“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” – Aesop
When I walked down the nearly deserted streets of downtown Asheville with my Dad in the 1970’s and 80’s (really until he retired!), I would most definitely hear: “Here comes a good, good man. Hey Mr. Ivory! (our last name was Ivey!).” or “This man should be the mayor!” or “Young lady, you don’t know what a gem you have in your Dad”. There were many handshakes and claps on the back. These affectionate greetings weren’t coming from bankers in grey business suits or attorneys rushing to the courthouse, they came from the man sitting on a blanket in the town square, the custodian of my Dad’s building, or the fellow camped out at the counter at the local diner drinking his tenth cup of coffee. These are the people my father chose to care for, to help get through another day. He knew their names, their stories, and they knew his. He still does.
My Mom’s way of giving back was just as powerful, but different from my Dad’s. One of my first memories of helping others was during the grand opening of “Our Place,” a shelter for children in crisis. I remember helping setup the rooms for the kids that would eventually seek refuge there. My mom served on their board and was instrumental in getting “Our Place” opened. The organization has grown since 1975 to include several residential, outpatient, and foster care programs and facilities. Another childhood memory involved helping sort clothes at the Next-to-New shop where gently used items are sold at a discount. My mom also gave her time to individuals in need. A mentally disabled friend relied heavily on my mom to help her balance her checkbook and prepare her taxes. My mom went on to a late-in-life career as a grant manager for the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina.
There are many others I could list who benefitted (and some still do) from the impact of my parent’s giving, kindness, and compassion: Mr. Clements, Billy, Doris, Vivian, and Clyde. Some needed money, some needed a place to lay their head, some needed food or warm clothes, and some needed services. Typically, they got all that and friendship too.
What did this teach my sister and me? We have compassion and empathy. We have a desire to give, to help, and we treat everyone with respect. We know there is a back-story that is worth hearing. Like I have, everyone builds his or her own sense of philanthropy and giving. You may create a foundation to provide scholarships in memory of a loved one, participate in a 5K run, build a house, or donate money to tornado victims but no matter what way you choose, there is no wrong way to give!