One of the greatest gifts of this job for me is getting to know
many of the incredible parents who live among us. Every day I am
inspired, touched and heartened by the stories you share. Ruth
Paul-Caudle is one of those parents.
Imagine, she told me as we sat in her comfy Vernon Hills home recently, if we all did a little bit to help others. I couldn't help but smile as the young mother of three paused to envision it, her feet tucked tightly under her wispy body, her huge dark eyes gazing off at the thought, a smile playing at her lips. Imagine that, she whispered again. "There would not be anybody going hungry at night."
HOW TO HELP
Her message is one I think comes as a good reminder for us all
during this holiday season, that this is the season of giving and
caring. Despite economic woes that have struck too many families
this year, we are all capable of doing a little bit to help each
other as 2009 comes to a close.
"If you cannot help Haiti or Africa or Latin America or another country, there is much around us (that we can each do to help)," Ruth says. Go to a soup kitchen, go to a homeless shelter, volunteer your time if you can't afford to give money. "The question to ask is if this happened to me, would I want someone to help? The answer would be yes."
Growing up in Haiti surrounded by hunger and poverty near Guibert, the daughter of a minister, Ruth, one of 12 children in the family, knows how far a little bit can stretch if everyone pulls.
When her father died in 1999, she returned to Haiti for his funeral. Pregnant with her first child, she and her husband Brian wanted to know what they could do to help the orphanage children who depended on her father. Build a school, her minister brother told her, so the children did not have to walk two hours to and from school every day.
The idea resonated with Ruth and Brian. But as their own out-of-pocket costs grew to pull off a gospel concert fundraiser for a school, Ruth found herself discouraged-until a chance encounter at a local fabric store. As Ruth tried to buy 30 yards of colorful, shiny cloth to outfit the children who were coming from Haiti to dance at the concert she realized she had forgotten her wallet. A woman, who had overheard her talking about the children, paid the entire bill, no questions asked. From that moment, people-Ruth calls them angels-started helping the effort. The concert raised $20,000, enough to build the Spirit of Truth School for 40 children.
The kindergarten-ninth grade school has since grown to 330 students, attracting kids from surrounding areas who again walk for hours to get there.
Ruth, who visits the school once or twice a year, says nothing prepares you for the look on a person's face when they receive something you often take for granted such as a pair of sandals or a bag of rice.
"Sometimes it's embarrassing because you have so much and yet so little of what we have could do so much, you could literally change somebody's life," she says.
I left Ruth's home excited about ideas to help others have a happier holiday and spread a little joy this season. I hope you are able to do a little bit, too, to make your own difference.
Imagine, says Ruth, if we all did something.
Tamara is the editor of Chicago Parent and mom of three.
See more of Tamara's stories here.