It was about two years ago, just before the start of the school year, when an acquaintance, Cindy, had professed to me a predicament she found herself in. Her sister, who had struggled with drugs, had dropped her children off with her and left them, later to be arrested (for whatever reason). The children were then awarded to Cindy by the courts, but with her sister in jail and no father to speak of, Cindy had to provide for them herself. She now had two extra mouths to feed, and no money to get them anything they needed, as they never had anything to begin with. They weren't well off, either. She needed help.
I enlisted the help of my family and friends, and together we were able to clothe the kids before school began, complete with backpacks, school supplies, clothing, toys, you name it. I recall going through my children's rooms as they asked me what we were doing. We often purge their rooms to keep them organized, but they knew this was different. When I explained that there were children who had nothing, who needed clothes, toys and things for school, my children became very silent and very concerned. They came out with arms filled with their things, things they loved, just to give to these children who had nothing. I have good, big-hearted children.
Poverty is unfortunately everywhere. It's something you can see everyday and not even know it. Some people hide it better than others. But it's everywhere, and being one of those people who always has to help, who's been there herself, it is so hard to know best how to help those in need. Where do you start? Who do you start with? Spare change for a homeless man on a street corner, or the family living in their car? Donated clothes to Good Will or the Salvation Army? Adopting a foreign child? Who should you help?
If you want to help but unsure of where to start, here are a few, different ideas with some helpful websites to help get you started NOW:
- $25 donation feeds a US Family for five weeks.
- Pull food from your pantry you aren't using, or decide to shop for extra items, and donate to your local food pantry.
- Visit Feed the Children and donate or sponsor a child, host an event, get your church involved or search their site get involved in another way.
- Do you have a musical instrument you no longer use? Donate to the still-struggling musicians and students in New Orleans, who are still recovering from Hurricane Katrina. A few great organizations that will accepts musical instruments are Tipitina’s Foundation (http://www.tipitinasfoundation.org/) and The New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund (www.nomrf.org/donations.html).
- Visit The Hunger Site every day and click the link to feed the hungry. It’s fast and it’s free and there’s absolutely NO excuse not to do it every day you’re online!
- Volunteer for your local Meals on Wheels program, or if you don't have one local, donate online.
- If you're a regular as far as donating, why not check your closet again? Make sure that anything you have not used last winter is taken to your local charitable organization. This time, ask your family, friends and neighbors to do the same. Remember, these items are much better off being donated - they will do no good on a hanger collecting dust in your closet and a world of good to someone in need.
- Decide one night to eat dinner on the floor and make it a very small meal (like chicken broth, watered down milk, and maybe a small piece of bread?) Talk about the blessings you have. Have that the meal represent those who don’t get to eat what you regularly do on a daily basis.
- Don’t just talk to your kids about poverty - get them involved by having them go through their toys and clothes to find concrete things to pass along to others in need. The next time they want you to buy something for them - talk about what that money could buy for someone who had no food… then follow through and donate the money you didn’t spend.
- To add to the previous point, ask your children if they would like to raise money for charity, by hosting a yard sale, running a car wash, or perhaps going door to door asking for donations. Or, ask their school to run a canned good drive and volunteer you and your children to help out by asking for donations or helping to deliver the items with you.
- Do you get coupons for free beverages or meals? Collect them and give them to someone in need.
- As you find organizations where you like to donate food, clothing, etc., spend some time volunteering for that organization in addition to what you're already doing. Contribute to the organizations you are already supporting in other ways as well.
I know there is so much more I could list, but I would love to hear what you have done to donate, or how you have incorporated your children into helping you help those in need. Also, if you're blogging today for Blog Action Day 2008 about poverty, or have an interesting post regarding donating time or goods to help the less fortunate, please feel free to leave your link here for me to visit, even if it's an old link to an old post you already made. You might introduce something new to someone me or visiting.