Giving is a tradition in my family. I was raised to extend the hand of friendship and service to others. My family wasn’t wealthy, we didn’t always have in abundance, but we had enough and we learned that there were others who did not. My service and giving were never rooted in pity or in deficit, it was always rooted in a sense of appreciation, a sense of community and sense of power. If we took care of those in our community, the community would, in turn, take care of us. I had a huge family, my mother, my grandparents, lots of aunts, uncles, and cousins. ALL of them were involved in raising me, they were my village.
My grandmother worked as a drug and alcohol counselor at the California Institution for Women in Chino. Every Thanksgiving she got her family members cleared by the state to go into the prison and bring a home cooked meal to the women inside. I still interact with some of these women today as they are now free. This annual event meant so much to my grandmother, the women she served every day became part of her family and on this one day a year she brought the two sides of her family together for a meal. For me, this act of service taught me that caring for the most vulnerable among us, in this case, those impacted by the carceral state, reminded me of how precarious our life opportunities were. I looked into the eyes of women my same age whose lives not only had drastically different circumstances but drastically different outcomes. It taught me the true meaning of giving.
Today I carry on my families tradition of giving and service by giving of my time and resources to young people in our community. I work to educate and mentor them so that they can receive the support so many of the women I had the chance to visit and break bread with in that prison did not. In fact, one in three young people in our country are growing up without this type of support. On this #GivingTuesday consider helping me and the organization that I have founded, The Youth Mentoring Action Network, give back to young people. Make a donation today.