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Giving a hand up, not a hand out.

March 5th, 2009

Hand Up!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

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  1. aaron smith
    March 6th, 2009 at 09:27 | #1

    Real change starts with each of us. Simple human compassion goes along way, and its good to know Metro United Way is committed to helping those who seek to help themselves!!

  2. Kelly Hutchinson
    March 6th, 2009 at 09:36 | #2

    Lynn what a great story and demonstrating of how you LIVE UNITED and walk the talk! I was partially afraid for you in letting a stranger in your car even though I know the desire to want to help & take a chance like that. I enjoyed your post.

  3. Angie McDonald-Hackett
    March 6th, 2009 at 10:23 | #3

    All things work together for good. Lynn, you were the angel that God sent to Keith, Jayln & Khamani on that icy day. I honor the good work of the Metro United Way and I honor the good in YOU!

  4. Lynnette Grant
    March 6th, 2009 at 10:41 | #4

    What a great story! As I was reading this well written account of a very devastating time for most, I began to visualize every moment of fear,frustration, and joy Keith and his children must have been feeling. For those of us who have experienced moments of valunerability, we were not looking for charity but a chance. How wonderful it must have been for Keith to have caught the eye of an angel. Bravo to you and the Metro United Way in their commitment to offering a hand up to those who need it, even when they don’t ask! You have inspired me to do better, be better, and more compassionate to the needs of everyone. Thank you Lynn.

  5. andrea vance
    March 6th, 2009 at 17:43 | #5

    It is true stories like these that warm our hearts and lets us know like Annie Frank once said, “I still believe in the good of the human race.” Often we work for charities, become advocates for publicity sake, but rarely do we personally put into action the reason these organizations exist.

    I’m glad that you honored your position and youself as being a person who cares, really cares. The angels are rejoicing.

  6. Kimmi Sandelin
    March 6th, 2009 at 23:33 | #6

    Lynn I have never meet you but Keith has told me so much about you. I am his “lady friend” :) and my house was where you were taking him to that storming day. I could do nothing but laugh at the story with Jayln and Kahmani falling every where just so their father can pick them up. I see first hand how much love those kids have for their father and I see the hardship that Keith has from day to day, so I thank you for being the angle that has impowered everyone in our lives to seek a hand up and not a hand out. Thank you a million times over. Keep doing the good job.

  7. Libby Marquardt
    March 9th, 2009 at 08:34 | #7

    Lynn, What a wonderful act of kindness that I’m sure will be forever remembered by your new friend Keith. Your generosity will inspire me, and others, to look for ways to do the same. Thank you for sharing.

  8. March 10th, 2009 at 06:30 | #8

    Lynn, you are a wonderful writer and a great story teller. One most wonder as we read your story how many other people saw Keith and his children and passed him by. Thank you for sharing this experience with all of us, to make us think how we might offer the hand up instead of driving by.

  9. Lynn Smith
    March 12th, 2009 at 14:53 | #9

    I am very humbled by everyone’s comments and I thank each of you. The real hero of this story is Keith. There are many young men like Keith who are honorable, trustworthy, and committed to their families. Their stories are often overshadowed by the “fear factor” stories of crime, unemployment, and the get rich schemes gone bad. I still believe in the power of human kindness and compassion for others. It’s nice to know that I’m not alone.

  10. Jennifer Adrio
    March 12th, 2009 at 20:36 | #10

    Wow, Lynn. You are brave and compassionate.

  11. Carla
    May 11th, 2009 at 14:20 | #11

    Going through lifes trials & tribulations myself and to read that awesome story was a blessing! Not matter what situations or circumstances we find ourselves into our faith is what brings us through.When one person acn lend out a helping hand helps you to help someone else along the way.And oh what a diffrence it makes when you are really trying your best and trusting Jesus to do the rest.He said he would never leave us nor forsake us. Have a bless day!

  12. Carla
    May 11th, 2009 at 14:22 | #12

    Carla :Going through lifes trials & tribulations myself and to read that awesome story was a blessing! Not matter what situations or circumstances we find ourselves into our faith is what brings us through.When one person can lend out a helping hand helps you to help someone else along the way.And oh what a diffrence it makes when you are really trying your best and trusting Jesus to do the rest.He said he would never leave us nor forsake us. Have a bless day!

  13. Lynn Smith
    May 12th, 2009 at 09:03 | #13

    @Carla Carla, Thank you for your wonderful comments about the goodness of the One who gave his life so that we might have life and have it more abundantly! I spoke with Keith yesterday and he’s found a job and he was able to purchase a car! He is still striving to create a better environment for his children and he’s moving in the right direction. Service is what we are all about and God asks us to be humble, have gratiitude and be of service to others. I pray to live my life that is pleasing to him because that’s how my Mama raised me!

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