By Teddy Allen
In the pre-GoogleMaps days, the late, great Paul Harvey liked to remind us that when people asked for directions, we’d often start by saying, “Well, go down two red lights and…”
“But that light is green,” he’d say in his lyrical, always optimistic voice, “as often as it is red…”
We have a way of coloring things dreary at first glance. Human nature. And while none of us would argue the world is not in dire straits — where to begin? — there is much more good news than bad.
All around and every day.
Each year at the annual springtime Volunteers of America North Louisiana “Cherish the Children” breakfast, I show up saying I won’t cry this year but … I do. A video from the after-school LightHouse program will usually do the trick. A talk from a homeless veteran who’s now employed and helping others in a circumstance similar to his when hope seemed lost. A newlywed couple with learning disabilities but a home and hope and friends who love them as they are and are helping them get to where they wish to be.
Also, this spring was the VOA’s annual “thank you” luncheon, and I snuck in (sneaked in?) for selfish reasons: this is the kind of group you want to hang around if you want to feel better Right Then because …
Well, you meet members of the church congregation who’ve basically adopted an elementary school in their area and provide tutoring, books, supplies, and clothes to children with these insecurities.
Or old friends who pair up to help children after school by developing special reading projects for them or taking them to the library.
A group who takes children on an annual Christmas shopping trip.
An empty nester wife and mom who noticed early in the pandemic the increased vulnerability of senior citizens’ health and arranged for phone friends, grocery pickups, and a monthly surprise treat of a delivered meal or snack.
VOA serves more than 7,000 people in north and central Louisiana through 40 or so programs — but “programs” is just a word without volunteers.
I was lucky enough this spring to hit the Volunteer Trifecta since I snuck in (sneaked in?, again?) the United Way of Northeast Louisiana “Celebrating Excellence” breakfast too. More than 300 people, many of them volunteers, packed the Davison Athletics Complex on Louisiana Tech’s campus for inspiration from videos and testimonies, and to celebrate volunteers, another word for “servants.”
During the pandemic, which included a couple of storm disasters, the group realized its most donations ever. Compassion and forward thinking and responsive hearts are winning the day for neighbors who need help.
The light is green for each of us to do our part. No man is an island. And nothing can rob us of the joy of giving.
Today it’s “them” who need a hand. Tomorrow, it could be you and me. The bell tolls for us all.
Contact Teddy at firstname.lastname@example.org
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