Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day -- Poverty

Today, October 15 is blog action day. Every year bloggers volunteer to post something that brings awareness to certain issues. Last year the topic was the environment. Today thousands and thousands of bloggers are talking about poverty. I hope raising the awareness of poverty helps. For one day can't we try to think and act on behalf of those who have little? I'm trying.

What are the greatest things we can do to fight poverty? I don't know. However I can think of some things that will help. I can't help hundreds but I can help a few. I'm sure you've heard the story of a little boy walking along the beach after a storm. There were hundreds of starfish that had washed up on the shore. He was throwing starfish back into the ocean. A man walked by and noticed the boy's activity. He said, "You know there's a lot of starfish out here. I don't think you're going to be able to help them."

As the little boy tossed a starfish back into the ocean, he said, "I helped that one." I'm sure that starfish appreciated his help. That's the moral of the story, eh?

Poverty is so huge -- there are more poor than not in our world -- I think we feel overwhelmed by the need so we do little thinking we can't make a difference. But that's a lie. We can help.

Years ago there was a couple living a few doors down from us who I became acquainted with. Every day they came home from their good jobs and more often than not they had take out food with them. One day we were out shovelling our sidewalks at the same time. She knew that Gordon has recently been laid off work and she asked how we were doing. I used the opportunity to tell her how God was taking care of us and all our needs were being met.

Oddly she turned the conversation to giving to charities. They weren't church goers but they had gone to church the week before to a baby christening. She said she'd put $20 in the offering plate and then added, "You know Valerie, we can't afford to give that kind of money it's just seemed like I was supposed to."

That conversation drove home to me how we North Americans are so out of focus on poverty and neediness. She thought 20 bucks in the offering plate was such a sacrifice but didn't seem to notice how affluent she lived. If we are all tapped out financially, sure it'll be hard to give. So to me, a logical first step in fighting poverty is eliminate some of our consumption and materialism. Once our standards of living are reasonably humble there will be more to give away.

Often times I see perfectly good stuff in peoples' garbage. Last week there was a make-up table and some beautiful baskets and dishes. Deborah promptly brought those things home and put them in the tree house. (Not exactly helping the poor I know). Every time I see the waste, I'm disturbed. I don't begrudge people for getting rid of stuff, but reusable stuff in the trash?? Why not Goodwill or the Salvation Army? Again, we have so much stuff that putting decent items in the garbage that someone somewhere could benefit from is common place. (I know in small communities there may not be the abundance of second hand stores that want donations, but where I am there are many. And there are many many people who can only afford second hand).

Praying for the poor is something we can all do. When I pass a poor or homeless person, I certainly don't always stop to give money, but it's always possible to pray. I want to do that more. But I also want to help them more too. I gave a couple a ride a few weeks ago. They were walking down the alley with a small tv wall-unit they had picked up in someone's garbage. We loaded it into my van and drove it to their little apartment. It felt good to help them, and God knows they appreciated it.

A few years ago we developed a relationship with a homeless man named Ron. Every Sunday we'd bring him to our house for a shower and lunch. It felt good to help him.

I sometimes pick up $5 gift certificates in fast food restaurants to give to a homeless or needy person. It seems I never have cash so when I go to pay for a $2 purchase on my debit card, it seems logical to make it $12 and buy a couple gift certificates to give away to someone who'd like a warm meal.

Gordon's brother and his family serve dinner to the needy in a huge church organized "feed the poor" Christmas meal. My mom invites a low-income lady for meals several times a week. Opportunities to help are endless.

On a world wide scale, there are opportunities for us common folk too. Here are a few of my favorites.

1) Click for hunger is something those of us who are on the computer daily can easily do. It is so easy. Just sign up and they'll email you a reminder with a link every day. When you get your email, click on the link and when the link opens you click an orange button. Every click provides food for a hungry person. I checked this out personally and it is legitimate.

2) This one is new to me, but it's along the same line. Give free rice. It's a vocabulary game and every right answer gives rice away. I didn't read enough to know how it works, but I know my vocabulary could be expanded and the poor helped too. Why not?

3) Operation Christmas Child is a wonderful way to help poor children. I'll admit I've not done this in a couple years. However what I used to do worked very well for me. Once a month when I was grocery shopping, I'd look for something on sale that was suitable for the Christmas boxes. Toothpaste, soap, toothbrush, little toys, crayons, whatever. I'd buy 12, bring it home and put it in the pantry. By the end of the year, I had the contents for 12 shoe boxes. It was nearly effortless and financially painless.

4) Samaritan's Purse, the organization behind Operation Christmas Child, publishes a catalog where you can buy cows, goats, chickens, and many other things than would give poor families in undeveloped countries opportunity to grow their own food. It's a beautiful beautiful opportunity. There are many organizations that do this now. I think it's absolutely delightful.

5) Compassion International is another favorite of mine. Sponsoring a child is easy. For less than $50 a month you can feed, clothe, and send a child to school. What an investment.

There are tons more organizations to help the poor. These are some that I'm familiar with and know are good.

If you forget or discount everything I've said, please still think of the poor and how you can help today.

I'd love to know what you do for the poor or under-privileged.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is a pity, that now I can not express - it is very occupied. But I will return - I will necessarily write that I think.

March 5, 2010 at 3:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What necessary words... super, an excellent phrase

March 13, 2010 at 1:05 AM  

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