The Gift of Giving: How Charitable Work Enriches Lives
Looking back on this year, I'm genuinely thankful for the opportunities that allowed me to contribute personally and professionally in meaningful ways. The chance to have an impact and be part of a caring community brings great fulfillment. This personal belief in service and empathy, I know, has its roots in my childhood observations of my mom’s caring spirit.
My mom was actively involved in aiding Vietnamese refugees who arrived in our city following the mass exodus from Vietnam after April 1975's fall of Saigon. These individuals faced a unique set of challenges, a phenomenon researchers have termed a “double crisis.” Beyond the typical immigrant struggles of survival and acclimation, these refugees grappled with profound loss—loss of community, homes, status, friendships, and family—all left behind under harrowing circumstances. Settling in the United States posed the complex task of merging their Vietnamese identity with their new American reality.
In this environment of upheaval, volunteers like my mom played a critical role. They did more than provide essentials like food and clothing; they offered intangible yet vital support—warm smiles and silent reassurances of hope. My mom’s actions were demonstrations of empathy and compassion. Her example has been a guiding force in my life, shaping my approach to both personal interactions and professional endeavors. As a financial planner, empathy and cultivating strong relationships have always been core principles. Partnering with clients to develop smart investment strategies and meaningful financial plans, I've discovered a profound sense of purpose in guiding others through the often complex labyrinth of taxes and finances. These principles extend beyond the confines of my office; I find that community involvement and charitable giving open the door to the transformative power of helping others thrive, enabling a different kind of connection.
My recent involvement with Welcome Neighbor STL, a non-profit organization dedicated to aiding refugees, has continued this journey. In this organization, a small group of volunteers becomes family partners with a newly arriving refugee family; in this case, the family is from Afghanistan.
The Humble Beginnings of a Noble Cause
The story of Welcome Neighbor STL began with a simple yet powerful call to action. Moved by news reports of Syrian refugee families being targeted and their teens harassed, a group of compassionate individuals decided to intervene. This marked the birth of an initiative that would grow far beyond its initial scope. It now pairs local volunteers with new refugee families, offering a comprehensive support system.
The Vision and Mission: A Beacon of Hope
Welcome Neighbor STL has a vision to foster a community where refugees and immigrants are respected and flourish as friends and neighbors. Their mission is to partner with these families, connecting them with people and opportunities that empower them to build and live their best lives in their new country.
The Impact: More Than Just Numbers
The impact of volunteering cannot be quantified. It's seen in the relief of families feeling hope in a foreign land, the adjustment of children who find friends in new schools, and the increased independence of those we've helped. This experience has taught me that charitable giving and service aren't just about donations and building relationships, community, and hope.
A Personal Reflection: The True Wealth of Giving
Through this process, I’ve learned that the true measure of wealth ultimately can’t be found in bank accounts or investment portfolios but in the lives we touch and our relationships with others. Regardless of your faith or belief system, all spiritual traditions espouse treating others with compassion and kindness. St. Teresa of Avila, a 16th-century Carmelite nun, wrote: "Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours; yours are the eyes through which Christ's compassion is to look out to the earth, yours are the feet by which He is to go about doing good, and yours are the hands by which He is to bless us now.” My journey with Welcome Neighbor STL has been a testament to the power of collective effort and the often-unseen kindness of humanity.
A Call to Join the Journey
I invite you to consider the immense benefits of charitable giving, not just to those who receive but also to you when you give. It's an investment in our shared humanity to create a world where everyone can feel a sense of belonging. Consider finding a cause close to your heart, or if you already are a part of such a cause, share your experiences with others so that kindness and goodness spread.
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