I am, as you might already be aware, a leader in a youth program in Elizabeth, NJ. We have an interesting setup to our program, as it is not one group in one location, but one group with several locations all throughout the city, and now even the state.
Well, in the group I work with, we want to always be sensitive to the needs of our city. We want to get involved with serving and the helping of the oppressed and needy and downtrodden, no matter if that need is a physical one, emotional, spiritual, or any other kind. We want to be there for those who need us most. As we fully move into the Liberty Center we will be able to do more and more as well as start up new programs and endeavors to attack the roots of the problems… not to just provide for the needy, but to attack the very roots of poverty. Not to just help those who are oppressed, but to assault injustice itself. A big task, yes, but it is what we are called to do.
We are starting small. As I said, we are still in the process of fully moving into our new home and so we are not at our full ability to do what we want, but we can begin the process.
This Thanksgiving, as we live in such a blessed society and sit comfortably amidst the top 5% of the wealthiest people on the planet, we want to stress to the youth the importance of giving. Giving of their time, money, talents, and abilities for the betterment of society and those around them. Sacrificial giving.
And so we have teamed up for the upcoming holiday season with the homeless services at St Joseph’s in Elizabeth in order to provide food for the poor in the city so that they might have a decent Thanksgiving. We are going around door to door in our area, collecting non-perishable food items with which we will in turn submit for the feeding of the hungry. It will be glorious.
We began the collection of foods on Saturday. It was a chilly day. We gathered a small group of teenagers from our little community and set out to the streets. We spit into two groups as to cover more ground with more rapid pace. This week we invaded the Jefferson Park areas of Magnolia Ave, Madison Ave, Catherine St, and other surrounding neighborhoods. Next week we shall set out for the Peterstown area, so be ready.
I must admit that the first half of the collection was slightly disheartening. There was not much luck in people answering their doors, or if they did answer to help us. The second half yielded much better results. We ended up collecting three semi-large boxes of canned goods, pastas, cereals, and other such products. We also have a small number of appointments to return this upcoming Saturday for collection as well as individuals who have said they will bring “boxes” of goods to the Liberty throughout the week to donate. This, coupled with our second outing on November 17, I hope, will provide much aide and relief for the overlooked of our society.
I noticed something while walking house to house with the youth in my group. During the first hour spirits were somewhat low as our efforts seemed to be in vain. With each passing rejection or unanswered door, the paced seemed to slow. But at the first donation all that was changed. It was as if a spark was set and ignited a new passion in the teens we were with. And then the second donation came. And the third. Soon they were excitedly running house to house, boldly speaking to the residents where there was once shyness. Waiting with excited anticipation as the home-owners said, “Let me go see what I have in the kitchen.” The second half of our journey sped by with haste whereas the first seemed to drag. And so I began to think:
There’s something about service, about giving of yourself to something bigger, about the simple act of helping others that awakens something within us. Something about service that awakens the fullest extent of our humanity, and I think somehow, as we give ourselves away, we are connected more deeply with those around us and with God himself. It’s as if there is some deeply latent area of our being within that is only roused when we give sacrificially and unselfishly for the betterment of others. It’s as if we were meant for more than just living for ourselves. Perhaps there is something deeply divine about denying yourself and lifting the needs of our fellow human beings above our own. Maybe there’s a truth in the idea that we were made to help bring peace and restoration and hope and justice to a broken and fractured world. Maybe it’s true that, as the Scriptures say, when we give our lives away, we will find true life, that when we help others we will really be living life to it’s fullest potential. We will be experiencing life as it was meant to be lived.
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it… Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. (1 Timothy 6:6-7, 17-19 NIV)
PS: If you want to help out and live in the Elizabeth area, (non monetary) donations can be brought to the Liberty Center (1121 Elizabeth Ave, Elizabeth, NJ 07201) during business hours or on Friday night between 7pm and 9:30pm. Or you can contact Pastor Harold Boyd at 908-289-6322. If you would like to help out but do not live in the Elizabeth area, contact me via email at whartz at bridgyouth dot com.
Peace be with you.