Let's just say my long-ago Sunday School lessons often went in one ear and out the other. But one passage from Matthew 6:3 always stuck with me: "When you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing."
I remember that saying confused me as a child. How could a part of your body not know what another part was doing? As I got older, I began to interpret the passage to mean when you give to those less fortunate, do it quietly and with humility. To brag about your charity negates it somehow.
Every New Year, I try to think of something more I can do to give back to the crime and justice community that fascinates me so. Almost always it comes around to what can be done for the most innocent victims — children — who through no action of their own are thrown into lifelong turmoil by the adults in their lives.
Imagine a small child wrapped in a blanket shivering outside as the police investigate his mother's murder inside their cramped inner-city apartment. A neighbor has called 9-11 after hearing yet another domestic dispute next door. This time the argument turned deadly.
Imagine the child who has been sexually abused. The police arrive, and the child is taken to the hospital where strangers poke and prod her in the most intimate places. In some instances, children like these are taken into protective custody and won't see their parents for a long time. Sometimes it's a parent who was the perpetrator.
Imagine the child whose home is burning down watching firefighters as they valiantly try to snuff out the blaze that is devouring everything he holds dear. Or the young victim of a drunk driver who is crying uncontrollably in the backseat as paramedics tend to her injured parents in the front seat.
What happens to these children in those next crucial moments? They'll come face-to-face with a stranger wearing a badge or rushing from an ambulance to help them, but these kids will be scared to death.
We can't be there to comfort all the children in need, but there are great souls, out there in America leading organizations, who try to be. They need our help to continue their good works.
Polly Franks of Richmond, Va., is a mother of two who learned a horrible truth from her 8- and 9-year-old daughters back in 1995. They had both been attacked by a trusted neighbor who turned out to be a convicted serial predator.
Polly and her family have lived through the nightmare, and today their nonprofit Franks Foundation (www.franksfoundation.org) sponsors Operation Fuzzy for young victims of sex crimes.
Polly's group gives "comfort kits" at the emergency room. Inside the colorful child-themed pillowcase are pads of drawing paper and crayons or colored marking pens. Sometimes the supplies help the child relate to police exactly what happened to them. Art therapy often helps young victims reveal details of their ordeal. The children of Operation Fuzzy are also encouraged to select their own stuffed animal from a big bag as a way to give them a little bit of personal choice in the midst of a situation that seems so out of control.
Polly's kits are a welcome and healing distraction for children during the worst time of their life. She's seen the transformation these small tokens make in the faces of these tiny victims, and the Franks Foundation continues to look for the finances to expand their reach.
Across the country in Madison, Wis., children's book author Paul Gilbertson and his wife Chris wanted to find a way to help youngsters in the midst of crisis. They established a group called Reach a Child (www.ReachaChild.org) that gives a backpack full of books to police officers and other first responders so they can hand one to a child at the very moment they most need consoling.
Officers report back that tears immediately turn to smiles, and many kids say it was the first book they ever owned. The gift comforts, establishes a positive relationship with law enforcement and promotes literacy. From their base in Wisconsin, the Gilbertsons have donated 175,000 children's books over the last two years, and their program has spread to Illinois, Minnesota, Michigan, Nebraska and California. The Gilbertsons hope their idea can spread nationwide.
These are just two of countless organizations out there that are dedicated to helping our most innocent victims. I wish I had space enough to mention more of these altruistic groups, but I name this pair to showcase how little it takes from us — a bit of money, donations of supplies or just volunteer time — to help create something that changes the life of a child in crisis.
Follow through on the idea that a New Year brings you a new opportunity for charitable deeds. And, "Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing ..."
Just do something.
Diane Dimond's book, "Cirque Du Salahi — Be Careful Who You Trust," can be ordered at Amazon.com. Visit Diane Dimond's official website at www.dianedimond.com for investigative reporting, polls and more. To find out more about Diane Dimond and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.