Giving a hand up, not a hand out.
This year’s ice and snow storms affected our community in a devastating way. Many in our community were without power or heat, had down power lines in their neighborhoods and garbage bags full of spoiled food. One Friday during the last ice storm we were able to leave work early due to the sleet and freezing temperatures that continued to drop as the day went on. I was very excited to leave early and get home to start repairing the damage the storm had caused so that my family could get back to our normal life. I never thought my life would be changed on the way home.
As I drove down Bardstown road I was putting my “to do list” in my head of all the different chores that needed to be done and also trying to drive through the sleet, snow and ice that was not forgiving. I noticed a young man, braving the elements and holding onto his childrens’ hands as they walked through the sleet and snow on the other side of the street. Each time he would take a step forward, one child would slip on the ice and fall down. He’d pick them up and try it again and the other toddler would go tumbling down onto the ice and snow. I watched this happen time and time again while I sat in traffic with my seat warmer on, listening to NPR, and the heat blowing ever so gently to make my grueling commute as comfortable as possible. I couldn’t stop looking at this young man. He reminded me of my own struggle, divorced, raising my daughter alone and doing whatever I could to create a better life for my daughter. I put myself in his shoes just for a moment and I could only imagine what he was going through. I could tell he was determined to get to his destination, rain, sleet, or snow wasn’t going to stop him. I could also see that he would not let go of his children. If they fell down, he would pick them up, dust them off and try again. He never gave up on himself or his children even though his journey was difficult. At that moment, I made a u-turn in the street and stopped to ask this young man if he would like a ride. He eagerly said “Yes!”
As this young man approached my warm, cozy car, I began to get excited that he and his children could get out of the cold into a warm car. Then I turned to look at the children that I so eagerly wanted to help and I saw the most beautiful, inquisitive, and full-of-promise-and-potential little faces of Jayln, 2 years old, and Khamani, 4 years old. They were holding on tightly to their father, waiting to be picked up and placed in my son’s booster seat. As I looked at Keith securing Jayln in the car seat, I noticed her beautiful blue gray eyes transfixed on her father. She gazed at him as if he were the strongest man on earth! Keith’s love and fierce dedication to his children and wanting the very best for them was clear to me.
It’s not often that we hear of young men solely caring for their children. Often times the media portrays young men that are dead-beat dads and not instrumental in the nurturing of their children. I am proud to say that I know several men who are great fathers and Keith would be added to the list! Once our trip was over and it was time to say our goodbyes, I gave Keith my business card to get in contact with me so that I could refer him to programs and services that could benefit him and his family. I drove away thinking of how this family had reminded me of why I believe in the work we do here at Metro United Way. Keith was not looking for a hand out; he was looking for a hand up! Many times we are in situations where we could help in some way and we convince ourselves that it’s none of our business and never stop to help. I can honestly say that I was blessed to meet Keith, Jayln, and Khamani. This family renewed my spirit in giving, advocating, and volunteering to help somebody. Since meeting Keith, he has been in contact with our 2-1-1 service, Operation Self Help through Metro Government and possible employment opportunities coming soon. We continue to stay in touch, if only to encourage him to keep striving for the life he so desperately wants for his children. We can all give, advocate and volunteer in many ways. This was an opportunity to not only talk the talk but walk the walk. If I can help just one person, then my living will not be in vain. It is a blessing to be a part of an organization that cares about the people in our community like I do!
Photo Credit: sparktography