Have you ever noticed that for some reason, people seem kinder around this time of year? People just seem more willing to open both their wallets and their hearts during the Christmas season, and I don’t see it as a religious thing, for many of the most generous people are not Christians. There is just a certain magic that comes from the lights, the scents, the sounds, that makes people feel better. This week’s ‘good people’ post begins with a young man who shows us his “Christmas Spirit”.
Jayden Perez – age 8
His name is Jayden Perez and he is 8 years old, living in Woodland Park, New Jersey. Not long ago, Jayden told his mom that he wanted to donate all his Christmas gifts this year to the children in Puerto Rico who lost everything to Hurricane Maria in September. But his mom, Ana Rosado, gave him the idea of taking it a step further and starting a toy drive to collect toys for the children of Puerto Rico, and that is what Jayden, with a little bit of help, did! His mom helped to get the word out by posting about the toy drive on her Facebook account, and the response has been overwhelming!
- A man in Pennsylvania donated a trailer-load of toys
- NBA manager Brandon Eddy sent 11 large boxes full of toys
- And of course people from the neighborhood did their share, too
Jayden was even featured on ABC News’ Good Morning America. Jayden and his mom will be flying to Puerto Rico to distribute the toys to several small cities that were hit hard by Maria, and also to an orphanage that needs help.
There are many good people in this story, but it all started with a little boy who wanted to give away his own Christmas presents to help others in need. Thumbs up, young Jayden … keep up the good work!
Jameshia Attaway – age 14
Jameshia Attaway of Indianola, Mississippi turned 14 years old this month. Since her birthday is so close to Christmas, she has a unique way of celebrating … she gives all her gifts away — and then some! It all started six years ago when Jameshia was eight years old and in third grade. She noticed that a girl in her school wore shoes with holes in them. “Children made fun of her,” said Jameshia. “I told my mother that I wanted to buy her a pair of new shoes.” She then realized that many other kids were in need of help, too, while every year she was “overwhelmed” with birthday gifts. So she decided that she could “put on a smile on my face and theirs” by giving her gifts away.
In the six years since that first philanthropic deed, Jameshia’s project has expanded and she now begins preparing in November for the huge birthday bash she throws for local children in need. She writes letters to local businesses and civic groups to garner donations of toys and food, and contacts agencies that provide services for people in need. She also asks family and friends to make gift boxes, teachers to read to children who attend the party, and her mother’s friend to dress up as a princess.
The hardest part, Jameshia said, used to be finding a place large enough to hold the party, but the mayor of her town now allows her to host the event in a city-owned building. She estimates that about 40 local families benefit from her project every year. In addition to her annual party, Jameshia participates in a wide variety of community service projects with her school’s PTA, the Indianola Youth Council and a mayor’s diversity council.
Two years ago, Jameshia was awarded the Prudential ‘Spirit of Community Award’, at a national award ceremony in Washington, D.C.
Remember, if you will, that this young woman is only 14 years old! She has already accomplished, in the past six years, barely half of her young life, more than many of us accomplish in an entire lifetime! I don’t know about you guys, but I am humbled.
When I began this post this evening, I had a direction in mind … people giving because of the holiday spirit. But, as sometimes happens, the stories had a mind of their own and took me down a different path than I first saw, and I stumbled across so many young people doing good for their communities, that the piece changed focus without my realizing it. So often we despair about the youth of today, wonder what the world will look like when this next generation with their droopy drawers and ‘all about me’ attitude is in charge. But if these young people are any indication, I think we will be just fine. Read on …
Deoshanic Petaway – age 15
Homicides hit a ten-year high in the small town of Lima, Ohio last December, much due to an increase in gun violence. Enter Deoshanic Petaway, age 15, who wasn’t about to sit idle while young people were being killed in her community.
Deoshanic started working with an organization called CeaseFire Lima, hoping to help find a solution to the violence at its root cause, so that violence and conflict could be resolved before becoming a life or death situation. What Deoshanic and the group discovered was the story that we are hearing across much of the U.S. today … many community members felt that individuals were arrested or hassled by police without cause.
To help create communication between the police and community members, Deoshanic created a community dialogue space for youth and police to discuss their perspectives and build understanding of one another. Imagine that, folks … a 15-year-old girl advocates for communication as a solution … darn, why didn’t we adults think of that??? Working together with the Chief of Police, City Council members, and her peers, Deoshanic began raising money for body cams for the police officers and for awareness of the safety issues within the community for both police and community members.
To create safe spaces for youth, Deoshanic hosts events, including a Halloween event. For the holiday season, Deoshanic planned a Christmas party in partnership with the Walmart Foundation, United Healthcare, the Lima Police Department, the Lima Public library, a local church, and other youth groups that provide food and toys to children in need. Under the guidance of the West Ohio Foodbank, Deoshanic and Ceasefire Lima’s youth group created Lima’s first youth-led food pantry, the only pantry that has weekend access.
Deoshanic additionally helped establish the Lima Junior City Council so that youth can have a voice in policies that affect their community. By collaborating with other community groups, Deoshanic has demonstrated that change has a greater impact when everyone comes together.
All three of these young people deserve our respect and a round of applause. They obviously come from families with true values, not the faux values of those whose words do not match their actions. And all three of these kids are going to make this world a better place, mark my words.
I began with a story about a young man who wanted to help the displaced youth in Puerto Rico, and I would like to end with a reminder, and perhaps even a plea. In September, Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico with a vengeance, doing far greater damage than any of the other devastating hurricanes this year. More than 60% of Puerto Ricans remain without electricity or running water. This will be a bleak Christmas for the residents of Puerto Rico, and especially for the children. I ask that you remember them, for they have been largely forgotten by their own government. And if you can find it in your heart, if you can find a few spare dollars in your wallet, please do what you can to help make Christmas just a little bit brighter for these children.
Thank you all, and remember, my friends, the majority of people on this planet truly are “Good People” … they just get overshadowed by the other variety. Hugs and Love from my home to yours.