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Triad residents reflect on acts of generosity

by YES! Weekly staff

REFLECTIONS ON A YEAR OF GENEROSITY

Mike A. GEORGE

Guest Volunteer at the Interactive Resource Center

Generosity is a quality like honesty and patience that we all probably wish we had more of. When you show generosity, you might give away things or money or put others before yourself. But generosity is about more than cash and stuff. When you’re forgiving and gentle to people, you show generosity of spirit. Just like the people that you see at the IRC. I see things that other people might need here, like shoes.

Why be generous? Why share? Because I’ve been there. I remember that we used to get one present for Christmas.

I am generous because I know what it is like. I know what it is like to be on the streets. I have friends still on the streets. I know the value of a pair of shoes.

On the streets, you need warm shoes.

Cloth shoes aren’t warm enough. You have to sleep with your shoes on. People who are on the streets look like they won a million bucks over a pair of good, used shoes.

A pair of shoes is worth everything.

My 9-year-old son says “Daddy, where are you taking all your shoes?” He has learned this from me. He shares his toys with kids who don’t have much. He says “Daddy, I want to give away some of my trains to kids who don’t have trains.” He thinks that everyone must love trains like he does- so now he wants to give away his trains. Have you asked your kids what they have done lately?

When you have had so little, you know its value. You know the value of shoes.

We all make mistakes- I have, and my son will. Trust that the good outweighs the bad.

STACY HOPE JONES

Writer of short fiction and fractured fairy tales

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” – Mother Teresa There is a specific act of kindness that is done throughout the year by strangers, for strangers, that is a small thing, but reaches many. In reflecting on this year, it’s these gestures that come to mind with gratefulness this Christmas.

In the evenings, my 77-year old Dad and I will talk of the day and several times this year he has told me about where he went for supper (he goes before while I am still at work most days), what he had to eat, and that when it came time to pay the bill, the server says, “It’s been taken care of sir. They said thank you for your service as a veteran.”

Dad gets choked up when he tells me this, every time. It is the kindness, the generosity of the anonymity of the gift, and the respect for the military and our service men and women that make him feel proud, thankful, and emotional. My dad is truly the most humble person I’ve ever known, especially regarding his time in the Army in Germany in the 1950s. About once a month, he’ll wear his ARMY hat, which was a gift to him. That’s the only way these folks know he is a veteran.

These gestures give him witness to the goodness in hearts of strangers. He gives generously as well in many ways, paying for groceries for a person behind him in line at the grocery store quite often and things like that.

For Christmas, for all of you that have been one of the loving and respectful people “paying it forward” for my or any veteran, please know it goes a lot farther than you may know, and I thank you. It honors them, and is a story of generosity that is shared again and again. Merry Christmas to all!

LACY WARD

Museum Professional and Greensboro Resident

Thank you YES! Weekly for the opportunity to share with your readers an act of generosity I witnessed in 2014 and what it meant to me.

The act I witnessed occurred on the campus of Bennett College and was part of Inaugural Week activities for President Rosalind Fuse-Hall.

A room full of Bennett Belles (enrolled and alumnae), faculty, staff, and friends and supporters of the college were gathered for the Belle Ringer Luncheon; a time to recognize women leaders who epitomize the “Bennett Ideal.”

Among the honorees was Jacqueline G.

Ford, President of Great Food Services/ Prospect Foods, and owner of five Burger King franchises in the Charlotte area. Ford was recognized for her professional accomplishments and the recognition included a scholarship awarded to a deserving student who also epitomizes the “Bennett Ideal.”

With consideration given to her academic achievement, financial need, and record of community service, the scholarship recipient was Danielle Jeffries.

That Jeffries received a scholarship was an act of generosity in its own right but what made the award even more special was Ford’s pledge to fund the scholarship not only for the current academic year but for each year the Jeffries is enrolled at Bennett.

Ford clearly went above and beyond what was expected.

So what did such an act mean to me? Such an unsolicited and spontaneous act demonstrated that those who have achieved success in their chosen profession are willing to give inspiration and support to those who are yet to begin their careers.

Publicly proclaiming the act gave encouragement to others to join the spirit of giving.

Being generous with praise and with purse are acts we can all take part in not only at this time of year but all year long.

Dhruv Pathak

Junior at UNCG, member of United Students Against Sweatshops

“Tis’ the season to be jolly “¦”, as the old ballad goes, however, with a brief look around the world it becomes hard to stay ‘jolly.’ With the continued congressional divisiveness, the civil war in Syria, the recent school shooting in Peshawar and the ubiquitous racial tensions after the no-indictments of Mike Brown and Eric Garner’s killers””it is hard to see many acts of generosity. On the contrary, despite my grim outlook, I see the world and two people who personally haven’t given more than anyone could ask. In the end, it gives me hope. The two being Rebecca Johnson and Juan Miranda.

Both being very near and dear to my heart but, oddly enough, they couldn’t be any more different. Rebecca is somewhat of a nomad, moving every few years, settling in Durham to teach first graders and Juan making the sojourn from Ecuador to Charlotte and settling in Greensboro, working for NC Raise Up, the fast food workers’ union.

Both are rough on the exterior, passive aggressive and downright aggravating at times, but their generosity, empathy and compassion know no bounds. Rebecca, a first year teacher, fights adamantly for her kids, to the administration and her colleagues; she sacrifices her time, energy and money to ensure that her kids receive the best education possible. Juan, on the other hand, works with some of the poorest people in the country. Despite the immense difficulties, his empathy never wavers, from being available on a moment’s notice to pick-up/drop someone off, to buying lunch, to getting up before the sun or after midnight.

Their personal well-being comes second and their commitments, to teaching and organizing, first. How I see change and the world has drastically changed, for the better, because of them.

The holidays are a time when the world should come together “” it does not happen organically. It is from the service, love, empathy and generosity displayed by “” Rebecca Johnson and Juan Miranda “” we can blissfully enjoy, what we now know as the “”¦season to be jolly.”

Rev. David Fraccaro

Executive Director of FaithAction Int. House

Earlier this month, a compassionate English as a Second Language teacher in a Guilford County high school recognized something different in the eyes of her hard-working, ambitious and gracious immigrant student from El Salvador – he was one of the thousands of courageous migrant children who had fled devastating poverty and gang violence this year.

His eyes were filled with tears and a paralyzing fear of being deported soon. He desperately needed to have an immigration judge hear his story of survival and hope, and didn’t want to be alone. His teacher called FaithAction International House, and within a few days he was provided with a valid form of identification (something to say he survived, he exists, he matters), and connected with a very generous law office to take his case (probono). He was also assigned a wonderful, retired volunteer that has accompanied the young man every step of the way.

The volunteer’s Unitarian congregation stepped forward with food and shelter on the way to see the immigration officials in Charlotte. An immigration agent reviewed his case, admired the young immigrant’s hard work and courage, and agreed to extend his case until June, when he will have the chance to share his story with an immigration judge.

He can breathe easier this season knowing he has time, and friends.

Every Christmas, billions of people across the world celebrate the birth of a poor, refugee child who offers hope to a broken world. It is good to see this spirit of kindness and compassion alive in those who have rallied around this remarkable young man. If given the chance to stay, we believe he will become one of our most loyal and caring neighbors.

Hebrews 13:2 – Never neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for in doing so some have entertained angels unawares.

ANITA HOLDER

Interim chief of police for the City of Greensboro

Wow! I’ve witnessed so many acts of generosity this year that it’s impossible to write about just one. Our city is full of caring people who give of their time, talents, and money in so many ways.

The Greensboro Police Department has been fortunate to partner with many local businesses that have helped us help others. Our businesses have donated haircuts, boxes, clothes, personal hygiene items, athletic shoes, food, items for our K9 teams — so many items and services that have benefited so many people in our city.

Our professional partners have also displayed great generosity throughout the year. We ask a lot of our service providers, academic partners, clergy, and law enforcement and judicial colleagues – and they always manage to give more than is required. They are another group of caring people who truly want to make our city safer.

We also need to recognize our Greensboro Police Foundation for its generosity.

The Foundation has invested in the training and morale of our employees. It has provided us with equipment and resources that were beyond our financial reach. Their generosity also has made our city safer.

GPD is also blessed with an amazing cadre of volunteers who are generous with their time and passion for our communities. They provide services that benefit our residents, while allowing officers to focus on their police duties.

And that brings me to my all-time favorite group of generous people in our city— our GPD employees. Our officers and non-sworn employees give so much of themselves everyday – and not just when they are on the clock. All year round, they give the gift of themselves to others. They volunteer as mentors to young people, coach athletic teams, tutor students, visit senior centers, tend to animals at the shelter, assist families with yard and house work, assist stranded motorists — the list of their caring actions can go on and on. They do these things because they care. They are at the top of my list for generous people in Greensboro.

Thank you, Greensboro, for your generosity all year round.

Happy holidays, everyone. Take care of yourselves, and each other.

Gwen Frisbie-Fulton

Director of Community Engagement – IRC

This July, Greensboro’s Heritage House was shuttered–-a six-story apartment building plagued with crime, housing code violations, and an excessive, delinquent water bill. The Interactive Resource Center (IRC) opened our doors to the displaced residents of Heritage House, becoming an emergency shelter for those unable to secure new housing before the building was boarded up.

With three days notice, faith groups, businesses, and individuals from all over Greensboro helped stock our shelves with everything from linens to toilet paper to shampoo. These moments of crisis truly showcase the strength and generosity of our community.

It was the generosity of our guests–who are homeless themselves– in response to this crisis, however, that is the most striking.

IRC guests transformed our day room into a shelter space each evening. IRC guests stayed late each night doing loads of laundry and helping to clean up and serve food. When the condemned apartments were briefly reopened, IRC guests helped the former residents salvage what they could and load a rented moving truck. Finally, IRC guests helped the folks from Heritage House move into new homes.

Certainly, it took all of us to respond to this crisis–-to put out our hands, creating a wide and strong safety net to support the most vulnerable amongst us. At the IRC, those who are in need of support themselves continually step up to support others with an unparalleled compassion fueling their work.

Human dignity seems to be inordinately linked to being able to give to others. We all have times that we need help, but none of us should be defined solely by the charity we may receive. Creating a space where generosity is fluid and open recognizes that each of us, no matter our housing status, are strong, resilient, and an essential to community.

John Faison

Executive Director of Centro Internacional in Raleigh

At the beginning of Advent this year, my eight year old daughter challenged me as I tried to teach my children that Christmas was more about giving and sharing God’s gifts than receiving. “If Christmas is more about giving than receiving, why don’t we give gifts to others rather than to each others?” Thinking that she just wanted to sacrifice “my” money, I asked her what she was willing to give to another child her age. Immediately she replied that she had saved $20 from her allowance that she was willing to use to buy a gift for another child. At first it seemed like a good idea to me, but as you can imagine the idea of not buying gifts for my kids began to bother me. I hoped they would forget the idea, but later my five year old brought it up again; for them it was a foregone conclusion that they would not get presents this year, but instead would give them. Instead of imagining what they would like to receive for Christmas, they started thinking about what some other kid might enjoy receiving on Christmas morning.

Now I was in a quandary; How was I to find an appropriate way for my kids to express their generosity in a meaningful way? Of course I could take their money and give it to a charity, but some how that did not seem like it would satisfy their little hearts. As a family we prayed that God would show us to whom we should give gifts to this year. Suddenly, on one of the blogs that I follow someone shared a link that had my answer. In a collaboration between Immigration and Custom Enforcement and some non-profits, a gift list was set up at various stores allowing us to purchase gifts chosen by children who had been incarcerated as they crossed the border unaccompanied.

As we scrolled through the pages of gifts my eyes filled with tears. Firstly, my kids were so excited to be selecting presents for other children their age who are separated from family, friends, and country. Secondly, my heart breaks for their parents who may have not seen them for many months and cannot be with them at Christmas. I was thankful for those who had set up the gift list so we could share the joy of Christmas with those children. The registry allowed us to write a note to each of the children. I wrote as my children dictated their excitement in giving these gifts.

As if that was not enough, there is more to the story. I stumbled across a link on another blog that I read that was specifically for ministers. This church had decided that they wanted to bless the children of preachers this year. They simply asked us to write down what church we are ministering in, our children’s ages, and what they wanted for Christmas. Can you imagine how surprised my kids will be on Christmas morning when they get up and find that someone had been thinking of them while they were thinking of others?

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