by Carolyn Sowinski
June 2016

I have been pondering on the idea of how I see other people–neighbors, friends, and strangers.

When I meet someone for the first time, or cross paths with someone whom I may never meet again, who do I see?

My first impressions are based on what I see and hear. I see her face, her clothes, her hair, her height, her posture. A smile, perhaps? Is she wearing a name tag? What instantaneous decisions do I make? Is she someone I want to talk to? Avoid? Will she ask me for something? Does she need something?

Then after I have known the person for a while does my first impression change? I may have learned her name, where she lives and works, hobbies and activities, family, hometown, or church. Do I like her laugh? Does she face hardships? Does she need a listening ear or a prayer?

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus was asked “And who is my neighbor?” He responded with the Parable of the Good Samaritan: When a priest and a Levite each saw the beaten man they passed by on the other side. But the Samaritan saw the injured man, went to him and bandaged his wounds. He then took the man to a nearby inn and instructed the innkeeper to care for the man. The Samaritan would return and reimburse for all expenses.

We know the story and we know how we are to respond when we see a person–stranger, friend, or neighbor–in need. The Samaritan did not need to know the injured man’s politics, hometown, skin-color, or sexual orientation before providing help. The Samaritan saw a need and responded with mercy.

In this parable my thoughts focus on the Samaritan’s final act: he paid the innkeeper to care for the man in need.

Gifts of Hope works in a similar way. There are many people in our Washington DC area who are in need–physical, emotional, spiritual. But we–you and I–do not need to be directly involved in caring for them. (It’s nice to not be directly involved, correct?) Our diverse groups of Beneficiary Organizations provide a variety of services and work directly with those in need.

Our organizations know how to–

  • shelter the homeless
  • feed the hungry
  • support the abused
  • train those needing new job skills
  • provide fun activities to campers
  • listen to the distressed
  • give a safer future to refugees
  • find homes for foster kids
  • give scholarships to students
  • care for the elderly
  • provide healing
  • pray for others’ needs, hopes and dreams
  • help people stand on their feet and move forward in life

–so you do not have to.

But to do this work our organizations need financial support. Gifts of Hope is one avenue for providing them with necessary funding. Our donors give money for a specific cause and rely on the training, experience, and willingness of our organizations’ staff to know how to provide the proper care in each situation and to each client.

Do you and I respond with mercy?

Other essays are available at http://www.giftsofhopedc.org/news-posts/