In thinking about how we can make a difference in other people's lives, it is important to know the difference between giving a hand up and giving a hand out. A Hand Up: this is when you use the blessings and abilities you have been bestowed with in life (or have had the opportunity to develop) to reach out an arm to another person, hopefully lifting them up or helping them lift themselves up. The key point here being that somehow the person ends up better than they were before. This is a pay-it-forward type of mentality in which we can all understand the ways we can use what we have to help someone else. A Hand Out: this usually involves giving away something of material value that, while it can definitely provide some relief, is usually temporary and does not help someone out of a dire situation or circumstances Some examples of giving a hand up versus giving a hand out are teaching someone a skill, mentoring someone, giving someone a job opportunity, listening to someone, using your privilege to advocate for someone. One great example of giving a hand up is the Peace of Thread organization featured in my upcoming book project. This group sells high-quality, one-of-a-kind purses and accessories made by refugee women. Further, one can open a chapter in their town or city if they see the need for it. Learn more about this organization in my upcoming book. More details to be announced soon! Another example of giving a hand up is Love Beyond Walls, a non-profit dedicated to getting people experiencing homelessness off of the street. Not only do they provide services to make this possible, they also provide a space and community for people to discuss their experiences. With a philosophy to discern, imagine, collaborate, move and impact, this organization is a great exampling of not simply giving handouts but reaching to give a hand up.
I talk about the UNCHR in my book Committee Of One (hyperlink) quite a lot. As many of you know it stands for United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and they deal refugee aid, refugee resettlement, and much more. Below is an infographic which reflects the numbers behind the refugee crisis which the UNCHR and many other organizations are tackling on a yearly basis. (These are statistics from 2016).
Friends are made by serving them or serving with them. Four people I served along side at a nursing home became some of my closest friends. They were there when my mother had to go into a nursing home when her surgery went badly. When she died the day before my finals, my friends were there to support me, helping me get through finals, pack and get home in time for her funeral. Life is fuller and more manageable when you spend a little time each week thinking about others instead of yourself. A life without service is no life at all. by Jessica Jones
I mention Habitat for Humanity in my forthcoming book. When you volunteer you'll learn everything you need to know about working on houses. A man closing on his first house, which needed a lot of work, decided to volunteer. That first day he joined other volunteers at 7 a.m. The owner-to-be worked along side them, providing the "sweat equity" required. At 4 p.m. the man stood back and looked at the wooden house frame that hadn't been there just hours earlier. In five more volunteer sessions the house was completed. The volunteers and the new owner shed tears of happiness. Ultimately he spearheaded the building of a hundred homes, and learned that a heart full of caring, some hard work, and his newfound ability to build a house could make many families dreams of home ownership come true.
Every year in New York City we do a coat drive for the homeless and the needy. Last year we collected 87,000 coats and needed a warehouse to store them. One of my tasks was to get a phone installed in the warehouse for the coat drive. When I called the phone company to say what we needed and why, the operator told me an amazing story. The year before he was homeless and received a coat from the drive. He said he couldn't believe people would sacrifice such nice coats and that the gesture of selflessness gave him faith in the world again. So he began to get his life together and a year later he had a place to live and a good job at the phone company. I thought to myself, "Just when you think it's only a coat." Melissa Bieri, NY, NY