Annette John-Hall: Share stories of how you're giving back this holiday season

Jude Lucien, a Big Brothers mentor whose Little Brother, Carl Green (left) at the Mighty Writers clubhouse, Philadelphia, November 28, 2012. ( DAVID M WARREN / Staff Photographer )

It all started with my pal Tanya's Facebook post.

"Jack and I have decided to reject the out-of-control commercial aspect of the Christmas season," she wrote recently. "We will not be giving gifts to any adults. Instead, we hope to share the gift of time and fellowship with the people we love during the holidays."

With all of the crass consumerism that has folks camped out, stressed out, and mowed down just to get a break on a flat screen, I can't tell you how refreshing my girlfriend's status update sounded.

And apparently, we're not the only ones who feel that way.

There's been a national movement afoot, pushed primarily on social media, to designate the Tuesday after Black Friday and Cyber Monday as "Giving Tuesday," a day set aside not to spend, but to give to others.

And though it would be perfectly fine to finally get around to writing that check to your favorite charitable cause, you and I know true benevolence doesn't come from the pocketbook.

It comes from your heart.

Over the years, I've come to know you, dear readers, pretty well. Agree or disagree, you're a passionate, caring bunch. So I have no problem issuing a request:

Take the Giving Pledge. Tell me what you are doing to give of yourselves this holiday season. I will take the best stories and share them in this space between now and the new year. Just a simple act of giving can change how we think about what has become a receiving season.

I'm sick of hearing about makers and takers. Let's all try to be givers.

 

A giving legacy

I'm talking about givers like Jude Lucien, an Army contractor who lives in the Northeast. For the last year, Lucien has mentored 13-year-old Carl Green through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southeastern Pennsylvania.

At a time when most 26-year-olds are planning their weekends, Lucien is planning his legacy.

"I don't want to live in vain," he said, explaining why he applied to become a Big Brother. "I thought this is the best way to reach out to someone and encourage them to better themselves."

Lucien, the youngest child of Haitian immigrants, grew up in hardscrabble Newark, N.J. He inherited his magnanimous spirit from his older brother, James Justin.

Justin was left to raise his brothers and sisters while his parents worked multiple jobs in pursuit of the American dream.

And it was Justin who taught his little brother right from wrong and the importance of education. It paid off: Lucien went on to earn a master's degree at Florida State University.

Now Lucien hopes to teach his little brother the same. Lucien and Green came up with their own handshake after their introductory meeting. That should say something about their being a perfect match.

"Jude is a godsend," says Jennifer Wilkey, 37, Green's mother. Wilkey works two jobs so her only child can attend Catholic school. Yet, she says, "I can't teach him how to be a man . . . and his father wasn't there to provide that for him."

Lucien is no father figure. What he's providing is the role model of a smart, capable, and loving black man that so many African American boys need.

"There's a need," Lucien says. "There's not enough black males to step up."

For his part, Green, a straight-A seventh-grader at Christ the King School, expects he will always be Lucien's little brother.

"I was already good," he said. "But Jude makes me better."

 


Annette John-Hall:

To see a video of Jude Lucien and Carl Green talking about their relationship, go to philly.com


For more information on Big Brothers Big Sisters: Bigs@bbssepa.org or 215-790-9200.

Share your story with Annette John-Hall at 215-854-4986 or Ajohnhall@phillynews.com.