I'd like to do a little review because I think it would help us with making New Year's resolutions. Many times I have written that we have no power over physical things like who our parents will be, where we'll be born, whether we'll be born into a rich family or poor one, what race we'll be, whether we'll be beautiful or ugly, etc. On the other hand, matters of the mind, soul, emotions and heart we have complete power over. The only thing we need to do to control those things is to make a decision and act on it. If you do nothing, you are powerless, but if you make a decision and act on situations that come up, you have great power. The danger is that you can use that power constructively or destructively.
For example, let's consider the tongue. It's small, but powerful! When you see a thoughtful action, do you tell the person who acted so graciously that that was a nice thing to do? If you do, that will encourage that person to do more acts of kindness. If you say nothing, you missed a wonderful opportunity. Inaction also can be cruelty. Maybe one of your resolutions should be a prayer: Please, God, let me open my eyes so that I will see opportunities to please and encourage people, and give me the courage to tell them what I see.
If we follow through with these opportunities, we will be giving service to people, and there is nothing more rewarding than giving service. It rewards everyone involved.
Now let's consider some other things we can do. Think about your family and friends. Can you help an elderly person by visiting him or her? Can you go shopping for someone? Can you help by cleaning their cars or snow off their porches or stairs? Maybe you can give them rock salt to melt snow and ice, so that they are less likely to have an accident.
The age groups you work with will make a difference. I just picked up two young boys for my prayer partners. I'm trying to invite both families to dinner. I don't even know if they know each other. One boy is 5 years old and the other is around 9. It will be interesting to see where that goes.
I'm looking at the charities I give to. I always donate funds to a Native American school, because I think it's terrible how Native Americans have been treated. I also give to Habitat for Humanity and Boys' Ranch. Both of those organizations give so generously to others. I also feel I owe the veterans for all they have done for us. I always include little notes of praise. And even though I'm not Catholic, I support St. Jude's Hospital and Covenant House. There's another organization that gives money to women so they can start their own businesses. When their merchandise is sold, they are given more money for more merchandise, but they have to put a certain amount of money into a savings account. I love organizations that help people to help themselves!
Now I realize that there are a lot of people who are out of work, so those people don't have extra money to give, but let's see what else those people can do to act charitably. A happy face is always a happy sight, and a welcome sight. Clean off someone's car. Run errands for someone who is having a difficult time. You can always shop for them (use their cars you just cleaned). You can go to the post office or the library or the bank for them. If you're a good cook, offer to cook for them. Maybe you see heavy things that need to be put away. Who knows? Maybe you can earn a few bucks!
Consider people who need things done. You can help the people who are out of work. When spring comes, you can hire them to help with your lawns, your bushes, your gardens, cleaning your basements, spring cleaning (i.e. washing windows), painting, etc. There are so many ways we can help each other. Attitude is everything. Get involved! Help as much as you can. It will be good for both your mental health and your physical health! Tap into that power you have. You won't get a bill from Niagara Mohawk.
Now I'd like to go back to last week's column. I forgot to mention that Sixto is one of three pastors at First Baptist Church. He went from drinking, using and selling drugs, and attempting suicide to becoming a pastor. Wow! If that isn't a 360 degree turn around, what is? This account should be an eye-opener, and tremendous encouragement to anyone who feels lost! I thought about the shootings in Connecticut. With Sixto's seemingly hopeless situation, he could have ended up lost like the individual responsible. Instead, receiving faith turned him completely around! I love stories like this. They show us that there's hope for everyone!
Let's open our eyes, open our hearts, and open our doors to those who need us. We have so much to offer! Happy New Year!
P.S. I haven't cooled off over our project to bring activities to Chautauqua County that will attract people to visit us and maybe even move here. I'm waiting for two things. One is for the college kids to come back because there are several students who want to get involved with this project. The second reason is I talked to Bill Moran and Diane, and Diane said that she has a big idea that she wants to present first to the mayor and then to the board. It sounds big!
Margaret Valone is a Fredonia resident. Send comments on this column to firstname.lastname@example.org