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Column: A hand-up, not a handout

Published: Monday, Nov. 6, 2017 10:19 a.m. CST • Updated: Monday, Nov. 6, 2017 10:37 a.m. CST

It’s easy to judge that man talking to himself while he walks down the street or the woman with three screaming children in her shopping cart at Walmart. It’s easy to have misconceptions of people without truly knowing their stories.

As the holidays are quickly approaching, struggling families are signing up for assistance. Whether it’s Thanksgiving and Christmas food baskets or toys and gifts for their children, the help truly makes a difference.

The Salvation Army in Newton is oftentimes the first establishment people go to for help and hope. As a Salvation Army advisory board member, I volunteered to help with holiday assistance application sign-ups last week.

The experience was eye-opening as well as humbling. Some individuals I helped didn’t say a lot, but they were polite and then on their way after completing the required forms. Others were like an open book.

One woman shared she never thought she’d be in the situation she’s in with raising multiple grandchildren. She said being granted custody of them at her age had been hard. Another man shared he didn’t have heat at his residence all winter last year, and another woman shared she had multiple medical issues along with her husband.

The residents of Jasper County who receive holiday assistance must qualify for it. However, I didn’t ask for their stories, and I also didn’t question them. I think more than 20 people who entered the Salvation Army had an expression of relief, and they treat the building as a “safe space.” The way they interacted with the staff made me believe they are truly thankful for their help.

I also believe the staff at the Salvation Army have a way of building relationships with community members that resembles friendship and that of a family with no judgments. The fact that many people feel comfortable enough to share what’s truly going on in their lives is a testament to how kind and caring the staff members are.

I hope this holiday season we can all treat each other with similar kindness and with “no questions asked” when someone is in need. I think it’s safe to say we have all been in situations where we needed a hand-up. I think there is a big difference between a hand-up and a handout.

It doesn’t matter what kind of giving you decide to do in the next few months, whether it’s donating to local food pantries, ringing bells at the grocery store or buying gifts for the angel tree. Just know each person you’re helping has a real and unique story.

Contact Kayla Singletary at ksingletary@newtondailynews.com

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