Why is it important to help (a reprise from eight Christmases ago)

When I am asked about my volunteering to help the disenfranchised and how can someone go about doing it, my answer is to follow your passions. I usually ask what interests you, how much time do you have and what groups of people do you feel most comfortable helping. For some, it is visiting, talking, reading and singing with the elderly; for some it is mentoring or tutoring school kids; for some it is helping homeless people find shelter, find employment, or gain assistance. These folks need what you have to offer – your time, your experiences, your feedback, your coaching.

I was reminded of this yet again earlier this week. I was meeting with a formerly homeless father who the organization I serve with helped regain a home after he and is wife made poor decisions. He was a former Army soldier and was gainfully employed when he began a cocaine addiction journey that led him to being imprisoned. It also claimed his wife, as he noted, she was in worse shape than him. After his release from prison, he had a hard time and became homeless. He also did not have custody of his son.

Through the help of this agency, he regained a home, regained custody and eventually reconciled with his wife. He was doing well until he lost a second job in short order. He was among seventeen workers who were asked to not come back on January 6 unless called as the company is downsizing to four staff. He is in a bad mental place, so I met with him as I am helping the agency expand a pilot an employment initiative.

He was doing all the right things (resume drafted, applied to 25 or so places) to find another job and I offered some additional suggestions and companies he may wish to consider based on his needs. He also needed someone to offer support and reinforcement. Someone to say keep doing what you are doing and offering constructive feedback. He has interview on Thursday, so keep your fingers crossed.

Yet, I also want to share with you another reason why we should help. You see, through all of these troubles the mother and father have had, his son just graduated with a Master’s degree at a state university. Through all of this, his son was able to find opportunity. Through all of this, his son was able to complete his education. Through all of this, his son was able to break the cycle of poverty. One of the things we emphasize to others, is the homeless kids don’t have a place to study. Oftentimes, they may not eat or go without healthcare. So, helping the family find a home means more than just a roof for kids – it is stability.

When I speak with some people who are more conservative in mindset, I do my best to convince them to help these people climb a ladder. To some, I am wasting my breath, as they view these parents as lazy, drug addicted, or welfare bound. Some like to paint with a broad brush everyone who is in need based on the observations of over-dramatized anecdotes. Yet, the people I encounter are hard-working and are in need of a second job as hours have been cutback or they lost a job. Before the state of Florida was asked to unwind unconstitutional drug testing of welfare recipients, the data from the four months of the program said welfare recipients’ rate of drug use was 1/4 that of general society.

Yet, what I do get even these strident conservative folks to agree on is let’s do something to help the kids. There is a higher propensity for homeless children to become homeless adults than for general society. There is also a higher propensity for children who are violently abused to marry or become abusers themselves when they grow up. I mention the latter as 30% of our homeless families are homeless due to getting away from a domestic violence situation. So, if we can help the kids and parents find homes and help them climb the ladder, we can break the cycle of homelessness and domestic violence.

The Christmas season brings out the generous spirit of many. Yet, the needs last beyond the season. As someone who volunteers, I can tell you there is such great sense of purpose to help others. Follow your passions and offer your help to others. You will be helping more than just one generation. Plus, you will be helping yourself.

Merry Christmas and have a successful New Year.

10 thoughts on “Why is it important to help (a reprise from eight Christmases ago)

  1. Note to Readers: Another favorite example of mine is the oldest teen daughter of a homeless family was volunteering her time to sort and review donated clothes at a crisis assistance ministry. Reread the above to let it sink in. In my experience, people who are a step away from being in need tend to give a larger portion of their income to those in need than wealthier folks.

  2. Your eloquent post is a perfect choice for this day of celebrating and giving…and a good reminder too! “Giving is not just about making a donation, it’s about making a difference.” – Kathy Calvin, President and CEO of the United Nations Foundation 2013-2019. I believe that the same is true of a donation of one’s time and effort through volunteering. Merry Christmas, Keith! Thank-you!

  3. Note to Readers II: The entity I volunteered with requires the clients to work with a clinical social worker to receive the temporary housing subsidy. In an example of their valuable input, a client was struggling and said she gets overwhelmed by the bills and just lays her head on the table and cries. The social worker sat down with her and said she understood, but let’s go through them and figure out what you have to and can pay. Another social worker said we walk side by side with our clients.

  4. A timely reminder Keith. Society assumes that being in the armed forces somehow always breeds a stalwart John Wayne type.

    Kipling had a better insight:
    (It could apply to anyone who staffs the front lines of services which keep us safe and healthy)

    Tommy
    By Rudyard Kipling

    I WENT into a public ‘ouse to get a pint o’ beer,
    The publican ‘e up an’ sez, ” We serve no red-coats here.”
    The girls be’ind the bar they laughed an’ giggled fit to die,
    I outs into the street again an’ to myself sez I:
    O it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ ” Tommy, go away ” ;
    But it’s ” Thank you, Mister Atkins,” when the band begins to play
    The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
    O it’s ” Thank you, Mister Atkins,” when the band begins to play.

    I went into a theatre as sober as could be,
    They gave a drunk civilian room, but ‘adn’t none for me;
    They sent me to the gallery or round the music-‘alls,
    But when it comes to fightin’, Lord! they’ll shove me in the stalls!
    For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ ” Tommy, wait outside “;
    But it’s ” Special train for Atkins ” when the trooper’s on the tide
    The troopship’s on the tide, my boys, the troopship’s on the tide,
    O it’s ” Special train for Atkins ” when the trooper’s on the tide.

    Yes, makin’ mock o’ uniforms that guard you while you sleep
    Is cheaper than them uniforms, an’ they’re starvation cheap.
    An’ hustlin’ drunken soldiers when they’re goin’ large a bit
    Is five times better business than paradin’ in full kit.
    Then it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an` Tommy, ‘ow’s yer soul? ”
    But it’s ” Thin red line of ‘eroes ” when the drums begin to roll
    The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
    O it’s ” Thin red line of ‘eroes, ” when the drums begin to roll.

    We aren’t no thin red ‘eroes, nor we aren’t no blackguards too,
    But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
    An’ if sometimes our conduck isn’t all your fancy paints,
    Why, single men in barricks don’t grow into plaster saints;
    While it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an` Tommy, fall be’ind,”
    But it’s ” Please to walk in front, sir,” when there’s trouble in the wind
    There’s trouble in the wind, my boys, there’s trouble in the wind,
    O it’s ” Please to walk in front, sir,” when there’s trouble in the wind.

    You talk o’ better food for us, an’ schools, an’ fires, an’ all:
    We’ll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
    Don’t mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
    The Widow’s Uniform is not the soldier-man’s disgrace.
    For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an` Chuck him out, the brute! ”
    But it’s ” Saviour of ‘is country ” when the guns begin to shoot;
    An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;
    An ‘Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool – you bet that Tommy sees!

    (Apologies if I’ve sent you this already, my defence is ‘Bears Repeating)

    • Thanks Roger. Ironically, John Wayne never fought, he just acted like he did. Yet, a man who people said was a wimp named George H.W. Bush served in the Navy. My favorite story is one of the best baseball hitters ever named Ted Williams, who could be surly, gave up about four years of his career to fly jets in WWII and the Korean Conflict. We need to honor our Tommy’s. Keith

      • Quite so Keith, those who step out need to be honoured. James Stewart apparently had to pester and nag to get into a combat role. Clark Gable, although ‘over age’ flew combat missions. And two Kennedy brothers who could have wrangled desk jobs.

      • Roger, that is interesting about Stewart and Gable. There is a key moment in the movie “Trumbo” about the blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. As John Wayne was berating him and two others for being alleged communists, Trumbo pointed out the three of them had fought in WWII, but Wayne had not. It was very compelling. Keith

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