Take a minute to look around your community during this busy holiday season. I would wager that no matter where you live in the Mountain State, you won’t have to look too far to see someone hurting — someone afflicted with some sort of mental illness or battling an addiction. They might be your neighbor down the street or they might be living on the street.
Unfortunately, our society has done a good job of stigmatizing, marginalizing, and dehumanizing people with mental illnesses and substance use disorders. If you spend any time on social media, you will find people saying things like “we should just lock them all up” or “just let the junkies die.” This breeds apathy and malice, and makes it all too easy to ignore hurting people or brush them off as a waste of time.
My challenge to you in 2020 is to get involved with an organization that helps hurting West Virginians. There are lots of good ones that would gladly accept your time, talents and treasure. They are plugged into our communities and know how to reach the people with the greatest needs.
One of the groups I have partnered with over the past five years is the Union Mission. Their mission is “Helping Hurting People in Jesus’ Name.” They provide a faith-based recovery program, a men’s shelter, family services, vocational training and much more.
I’ve been honored to provide eye examinations to the men and women in the Union Mission recovery program. I get to meet folks when they’re just starting the program and typically hear about all of their struggles. Then, I get to see them a year or so later for another examination, and it’s incredible to see the difference that God and the program are making in their lives. People who were once living on the street and just chasing their next high are now working as counselors, pastors, or electricians, and have been reunited with their spouse and kids. It’s amazing to see.
I can promise you that getting involved with one of these groups will be every bit as rewarding for you as it is for the hurting people you help. I often get misty-eyed and feel my heart swell with joy when I hear one of the folks from the Union Mission talk about how life is finally worth living again.
We look out for each other here in West Virginia. It’s one of the things that makes this such a special place to live. We rally together during times of crisis, and this is one of those times. We need your help! Please take a moment in between all of the joyful celebrations over the next few weeks and find a place where you can serve hurting people in your corner of the state.
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