I am the youngest member of a middle class Detroit family of four – raised in the 60’s on one woman’s modest salary. My father became disabled when I was very young, and my mother was forced to return to the workforce in order to support us. She was a very well respected executive secretary, but I learned how unjustly she was paid when I took my first job at 18 and within six months had surpassed her salary!
Poor though we were, my mother instilled a value that is the bedrock of who I am. No matter what my economic situation, no matter how little I have, there is always something I can do for others. Growing up, I watched my parents struggle to pay the mortgage, keep food on the table and make ends meet. My sister and I rarely had new clothes, or shoes. In our blue collar neighborhood, other families struggled as well, and when Mom heard about a neighbor in need, she freely gave from our meager home – food, clothing, rides to work, or whatever was needed – much to my father’s annoyance.
Mom was passionate about supporting local homeless shelters, and agencies that helped impoverished people. Her kindness wasn’t limited to people. She also supported the Humane Society – donating dog food, towels, blankets, and when she was able, money.
I believe that our world would be better if everyone held her simple belief that there’s always something you can do for others.
I live my life upholding this belief. Each year I participate in an “adopt a family” program, providing food and clothing for an entire family. My husband and I support many local programs that serve the needy – but I also strive to bring the concept to children. I started a Girls’ Club at our local library and for the past four years have encouraged the girls to participate in gathering school supplies, hats, scarves and mittens for the homeless children in Detroit. The idea that poverty is less than ½ an hour from our affluent suburb is amazing to them!
We recently started a program at my daughter’s school to gather supplies for a local charity that serves at risk inner city children.
Living with eyes open, and a willingness to “step up” means there are endless opportunities. Making a dinner, creating a scrapbook, gathering outgrown kids clothes, books, and games and taking them to an inner city program, donating a backpack or school supplies, or simply encouraging others to give – there are always possibilities.
Now this core value is being passed along to my 12-year-old daughter in everyday lessons. Recently, after doing a random act of kindness for a stranger, my daughter stopped, looked at me earnestly and asked incredulously “WHY do you have to be so nice?”
I smiled and answered “because I believe that our world would be better if everyone did nice things, and though my contribution is small, it all counts.”