by Sarah Ecker, Executive Director, The Salvation Army- Maiwurm Service Center
As a service organization, it is our hope that we are touching people’s lives far more than just giving them food or a helping hand where needed. We hope that by encouraging and helping one and they will turn around and be an encouragement to someone else struggles, a domino effect of paying it forward. This last Christmas that came to our attention.
Christmas at the Salvation Army is always our busiest season. We start our Christmas in September/October and it doesn’t end until after the New Year. We have many things going on from our “Red Kettles”, partnering with the Fire Department with the Christmas Food Drive and our Angel Tree Project which provides Christmas gifts to local children in need.
On our Christmas food and gift distribution day, we had a family come and the mother explained to one of our volunteers that she was so grateful for this program. It reaches out to families when they are at the end of their rope financially and that the thought of Christmas gifts for their kids and food for that time of year was even more a frustrating and stressful.
She explained to our volunteer that last year their family was in that position. They had an unforeseen circumstance that caused some financial hardship. Last Christmas they needed help for Christmas gifts and received that help with an open heart. She told our volunteer that she received her gifts from a person with a warm smile, a helping hand that didn’t judge her for having a hardship. She left with gifts for her kids, but she also left with a heart full of encouragement. She went on to explain that at the time of feeling hopeless, lost and just heartbroken she was able to find some light at a very dark time in their lives.
As time went on, their family was able to get back on their feet financially and this year they were in the position to give back. She wanted to give back, pay it forward and to thank us for being there when she felt hopeless.
That story has stuck with us months past this Christmas season. It reminds us every day that all it takes is a smile, or an encouraging word to lift someone’s spirits. Heroes are the ones that can help in times of need and offer much more than a tangible object. It’s a smile of love that is on their face or a helping hand when needed and most of all an encouraging word that may change dark into light.