Let us love our neighbors

Almost everyone has a holiday memory that they hold dear, whether it’s the first time unwrapping a present from Santa Claus, or the time shared in the warmth surrounded by good food and family. Those are memories we treasure in our heart if we are fortunate enough to have them. But many people are not so lucky. Instead, they are spending their holidays alone, cold and hungry.

This year, I urge you to reach out and to make a difference, personally. Not by just donating to the nearest Salvation Army bell ringer but to those that you witness without a place to call their own. It does not have to be of monetary value. Anything that you could spare, whether a pair of shoes you only wore a couple of times, or a jacket that you have had in your closet for the past couple of seasons.

Helping a neighbor should be a value that we all practice year round, especially as the winter and holidays abound. The warm, special holidays remind us to give. However, there are some people who are given nothing, not even a look, not even an acknowledgment that they exist. Instead, these people are talked about as if they are a plague on the city.

This holiday season, it is time for all of us to notice those who are less fortunate than some, whose faces say, “life has been hard on me.”

Last November, I was driving from the mall and saw a man at a stand selling corn with mayo, cheese, and chili. I pulled over and asked the man how much for an elote. I remember looking at him as he prepared my food. I could see that he was cold, despite the sweater he had on. So I asked him if he would like a pea coat. I went to retrieve it and gave it to him. I explained that the coat was taken to the dry cleaners and I didn’t need it anymore.

I remember how happy he became when I handed him the coat. His smile said it all and his cheeks were like a cinnamon red and in his eyes, you could see a glow. I remember telling him to stay warm as I wished him a Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas.

While at a gas station, I saw a young man sitting down, leaning against a wall. He had a jacket and shorts on. I was saddened at this sight for I could see my breath in the air it was so cold. I drove up on the other end, got out of my car and asked to see if he was okay.  I remember him saying that he was just trying to survive and stop using drugs.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have any spare sweats or pants, but I had a Quicksilver jacket that I offered to him for his legs. He accepted the jacket and when I handed it to him he immediately spread the jacket out on his legs and said, “Thank you so much, the jacket is so warm.” I didn’t leave him after I gave him the jacket. I stayed and conversed; he shared with me he was 26 and wanted to be away from drugs. I felt so sad; I wish I could have done more, but I knew in my heart I did what could.

That is all I am asking of you, to give what you can. I encourage everyone with spare pea coats, jackets, sweaters, blankets, a pair of socks and extra clothes that aren’t worn or needed: put some clothes and food in your trunk and bless someone. Instead of donating to the Goodwill, go ahead and just give to someone you see and make a difference right then and there.

Be the change you want in the world. Bless someone with a warm meal and perhaps a conversation. Look in their eyes and let them know they matter and aren’t forgotten. They aren’t strangers; they are our neighbors. They are someone’s son or daughter; they are the veterans from war; they are someone’s parent struggling with life-stealing addictions. They are human and shouldn’t be treated any differently than how you would want to be treated if you were in their shoes.

We should not judge people in less fortunate circumstances, but love and look after them. Life can turn on anyone fast, so be thankful for all you have and take care of those who may not have as much. Sometimes we may want to help, but don’t know how and that is okay.

This Christmas season let us help our fellow neighbor. Let us love in ways we can. This year, volunteer at a shelter, Salvation Army, a food bank or Loaves and Fishes. You may never know the impact you may make on someone’s life, so go and make someone’s winter a bit warmer and brighter. Let us love our neighbors.

As musician Paul O’Neill once said,“by helping a neighbor or even a stranger to know who needs help, you need only just ask.”