Courage is required to help the needy

Published 5:49 pm Wednesday, November 14, 2018

On Tuesday, I traveled to the Selma Civic Center to cover the Teen Challenge Banquet.

The house was filled to the brim and I was directed to the table reserved for the Selma Times-Journal.

Between bites of a side salad and sips of sweet tea, I flipped through the pages of a book that was sitting atop every table in the room.

Email newsletter signup

The book was entitled “The Cross and The Switchblade” and it detailed the experiences of David Wilkerson as he attempted to help teenage gang members in New York in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

After reading about the trial of seven boys, all accused of murder and members of the Dragons in New York City, Wilkerson was inspired to travel to New York from his sleepy home in Pennsylvania to reach out to the young men.

Though he was unable to speak to them, he began meeting gang members and their affiliates throughout the boroughs and working to relieve them from the suffering they were enduring – poverty, chemical addiction, violence and, more than anything, loneliness and a lack of direction.

Though harassed by police and threatened by those he sought to serve, Wilkerson persisted and would go on to establish Teen Challenge, a program which carries the mantle of his courage and inspiration into towns and cities across the globe.

More than anything, I was struck by the courage it must take for someone to travel far from their home and into an unknown underworld to try to save the lives of strangers.

Certainly, many of us fancy ourselves as people hoping to make the world a better place but few are able to make the types of sacrifices required to make the worldwide change that we believe is so necessary.

While Wilkerson’s story is inspiring and something worth being aspired to, what’s more important is to realize that, with a little bit of courage, each of us can make a difference right where we are – extending a hand to someone in need, sharing a smile with a stranger on the street, offering a kind word to someone struggling.

Though these efforts may not be on the same scale as Wilkerson’s courageous efforts, they are what is needed to make the incremental changes required to make this world a more hospitable place for those who call it home.

We can’t all travel to distant lands and reach unknown people, but we can travel outside of our comfort zones to offer kindness and compassion to a person in need – all that’s required is a little bit of courage.