Giving is the greatest act of grace.
Giving back has always been important to me...at least so I thought. In my mind, I was doing 'the best I could' by volunteering on select weekends at our local animal shelter, by purchasing a toy each year at Christmas for a child in need, or by donating unwanted clothing to our city's women's shelter. It wasn't until I moved to Georgia and started working at Advocates for Children in 2013 that I learned the value and the true meaning of giving.
Advocates is a non-profit organization providing many programs and services geared toward the prevention and treatment of child abuse and neglect. Now, I am no stranger to studying the many socioeconomic problems that communities face. I was, in fact, a Sociology major. Contrary to my own beliefs, I was quite sheltered in seeing the reality of the hardships that many families, especially the children, endure in the face of poverty. I saw, and heard those stories first hand when I began interacting with the children at Flowering Branch Children's Shelter, one of Advocates' eight programs.
I had worked at Advocates for less than two months when one of our youngest residents made his way up to my office to barter a handmade drawing for one of the lollipops in my candy jar. He was a new resident who had not yet settled in, and was quite down since we were nearing the holidays and he was separated from his little sister. In our few short minutes of conversation, it occurred to me how mature this sweet, soft spoken young boy was.
At only 11 years old, he was forced to care for himself, foraging for food and finding shelter wherever possible. He shared stories of his life and experiences as if they were normal children's activities. As if sleeping in the rain, eating food from dumpsters, and traveling busy highways in the dark of night were comparable to building a puzzle, playing tag, or watching a movie. Not once did he talk about his life as if it was lacking, in fact, he was proud. He eagerly showed off his light up shoes, riddled with holes, plagued by a dying battery. He was beaming with joy when we told him that he would get Christmas gifts in just a few short weeks, not because he was excited to beef up his toy collection, but because he couldn't wait to give them away to his little sister. In his mind, she needed them more.
In that moment, I knew that I had to do more. I had to give in any way that I could. I had to be an advocate for children.
Because of Advocates, and that sweet little boy, I learned the value in giving my time and my talents to bring awareness to child abuse and neglect. I now take pride in meeting new people and sharing with them all of the ways that they can make a positive difference in their community. I continue on each day, hoping that one day I can inspire good actions in others.
Many people equate giving with writing huge checks to charities. Financial contributions are absolutely essential when it comes to allowing organizations to continue their great work, but giving time by way of volunteering is equally as important. Advocates was the reality check that I needed to understand what my purpose in life was, and it was the catalyst that kick-started my passion for giving. I hope that my giving story will inspire YOU to love, to serve, and to give.
Review from #MyGivingStory