A wise person once told me that there are two ways to help someone who is down and out: give them something or teach them something. These days, a lot of people are hurting, and they can’t always wait for things to improve in the fullness of time. In those cases, I’m all for giving them the means to get back on their feet.
For example, each year I give a small holiday donation to the Season for Caring project sponsored by the Austin American-Statesman. This year, I donated to the man sponsored by Family Eldercare, a non-profit that helps the elderly. The man worked hard as a laborer all his life and is now both disabled and destitute. He needs a lot of things. I was really happy when I saw the donations had added up to enough to buy him what he needs most—a motorized wheelchair so he can get around again.
In other cases, teaching someone is the best way to make a difference. For several years, I have given a small monthly donation to sponsor a young girl and her community in Mozambique. Recently I got an update. The donations had been used to buy much needed things, most notably bicycle ambulances to take people to the nearest clinic. But they were also used to run classes for the children and adults to combat the notion of child marriage and to teach the children that they have the right to self-determination.
It’s humbling to realize how, if we pool our own modest efforts, it can add up to something that could make this troubled old world a better place. In our daily lives, we don’t know what others are enduring on the inside. Just giving a smile or a kind word or being decent in traffic might lighten someone’s load more than you’ll ever know. And how many of us remember that colleague who took the time to teach us when we were younger—helping us start down a good career path and a better life than we would have had otherwise? We can all look for chances to be that person.