Above and beyond me

Dwight A. Helton, Jr.

Guest Columnist

I truly believe that service is what lifts a person higher than their individual circumstances. Lord knows if I were to focus merely on my individual circumstances, I would be a nervous wreck. I am a 30 year old who is 30 years removed from the tragic death of a father who possessed all of the talents and skills to be one of the truly great ones. I am a college graduate who has been told that he was over-qualified more than he has been told he was hired. I am the son of a widowed mother and breast cancer survivor who, even though she loves me with all of her being, cannot help but worry that her one and only child will not survive in this age of the survival of the fittest. I am like a musician without a band, a player without a team, a star without a sky and, with all of these perceived shortcomings; one would surmise that I am only a statistic – another young black man with much potential who managed to fall through the cracks of life.

I am more than a list of weaknesses, however, because I am dedicated to making others strong. As an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteer in Service to America) member, I am the Henry County Program Coordinator for the Smart Lunch, Smart Kid program with Action Ministries, Inc. This program has been in existence for 51 years with a mission focusing on affordable housing, education and hunger relief. The Smart Lunch, Smart Kid program, as part of the hunger relief leg of this mission, allows me to specialize in relieving the conditions of hunger for those kids in Georgia who, like me, seem to have enough individual circumstances to last a lifetime. -

For God so loved this world, that He gave humanity each other so that we may collectively rise above that which presently confines us. One of the most confining conditions that those in need face is hunger. Hunger is the monster under the bed for many children in Georgia that does not go away when they wake up and the constant reminder of inferiority that keeps returning to their doorsteps embedding messages in the foundations of their psyche that they are forgotten. Our service works to ensure that these children are remembered.

The Smart Lunch, Smart Kid program seeks to aid in providing nutritious lunches and quality enrichment in the summer months and on school breaks to the over one million children in Georgia schools who participate in the free or reduced-price lunch program. This meal feeds children who may otherwise go hungry during these periods. Also, unlike other feeding programs, we take the food to the children in their neighborhoods removing the barrier of lack of transportation. To accomplish this beneficial task, we partner with various churches, civic organizations, schools, businesses, community leaders, media outlets, local governments and concerned residents in the area to establish networks through which we can best serve the children in the communities through volunteer recruitment, management and support. We also work with these entities to generate fundraising dollars, food and supply donations, marketing and promotional channels as well as research targeting appropriate feeding/enrichment sites and potential partnerships.

As I take personal inventory, while I may not have all of the money and status that the world deems as successful, I do have the breath of life and, thus, am left with one question: How can I let my individual circumstances prevent me from making a difference in the lives of others? When we lose ourselves in humble service to those in need, we find ourselves in God and we also together reach heights that neither one of us could reach on our own. I want to go to that place above and beyond me. This is why I serve. If you or someone you know would like to partner with me and the Henry County Smart Lunch, Smart Kid program this summer in service, please call me at 404-406-1614 or email me at dhelton@actionministries.net. You can also visit our website at www.actionministries.net for more information on all of our services and programs.