Challenged, troubled, impoverished. What images come to mind when you hear these words? Do you see a face? A few years ago, I had an experience that put a face to these words. I was younger at the time, somewhere around eight years old, right in the middle of the recession. At this age, I had never given thought to the world outside my daily routine, let alone something as abstract to me as the economy. My parent’s perspective was much larger than mine as they were thoughtful in this time of need for so many and helped me to have an experience that raised the blinds to a window of my one room reality.

My mom and dad volunteered to host a meal at a shelter in Nashville one Sunday. I had always enjoyed cooking with my family and the preparation for this meal felt no different. I played carefree with my neighbor earlier that day. Both of us were fortunate enough to live in a comfortable neighborhood and feel practically no changes in our home lives. By the time her dad returned home from his job, a position at a cell phone insurance company, it was my turn to volunteer in Nashville.

Once we arrived, we served thirty or so people in the shelter. Many of the residents were adults, but there were also children. We floated through the rows, hearing people’s stories amidst their bites of food. Out of many, a certain story remains dear to me. A mother of one told us of her struggles at a cell phone insurance company, the very same company that my friend’s father worked at. Her son was close to my age, and we played together, ending the night with massive grins upon our faces.

What if my neighbor had happened to endure the recession as strongly as this woman had? What protected one family, while another leading a similar lifestyle, got burned?  Family financial situations are out of a child’s control. With this in mind, it is crucial to never allow such issues to be an obstacle in the way of a child’s opportunities. Even with so little, the son of the mother that I had served made me smile. In this way, we all have the ability to give to one another. Remember to reflect upon your blessings, however big or small they may be, and remember to give a smile, give a hug, and give a warm coat.