It’s hard not to be a cynic these days, especially if you turn on the news. Even the holidays can feel like they’re just one big commercial. However, there are people out there that can wrestle the “bah humbug” out of any Ebenezer Scrooge. These real-life angels truly take the phrase “it’s better to give than receive” to heart. FirstLantic profiles three exceptional people in this week’s blog as well as some ways that you can spread your own holiday cheer. Spoiler alert – you won’t be a cynic after you finish this blog!
Meet “Salvage Santa” #salvagesanta or Mike Jones as he is known to family and friends. Mike is a retired police officer who investigated child abuse cases. He knows first-hand how many children are in need and decided to do something about it. He started refurbishing broken toys that would otherwise have ended up in a landfill and gifting them to needy kids in his home state of Florida. Even after Hurricane Michael flattened his own home and workshop, he didn’t let that stop him. He called on the local community for donations and collected enough bikes and toys for 14,000 children! As Mike said, “When you see kids that don’t have anything, it breaks your heart”. Well, thanks to Mike, more kids will have something to smile about this holiday.
Raju Gomes launched “Make a Christmas” #makeachristmas in 2001 when he was still a high school student and was given an assignment by one of his teachers. The idea was to find a way to volunteer or give back during the holidays. Born in Bangladesh, Gomes came to the U.S. when he was only five years old. His family didn’t have a lot of money when they first came to this country, but his father eventually was able to own his own restaurant. Gomes decided to bring homeless people to the restaurant for a holiday dinner. Rather than eating at a shelter, they would be treated to a fine dining experience. He paid $1,000 out of his own pocket to raise the money for the first event and has been hosting it for the last 18 years! Asked what he finds most rewarding about the experience, he said “It’s awesome when, on Christmas Day, people are willing to spend time with strangers and come together to help out”. We could not agree more.
One million acts of kindness! Yes, you read that right. And it all started when Tom Tait decided to run for mayor of Anaheim, California on a platform of kindness and he actually won. Tait was originally inspired by another Anaheim resident who had tragically lost his six-year-old daughter in an accident. To commemorate her short life, the father started hanging signs all over town that simply read “kindness is contagious”. When Tait won as mayor, he decided to put that plan into action within the community and inspire everyone to be kinder. He started in schools and challenged the children to perform a million acts of kindness and they did it. Not only did it inspire the whole city, but it produced other positive results within the schools such as fewer disciplinary actions and suspensions. He also put in place a program to help addicts by inviting them to go to their local Anaheim police station where officers would work with them to try to get them back on their feet. He felt that the police force could help more with than arrests. His programs touched many people and resonated way beyond Anaheim. They were so successful that the Dalai Lama heard about his platform and invited Tait to spend three days with him and Desmond Tutu. Not bad company! And although Tait has now finished his last term as Mayor, he is still being recognized for his own acts of kindness. Several months ago, he jumped into the surf near Laguna Beach (fully clothed) to help save a boy from drowning!
While we hope these three stories have inspired you to give back during this season, let’s not forget that we can extend that kindness throughout the whole year. There is certainly no shortage of people that can benefit from a helping hand. So, next time you feel yourself becoming a “grinch”, try turning that frown upside down and just smiling at someone. You might just be surprised at the enormous power of something so small. From all of us at FirstLantic, we wish you and your family a happy and “grinch-free” holiday!
Ways to give back during the holidays: