Recently, I was walking to our Worcester office from the parking lot when I noticed a pile of clothes, an empty backpack, and various personal items strewn about the ground. It appeared as though someone had emptied a backpack full of items and tossed them haphazardly in search of something. While it was unclear if this was done purposefully by the owner of these items, or (more likely) done by someone who had taken the backpack and rummaged through the contents, the first thought that came to my mind was, “I hope this person has someone to help them.” The status of the person as either the perpetrator or victim was in some ways irrelevant. “I hope this person has someone to help them.”
Too often people in need are seen either as victims of poor circumstance, or perpetrators of ill-advised actions, or objects of pity. The truth, as always, is far more complicated and complex. The truth is everyone — regardless of race, gender, culture, religion, ethnicity, or socioeconomic background — needs someone to help them at some point in their life… especially according to the thousands of volunteers in our communities who step up to serve others.
Everyone needs — everyone deserves — to have someone in their life who can help them navigate through life’s challenges, celebrate successes, and lend guidance and support. I have been so fortunate to have had several mentors and special people in my life to help me along my path. These people — many of whom I will see in person this holiday season to celebrate all that is positive in our lives — also taught me that everyone has something to give others — whether it is time, talent, or support.
After nearly twenty years as a clinical social worker, and several more as a volunteer U.S. Navy Reserve Officer, it is my belief that everyone also deserves an opportunity to fulfill their obligation to help others in whatever way they can — whether it is serving as a volunteer, offering support and mentorship, or helping someone who just had their backpack stolen. Or, better yet, help someone understand that there is a better way to get what you need than by stealing a backpack and leaving a pile of clothes in a parking lot.
Incidentally, when I was in middle school in Providence, RI, I once had my backpack stolen, with my personal items taken and destroyed. The anger and hurt I felt could have been channeled in some many different ways…but fortunately for me, I had an uncle who helped me understand that while I should always be prepared to defend and advocate for myself, I should also be prepared to understand that others may not be so fortunate to have a backpack full of items, or an understanding that taking from others is wrong and hurtful. My uncle impressed upon me that the most important thing I could do was learn that taking others’ backpacks hurt two people: the person you stole from, and myself.
Mentoring and volunteering to help others seem to epitomize the sentiments promoted during the holiday season, and the values we want for all our children and our communities: let’s give ourselves to help others, so that two people are given an opportunity for growth, fulfillment, and support — and so there will be less piles of clothes found in parking lots.
Wishing all our friends, supporters, staff, volunteers, mentors, and families the most wonderful holiday season and the most wonderful New Year — THANK YOU for all that you do.
Forever in service,