In the late 90’s there were estimates that there were anywhere from 700,000 homeless people per night to 2,000,000 homeless people per year. That is a staggering number that should appall everyone but in a capitalist society, this is what you get. It seems that there is wealthy and poor and hardly any inbetween anymore and oftentimes, the wealthy just don’t do their part to help. And these are not the only people that are in need of our help. So, for the remaining dying breed of somewhere in between impoverished and super wealthy, here are some small things we can do to make a big difference.
1. One way to give back is, every year at Christmas my mother and I participate in Operation Christmas Child through Samaritan’s Purse. It’s really simple and I think, really important. All you do is take an empty shoebox and fill it with a few gifts for a young boy or girl. They often ask you to put in things that will help with their health and sanitation like a toothbrush and toothpaste or soap but then you can throw in a few fun things too. It’s very inexpensive in fact, you may be able to throw things in you already have around your house and just think, some kid who would’ve gotten nothing for Christmas will have something to smile about. It’s a great cause and very easy to do. There are drop off locations or you can mail it in, anytime of the year. If you want to check out more about the organization you can go to www.samaritanspurse.org
2. Another way to give back is to participate in a Relay for Life. As simple as this sounds, it is so noteworthy and not a big cost to you. You can sign up for Relay for Life (they happen just about everywhere) with a team (this can be your family, a group of friends, coworkers or even strangers). The only donation you’re asked to make is ten dollars to buy a t-shirt. Then, you send out emails to friends/family/coworkers/etc. to let them know you are participating and ask for sponsors. They can pledge gifts of however much they choose and then all you have to do is show up at the Relay and they’re always fun with a lot of activities going on and it’s a time to spend with the people in your group. The Relay for Life raises money for the American Cancer Society. This is a great way to have fun and help out a great cause at the same time at practically no expense to you. For more information you can check out their website at www.cancer.org/docroot/gi/gi_1.asp
3. Give back with Hospital Visits. There are so many children in hospitals suffering from illnesses that leave them bedridden so why not take some time out of your schedule and cheer them up? If you have a talent, use it. If you can sing or dance or play an instrument or you have a group of friends that does, that’s always fun. If not, just go. You can tell them jokes or tell them stories, anything to distract them from what they are facing. And this doesn’t just apply to children. Elderly people in nursing homes or ill in the hospital love this same kind of thing. One year my dance troupe went into a nursing home and put on a dance show for the patients and staff and they loved it. People in these situations don’t have the same kind of freedom to go out and do things like most people so something like this is a really big deal to them.
4. A lot of times particularly if you live in a city, you pass people on the street begging for money. It always breaks your heart and you usually just try looking away and sometimes you’ll drop them some change or a dollar bill but you think to yourself they’re probably just going to go and use it for drugs or something of that nature. One day, I was talking this over with someone and they gave me a great idea. We were walking into McDonalds and there was a man standing outside begging for money to buy something to eat. So, instead of dropping him the money, when we ordered our lunch, we bought an extra burger for him. It cost a dollar and we knew that we really did something good. So, next time you see someone begging for money for food, consider that.
5. Loose change. So many charities advertise that whatever you can send them they will take and trust me, they’re not kidding. What we think of as too little to help anyone doesn’t apply to people with nothing. When you buy something and get a few cents back, drop it in the box for the Ronald McDonald House or put it in a jar and once you’ve collected a decent amount, send it to a charity of your choice. If you’re sitting there thinking that you keep your change in a jar but you’re saving up for a vacation or retirement or whatever your own personal fund may be, then try splitting it up. Keep two separate jars, one for you and one for charity. For these people, every little bit counts.
6. Increase awareness. If you are not in straights to make personal financial contributions, then donate your time to making people aware who can financially support these causes. By educating people about the number of people that need their help and ways they can do it, I’m sure there is more of a likelihood that they themselves will be willing to help out.
7. A lot of old things that you are trying to get rid of could be something that someone really needs. Do your best not to throw these things out. Places like the Salvation Army and Goodwill are more than willing to take a lot of your old stuff and you will be helping people by getting rid of something you would get rid of anyway.
8. Give some of your time to volunteering someplace like a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter. There is such a shortage of people and these places don’t receive enough funding to pay a lot of people good money to help so pick a day you’re free and maybe do it with a family member or a friend. Again, it’s something that won’t cost you any money but it’s a really big help.
9. Vote. As ridiculous as this sounds, it is so important. The minimum wage in this country is still much less than it really takes to live even minimally in this country so by voting for things like increasing the minimum wage and voting for budgets to keep shelters open, you’re doing needy people a really big favor.
10. Now, here’s something I’m always tempted to do, and everyone should really start. Help out one person everyday. If you see an old lady crossing the street, help her. If someone drops something, pick it up for them. If someone’s got a cough, give them a lozenge. If someone falls, help them up. Doing something even small like one of these things everyday will not only be helping out other people, but it will give you much better feelings about yourself and give you a purpose everyday.
This world has so many problems that a little good work is needed more than we think. So, take a look at these suggestions and try to find something that fits your schedule and your lifestyle (there must be at least one). If we all do a little bit, we can really change the world. God bless.