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Thursday, December 7, 2023

Pay it forward, help those in need

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She didn’t have much as a child, but Charlene remembers the unexpected generosity of people who didn’t even know her name.

These people didn’t ask questions. They provided answers to her mother’s request for help at Christmas for her only daughter. Her mother, struggling financially, could not afford holiday gifts.

Today, Charlene is a young adult, still living in Indianapolis. Her childhood memories compel her to return kindness to other children and families whose names she does not know. She is answering their call for help.

Charlene has joined groups that are buying holiday gifts for families in need through the United Christmas Service. It’s a United Way of Central Indiana program hoping to give 7,000 families money to put gifts under their Christmas trees. That’s more figurative, than literal. Many of these families can’t afford a tree. Some just want the basic necessities, food, diapers, detergent and a few toys, to bring a smile to their children’s faces on Christmas day.

Charlene understands those needs. She remembers having just a few pairs of pants to wear as a child. She recalls a teacher buying her pants and many anonymous people helping her and her mother. And mostly during that time, she remembers understanding what hope means.

Charlene couldn’t comprehend where the help came from then. She wondered, “Why me? Why would some person who doesn’t even know me, help me?” Charlene says that question grew more profound with age, driving her to help others in need, today.

One of her favorite movies is, “Pay It Forward,” which urges us all to give to others. “Pay It Forward” convinced Charlene to be that next step and help people in need. Today, she encourages all of us to be that next step. She says, plainly, “Everyone, no matter what they’ve been through, has had some help from someone in their lives, even if it’s just a kind word when they’re feeling down. Everyone has been helped by a random act of kindness. You have to pass it on. Keep it going. If you don’t, it dies.”

Charlene continued. “Your act of kindness could revolutionize a person’s self-esteem. The little things I received as a child, and throughout life, made such a difference. Everybody can be that help to someone else.”

Charlene has life experience and wisdom, beyond her years. She is just 21 and already on a path to have impact for years to come. If you, too, feel compelled to serve others, there are many opportunities during the holidays. WTHR is helping sponsor the United Christmas Service campaign. You can go to wthr.com, today, and make a donation.

WTHR is also sponsoring the “Share Your Feast” campaign at Kroger stores. Through Christmas Eve, just scan $1 or more, at the register, or buy pre-bagged food, to help stock area food banks that serve families struggling to feed their children. You can be that difference. You can pay it forward. Every gift of kindness, big or small, brings hope to someone.

You can email comments to Angela Cain at acain@wthr.com.

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