeless again'. He is also committed to helping those less fortunate and it is to that end that we leave him the final words here . . . .
'Thank-you for all the time you took out of your day to read this and even if you doubt or [you] can't help me, please look around you and help [those] around you. Please remember [that] money is not [all] that people who are homeless need. Sometimes a simple smile or asking someone 'how are you?' or just saying 'hello' is more than some receive. I call it human contact. It can be words, it can be eye contact or a pat on the back. Just give - it's the action and the intention that count. Remember, we are all human.'
Here's to Chris, who has inspired us once again . . . .