With so much noise and disruption these days, it’s easy to forget many of our neighbors answer a call to service and put the needs of others ahead of their own leisure time. These folks deserve our admiration and some recognition.

Allowing darkness to flourish in the world merely requires us to sit back and think of no one but ourselves, but bringing light, restoring balance – “shining” if you will -- takes hard work and devotion to something greater.

It takes people who can’t stand to see others suffer, which is probably the only thing that prevents this messy, cruel, painful world from descending into horror.

To borrow a metaphor, weeds come naturally, but beautiful gardens require us to get down in the dirt with intention and invest in creating something deliberate and beautiful. Those flowerbeds of life won’t last forever, but oh what joy our efforts can produce.

I want to take this time to personally thank the people who step up, give of their time and remain dedicated to a cause.

It would be so easy to throw our hands up and say, “Not my problem. Somebody else deal with it…” It’s tempting to look down in judgment on those who lack financial stability and the basic skills to navigate modern life. Cynicism comes easy if you’ve ever tried to help someone with an addiction they can’t shake because people in such pitiful situations may lie or steal to get their next high. Frustration with someone who just can’t seem to grasp basic life skills must be tempered by patience. Anger comes without effort when we find children allowed to live in squalor, but so does empathy once we remember that we do not get to choose which homes we are born into.

Mental illness and substance abuse are huge problems we must address, but if the last year has shown us anything, it’s that you don’t have to struggle with drugs, foolish choices or bad parents to find yourself in desperate circumstances. One accident or illness can turn a life upside down and force us to crawl our way back to where we started.

Many give their time to help others out of a sense of ministry. The Greek word “agape”, used in the New Testament, is commonly known as “Christian love” and expressed through benevolence, good-will and concern for the welfare of our fellow human beings. Generosity, compassion and respect lie at the core of Christian values, with Jesus making the point in His Parable of the Good Samaritan that we should extend this love to all people of the world, regardless of race, religion, nationality -- even toward those who behave like enemies.

I can think of no better example locally than the Bread of Life, a nondenominational nonprofit organization that has provided meals to people in need since 2007. This group welcomes all, including volunteers who want to donate their time serving meals. It’s not merely food you’re sharing but the love of Jesus Christ. I encourage you, dear reader, to step up and answer the call. It will warm your heart and ignite gratitude for the blessings in your life in ways you can only imagine.

Others have joined in the effort, pooling their congregations to offer roadside meals to the hungry and inviting them to join their church families.

Marked for Life Ministries is another outreach I recently learned about.

Last month, local window manufacturer Kudzu Millwork joined with non-profit 501(c)3 organization OneGenAway to distribute free groceries at the DeKalb County VFW Fairgrounds in Fort Payne. Cars lined up four lanes wide, which tells me that a lot of people are hurting out there. The company, which relocated to Fort Payne in March, and Kudzu Millwork President Robb Wilson deserve praise for demonstrating good corporate citizenry. I hope other local companies make similar gestures.

The Fort Payne Lions Club is partnering with Sleeping in Heavenly Peace (SHP), a nonprofit organization that builds and delivers beds to children who don’t have a bed to sleep in. Can you imagine? The club’s goal is to raise $10,000 to build 50 beds on June 19 at the VFW Fairgrounds starting at 9 a.m. Volunteers and donations are needed so they can accomplish their mission.

Of course, these are just some of the good souls working toward a better society. Our civic organizations do so much good and offer the rewards of fellowship and the satisfaction of knowing that a difference can be made in the life of someone who will hopefully pay it forward. So much can be accomplished by coming together. We list organizations you can help on our pages and there’s a good list of many on the DeKalb Tourism website at https://visitlookoutmountain.com/civic-organizations/.

Good deeds do not require a spotlight. We just enjoy using our voice to shine one on people who are deserving. We do this in the June issue of DeKalb Living magazine, recognizing our Top 20 Leaders of DeKalb County.

Even simple gestures can have a profound impact on another person’s life. A few words of kindness may rescue someone from loneliness. Serving as caregiver for a child or an aging parent offers hope in the generosity of the human spirit and our capacity for patience. Paying for the meal of the person behind you in line at the restaurant can propel them on their Monday morning feeling more upbeat about the world.

Thank you to everyone who does your part to give back. Thank you for being a point of light that shines upon the world.

— Steven Stiefel is the publisher of the Times-Journal. His column appears in Saturday editions. Email: steven.stiefel@times-journal.com.

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