“I’m starving.” I catch myself saying this frequently in the lackadaisical way most people have a tendency to do. In reality, I’m eating a reduced calorie diet because I had been over-eating a calorie rich diet. Lately I have been eating fresh, leafy, green vegetables, fruits, and lean proteins. The truth is I was just complaining because I had chosen to not shove another taco into my mouth for the moment – poor me, right? No. No, not poor in the least. I have never been truly hungry. I am now, and always have been, well fed and privileged beyond my own comprehension.
I have a warm home, a full refrigerator, a vehicle, I have a closet full of clothes for each season (and maybe even a hamper or two, if I’m honest). I have FOUR pairs of winter boots. I am abundantly wealthy in comparison with so many hungry bellied, underdressed people of this world. I have spent my adult life thinking that there was nothing I could do to directly impact someone if they were cold or hungry or otherwise miserable. I rationalized my selfishness. I diluted myself by believing there was nothing I could do, therefore it had nothing to do with me.
Wrong. So wrong.
I feel like I am waking up from a long, restless sleep. I’ve stretched, I’ve rubbed my eyes and I’ve had a look around. The things that have consumed my thoughts and my energy surround me like discarded clothes. The way my money has been spent lies like a spoiled child’s pile of broken toys. My efforts and passions are like yesterday’s fads – childish, garish and forgotten. It is impossible to look away from that and not want a change.
The change that has been most urgent, screaming loudly from my heart each day, is the aching desire to help people in need. For no reason other than I have been provided so much – blessed with such abundance and comfort – that it would be cruel to not spend my energy to give someone something. Even if all I can afford is my time.
Perhaps I really need to spend more time sorting this out, but I feel strongly that I want to help others in a way that involves more than being a part of an organization or a member of a church. I want to do more than just nod, smile and write a check.
In typical ‘me’ fashion, I’ve spent a lot of time talking to other people about this, whether it be in an attempt to receive feedback or to recruit them to my cause (muahahahaha). In these conversations I have learned that I am most definitely not alone in my desire to give of my time, effort, money and heart in a different way.
One conversation on this subject has changed the way I view my city and has intensified my desire to help. A synopsis of the conversation:
Hey there basic American person, living so gluttonous that you could feed two families with the food in your fridge and clothe a small village with just the items hanging out in your hamper! Sorry to hear that you’re still hungry after your 100% organic juice smoothie and your $4 cup of coffee. Gosh, it must really stink to make yourself wait two WHOLE hours to eat another healthy, readily available meal. You know you could get in your car and go get food – hot, delicious tasting food – from any one of hundreds of restaurants or grocery stores that are ALL accessible to you RIGHT NOW because you have a little money in your pocket and transportation. But anyway, I have something to share with you!
Did you know that there is a school – right here in your great city – with some of the most neglected, marginalized, hopeless, forgotten people in need of some of life’s most basic things? No, I didn’t say a shelter for homeless people, silly! I said a SCHOOL! As in the place where children go to learn! Yes, with books and teachers, but the students are – well, I don’t know how to tell you this – but they’re poor and they’re behind in school and they are ridden with problems. However, they still come to school on Monday and they more than likely they haven’t had anything substantial to eat since lunch last Friday. They are probably also not wearing clothing appropriate for the weather and what they are wearing probably isn’t clean. They’ve been found without undergarments because they had none to put on. They go without what you complain about having to maintain.
Don’t cry, no don’t do that. Oh man, you are really a mess when you cry. Would you like to go blow your nose so we can finish talking? *Pause for brief sobbing and lots of tissues and snotty moments* Can you help? YES. The school takes donations. The contact information for the school is online and you can email them. They need everything – socks, underwear, undershirts, coats, shoes, deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrushes, feminine products, non-perishable food packs so that these KIDS can have something to eat over the weekend…They need so much. Yes, you can help…yes.
Parts of this conversation might be an exaggeration, but unfortunately the part regarding the school in need is not. After hearing about this school I did some research and found that my little city (less than 80,000 people) has your typical poverty rate of about 15% of our population living at or below the poverty line (if you haven’t checked out the poverty line lately you can see it here). It was another layer of selfish ignorance being pulled away from my vision. It made me wonder what I can do? How can I help? Who can I reach my hand out to and make a difference?
My first thought was the impactful power I have seen portrayed in social media. Sites like ‘gofundme’ make it possible for people to be keyboard philanthropists and give back without getting up. That is INCREDIBLE. However, I think there is much more value in a more personal approach.
I keep thinking how amazing it would be if all of my social media friends – or even just the 30 or so people I interact with on a weekly basis – made an effort to help. Maybe if all my friends vowed to pick up a package of undershirts, socks or toothpaste on their next trip to Target we could all deliver the stuff to the school. We could pick a different item each week and stock the shelves of the school with every need imaginable, just by a few people spending a few dollars on someone else each week.
I put a bin in my car tonight and so far it is empty, but I know it won’t be for long, because I have committed to pick up one useful item for this school each time I stop at a store.
I don’t know exactly what this is leading to, but I feel like it’s something. I also know underpants and toiletries aren’t going to change the world, but AWARENESS will. Now that I am aware, I cannot go back. I cannot unlearn what I know and I choose not to be still.