Ever notice how the poor are suddenly the focus of more attention around the holidays? What about the rest of the year? Does Christian charity only happen on Christmas and what about the atheists? Does not having a belief system make them any less caring than those who do? Does your political affiliation make a difference in reducing poverty anywhere? Seems to me that beliefs either personal or political, have nothing to do with showing compassion all year round but I have noticed that as soon as the holidays come around, all of a sudden it’s popular to be considerate.
Let’s face it, nobody wants to see just how widespread poverty has become in this country much less be in poverty yet the more we ignore it, the less gets done about it and the problem will continue to be a problem. Sure, you can pass a farm bill with massive cuts to food stamps and you can take away funding for public housing thinking (unrealistically) that such measures will push people into jobs and that sounds great on paper but the reality is that there aren’t enough living wage jobs to go around neither is affordable housing otherwise why are there so many people living out of their cars, under bridges or couch surfing on other people’s couches? Quite a few people who work can’t afford to keep a roof over their heads or enough food on the table no matter what they do and for those of you quick to point the finger at “individual responsibility”, not everyone who is homeless is a drug addict or mentally ill.
And how about those folks on the brink of losing their homes because of all those miraculous jobs that some people think are out there? If all their earnings go to rent, utilities and childcare, there is nothing left over to buy groceries with and food banks can only give out so much because I know from personal experience that if you are homeless, you can only go to a food bank once a week but if you’re housed, you can only come in once a month. If you are living out of your car or a backpack, you can only take things that don’t require refrigeration, cooking or a lot of storage space.
Then comes the holiday season and all of a sudden, here comes the media and would be do-gooders to come take care of the poor! This is not to say that local orgs or agencies aren’t doing anything every other day of the year, it’s just that needy folks need more than a turkey dinner and a candy cane! If you really want to help the less fortunate, you don’t have to wait for the holidays. All you have to do is get involved with local organizations already involved with services like clothing banks or food pantries. Maybe there’s a volunteer group that visits the elderly to help them with housework or yardwork and if these services don’t exist, don’t be afraid to create them!
Sometimes the most a person can do is put together care packs. Basically this is a large resealable plastic bag filled with things like a pair of warm socks, travel sized toiletries, ready to eat foods, a bottle of water, hand wipes or even a $5 fast food gift card to get something hot to drink or eat. Maybe there’s a community hall or senior center with a kitchen that you can host community dinners or breakfasts in that are open to the public or bring food items to those who can’t get out. A lot of times I carry things like extra socks, hats, coats, hand warmers or rain ponchos in the back of my car to give to local homeless folks who need.
Oh and please don’t assume that what you read here on this blog is in any way shape or form the only thing I or you can do to make your community a better place to live in because there is a lot to do when it comes to helping your fellow man, woman and child. There is still the matter of educating people on the facts of poverty and that includes policy makers and voters. One person can’t do everything but maybe everybody can do something!