Imagine a world where nobody helped anyone else. Or, where those who did help, only helped family and friends. Wouldn’t our world be less? One disaster follows another and we find ourselves stretching to do what we believe is right. There is never a shortage of places to give from local concerns to those which come to us by way of You tube videos. Imagine what it must be like to receive a gift of food when you’ve been displaced by an earthquake and all is lost, except the most elemental pieces of your life. Imagine what it is like to live open to the elements after a hurricane has ravaged your land and receive the gift of shelter. Imagine wondering where to turn and how to cope, then someone you do not know, offers you the necessities of life.
On September 11, 2001 the city of New York faced its worst crisis. Attacks carried out on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center left the city crushed and broken. Throughout the nation people responded to the need. Many sent money, while others came to search the ruble and heal the injured. The steady stream of donations profoundly touched Jeff Parness. A couple of years later he created a Foundation called, “New York Says Thank You.”
Each year, near September 11, the Foundation reaches out to an area of the country which has been hit by a disaster. They spend time rebuilding homes, churches, camps or whatever that city’s greatest need is. He says, it is not as much about the building itself, as it is about building hope. Hope came to him, in the darkness of the September 11 attacks, through the outpouring of kindness across the country. Today, Jeff tries to pay it forward, touching other lives even as his was touched by an earlier generosity.
The recent disasters have left us many places to offer our gifts and our service. But, one doesn’t have to look far from home to offer help. There is someone in your life who needs some extra love, extra care, extra time. The happiest people I know are the ones who have found ways of reaching out to others, sharing their resources, their time and themselves with people who need someone to care. Today, may you find joy in the giving of your self.