Flick Opens Up About His ‘Man In A Box’ Experience
Since Man In A Box, it’s been difficult for me to talk about it. The outpouring of support we received was overwhelming. The people who stopped by to say “hi”. More surprisingly the people who look like you and I who stopped by to say they lived homeless at one point in their life and appreciated our project. The work our team here at the station put in leading up to and during those three days. Every single person we worked with and met over at the Salvation Army, all who have some of the biggest hearts I’ve ever met. The beautiful facilities they provide for people and families who went through a rough patch and are working to get back on their feet. I feel fortunate to have witnessed all of that. It was a lot at once, but I decided if I ever again have doubts in humanity I’ll look back to that experience.
There were a lot of stories still bouncing around my head that may not have been told on the air.
After the first day I was told about a woman who I now know is named Deb. She’s one of the many people who found her own, unique way to help. After hearing on the air about the small, but crucial items that SA (Salvation Army) tries to provide to people on the streets such as granola, protein and cereal bars, bottled water and other snacks to fill the bellies of those in need, she took initiative. She made a post on Facebook explaining why these things are important and asked her friends and neighbors to donate such items to a box on her front porch.
From what I understand she was surprised when the next morning she opened her front door to a completely full box. It seems she kept collecting after that. Her total so far of these small items to donate: 53 boxes of protein bars. 10 boxes/bags of raisins. 17 boxes of cereal bars. 2 large boxes of fruit snacks. 6 boxes of Pop Tarts. 5 boxes of drink pouches. That is a life saving amount of food supplies for SA to provide to our friends and family in need here in Pittsburgh. Deb…thank you.
A gentleman stopped by the box on the third day. I wish I could remember his name, but at that point time was starting to run together for me. If you’re reading Sir, I apologize for that. The man was older and walked with a cane. He started a conversation with me through the opened door. He kept pointing out and apologizing for his difficulty speaking and doing everyday things. He told me a story of how he used to speak 5 languages, work at a fantastic business and play 3 instruments…before he was in an car accident where he lost a portion of his brain. Specifically the part that retains things like language and ability to play music. He kept telling me about his disabilities. After he mentioned that after his accident, he became a member of MENSA I couldn’t see his disabilities at all. I saw a man who needs to be someone’s hero and inspiration. He’s now one of mine.
I opened mentioning people who mentioned they were formerly homeless who “look like you and I.” I put it that way very intentionally and that was one of the major goals of Man In A Box – The people that SA helps in more ways than I knew before going into this project aren’t a different breed, creed or race. They are our friends and family.
Janice was another woman who stopped by. She was a single female which sometimes makes it hard to get into a shelter. Some will reserve their space for women with kids, just men or only other specific criteria. Those shelters all do great work and are simply trying to manage the space they have. Janice eventually reached out to SA, which soon got her into a shelter and into different programs. As they say, they “give a hand-up, not a hand-out”. She had a single dollar in her hand as she said she didn’t have much to give. She then prayed over me for a few minutes. She prayed that even though she didn’t have much to give, that those who have plenty…do. I spent those minutes doing my best to hold back the tears that were already streaming from my face. I’m not even a religious man, but in that moment I felt her compassion and I was touched.
I walked out of that box after 39 total hours of broadcasting from it, only consuming food and drink provided by SA, few restroom breaks and spending 2 nights at SA’s Family Care Center (which is a beautiful and dignified shelter in East Liberty) a different person. Not because I was cold. Not because I was tired. I walked out a different person because after peering through the window of what it would be like to live homeless and seeing all the support we received…I was touched.
Lives will be saved and changed by the $18,000+ our city contributed to SA through our project. That. Is. Epic.
More importantly, I realized the value of what we did when I went to give blood a few days ago. I give regularly so I’ve gotten to know the fine ladies at the Central Blood Bank center in Greentree. They asked me about Man In A Box. I shared my story from it with them and some pictures. I was then told by one of the women that it was a topic of conversation at her family’s dinner table. Something similar also happen during those three days down there when two women who work at the IRS Downtown stopped by to thank me for “educating them”. The value in that isn’t calculable.
Homelessness used to feel like a dirty subject to talk about out loud to me. I realized through my experience and leading up that these are our friends and family out there. As someone who’s been laid off twice I can only imagine that I could’ve been there had I made one or two wrong moves. None of us have the answers, but we can help those who need a hand.
I can’t wait to see how much we can raise next year. I can’t wait to see how many people have different thoughts about the homeless situation in our city after we do this again.
To the restaurants in and around Market Square and PPG Place who actively stopped by to inform us that they would be donating portions of their proceeds that week to the cause…thank you.
To other media outlets who covered the story such as The Post Gazette, KDKA-TV, KDKA-AM, Point Park University’s news cast and others…thank you.
To our corporate sponsors, the folks who run PPG Place…thank you.
To our friends over at The Salvation Army who help anyone they can, however they can and are more brave than I fear I’ll ever be…thank you.
Most importantly, to the people of Pittsburgh who supported this project in so many ways proving that besides the six rings we have, we are the City of Champions…thank you.