Up, Up, Up and Away

There is something magical about a hot air balloon.  Since I was a child, I have been mesmerized by the sight of them gliding through the air.  The beautiful colors of the large-shaped object against a backdrop of blue sky and white clouds is spectacular. I am not sure why I get so much joy in seeing them in flight.  I have never ridden in a balloon so I have not experienced it firsthand.  For some reason I have a love for them and I haven’t been able to put my finger on it until now.

Last year we volunteered at the Angola Balloons Aloft festival in northern Indiana. It was our first up-close experience with a hot air balloon.  We worked with the team from Indy Hot Air and their dragon-shaped balloon named Oggy.  We shared that experience in a blog titled “Wrestling a 900 Pound Dragon”.  We had an awesome time and couldn’t wait to do it again.  This week, we had that opportunity.

We signed up to work the early morning shift.  Early meant getting two teenage girls out of bed at 4:30am on a Saturday.  That, my friends, isn’t an easy task.  This is where my girls amaze me.  They got up, didn’t really complain, and were in good spirits as we made the 45 minute drive to the event location.  It makes Erica and I proud that they understand the importance of what we do.  Most weeks they really enjoy it, even if they will not admit it.

Upon arrival we were assigned to a shape balloon named Joey.  He is a bee and just one member of a group of balloons that fly together called the “Little Bees”.  Our job was to assist the flight team as Joey’s chase team and crew.  We helped prep for flight by unfolding the balloon, preparing the basket with the burners, and holding him down as he started to inflate.  I was on the crown of the balloon during inflation.  Thankfully, Joey was easier to wrestle than Oggy from last year due to perfect weather.  I wasn’t dragged around like a rag doll this time.  We stood below the balloon as it lifted off of the ground ascending into the sky.  It was an awesome sight.

Impact 52 works with Joey

Impact 52 volunteers with hot air balloon

As chase team we jumped into our car and followed Joey as he flew through the air.  Watching his every move we navigated down country roads to stay on his tail (or stinger). You never know when a balloon will land so we had to be ready.  He eventually landed in a small field in a residential area.  We trekked through backyards and weeds to the balloon where we deflated him, packed him up, and prepared him for his afternoon flight.

We had a great morning at the Angola Balloons Aloft event for the second straight year.  As we traveled home, I realized that a hot air balloon is great symbolism for our project and the idea of “positively impacting the lives of others.”  Let me tell you why.  Stay with me as I try to get this out of my brain.

It takes a team of people to fly a hot air balloon.  The pilot cannot do it alone.  He needs a crew to support him.  A crew that is willing to do the hard work to unfold the 600 pound balloon and get it ready for flight. People need friends, family, and community (or a crew) in order to navigate life.  We need that crew to help us with the heavy things in life.  We cannot do life alone. We need a crew that can help us get ready to take flight.

A balloon uses hot air as it engine.  The balloon fills to its capacity and lifts off of the ground.  The burners are used to continue the flow of air that keeps it in the sky on its flight track.  As people, we can fill people with encouragement that allows them to grow and empowers them to reach for the sky.  Our continual support and encouragement, like the burners, can keep someone uplifted and on the right path in life.

Impact 52 volunteers as balloon chase team

The chase team and crew constantly communicate with the pilot to help him navigate the landscape.  They support decisions that make sense and challenge those that do not.  They follow the balloon while it is in flight just in case that something goes wrong.  They are there when, and if, they are needed.  Do I really need to explain this one?  We need people who are there to support us and challenge us through life.  We need those people who will tell us when we are in the wrong, when we have messed up, and when we are being foolish.  We need that “chase team” that will be right behind us helping to navigate the terrain. We need them close by when we fall.  And we will fall, over and over again.

When the balloon lands, the pilot needs the crew to tear down.  The pilot needs and wants to talk about the flight.  He shares the good, the bad, and the ugly of the journey.  The crew is critical in getting the balloon put away properly in preparation for the next flight.  There will always be a next flight.  People need us when they land.  They want to talk through their experiences.  They need someone to share their successes with.  They need someone who will hear their hurts.  We are there to help them process their “flight” and prepare them for the next one.  There will always be a next one.

I hope that someone can relate to what I am saying.  People need us to love, support, and encourage them so that they can thrive.  When they fail, they need us to listen, show that we care, and prepare them for the next thing.  I enjoy making a difference in the lives of people and I love volunteering and serving others.  I encourage you to be kind, to help, to love, to encourage, to support, to listen, and to care.  Be the “crew” that the people around you need.  By doing so, you can help them go up, up, up and away!

Impact 52 volunteers as hot air balloon chase team

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