Why it is important to help

When I am asked about my volunteering to help the disenfranchised and how can someone go about doing it, my answer is to follow your passions. I usually ask what interests you, how much time do you have and what groups of people do you feel most comfortable helping. For some, it is visiting, talking, reading and singing with the elderly; for some it is mentoring or tutoring school kids; for some it is helping homeless people find shelter, find employment, or gain assistance. These folks need what you have to offer – your time, your experiences, your feedback, your coaching.

I was reminded of this yet again earlier this week. I was meeting with a formerly homeless father who the organization I serve with helped regain a home after he and is wife made poor decisions. He was a former Army soldier and was gainfully employed when he began a cocaine addiction journey that led him to being imprisoned. It also claimed his wife, as he noted, she was in worse shape than him. After his release from prison, he had a hard time and became homeless. He also did not have custody of his son.

Through the help of this agency, he regained a home, regained custody and eventually reconciled with his wife. He was doing well until he lost a second job in short order. He was among seventeen workers who were asked to not come back on January 6 unless called as the company is downsizing to four staff. He is in a bad mental place, so I met with him as I am helping the agency expand a pilot an employment initiative.

He was doing all the right things (resume drafted, applied to 25 or so places) to find another job and I offered some additional suggestions and companies he may wish to consider based on his needs. He also needed someone to offer support and reinforcement. Someone to say keep doing what you are doing and offering constructive feedback. He has interview on Thursday, so keep your fingers crossed.

Yet, I also want to share with you another reason why we should help. You see, through all of these troubles the mother and father have had, his son just graduated with a Master’s degree at a state university. Through all of this, his son was able to find opportunity. Through all of this, his son was able to complete his education. Through all of this, his son was able to break the cycle of poverty. One of the things we emphasize to others, is the homeless kids don’t have a place to study. Oftentimes, they may not eat or go without healthcare. So, helping the family find a home means more than just a roof for kids – it is stability.

When I speak with some people who are more conservative in mindset, I do my best to convince them to help these people climb a ladder. To some, I am wasting my breath, as they view these parents as lazy, drug addicted, or welfare bound. Some like to paint with a broad brush everyone who is in need based on the observations of over-dramatized anecdotes. Yet, the people I encounter are hard-working and are in need of a second job as hours have been cutback or they lost a job. Before the state of Florida was asked to unwind unconstitutional drug testing of welfare recipients, the data from the four months of the program said welfare recipients’ rate of drug use was 1/4 that of general society.

Yet, what I do get even these strident conservative folks to agree on is let’s do something to help the kids. There is a higher propensity for homeless children to become homeless adults than for general society. There is also a higher propensity for children who are violently abused to marry or become abusers themselves when they grow up. I mention the latter as 30% of our homeless families are homeless due to getting away from a domestic violence situation. So, if we can help the kids and parents find homes and help them climb the ladder, we can break the cycle of homelessness and domestic violence.

The Christmas season brings out the generous spirit of many. Yet, the needs last beyond the season. As someone who volunteers, I can tell you there is such great sense of purpose to help others. Follow your passions and offer your help to others. You will be helping more than just one generation. Plus, you will be helping yourself.

Merry Christmas and have a successful New Year.

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12 thoughts on “Why it is important to help

  1. great post – don’t ever grow tired of reminding others to take time out to help those who are not so fortunate. your stats about the 30 percent/abusive situations, as so many abused partners do not leave because of fear of losing their home/of having no place to go. it’s sad, and iwe should try to help those who had the courage to leave, even if it meant having no home, no secure future.

    john urbuno’s ‘\beauty of the fight’ documentary has a theme, “when you don’t have a home, you don’t have a life.’

    http://thepanamaclub.com/documentary-the-beauty-of-the-fight-by-john-urbano-panama/
    http://www.johnurbano.com/books_films.html

    i’ve missed not being able to drop in and have a cup of coffee with you guys and gals! i’m now home, though the internet is slow, but hey, it’s therwwwwwwwwwwww

  2. BTG…Z just left me a comment on “Borrowed Lines…” I’ve copied my response to her here on your post. Felt it appropriate.
    2014…the opportunities for a “very good year” are around us all…though some may need the nudge to face fears and move forward. I’d like to think, like BTG, that numbers are growing in effort to help others open new doors of opportunity and well-being.
    ….then…there’s that sparkle thing…it just feels…RIGHT!!!
    Raye

    • You and Z are the best. We need to give some a nudge to go help. If you ever want to create that sparkle, help a young person learn or an old person remember. As I told Z, sometimes you forget and need to be reminded, which is a reason I write them down. Hearing him tell me about his son was a nice refresher. All the best, BTG

  3. Great post. We need to keep in mind that those in need, live that need 365 days a year, not just on Thanksgiving and Christmas. We need to find a way to share, accordingly.

    Raye said it better than I can. 2014 has the opportunity to be a very good year.

  4. Great message, BTG. Thank you for sharing your experiences. Fingers crossed for that man who is trying to do the right thing. It frustrates me when people blame the less fortunate for their own plight in an effort to exorcise their guilt and justify their cold heartedness. Yes, many times they make bad decisions, as do we all. The young man who escaped major punishment for killing four pedestrians while drunk driving suffered from “affluenza,” according to his defense lawyers. If such a condition exists, then surely the effects of poverty, malnutrition, poor education, homelessness, and hopelessness are even more difficult to overcome than the “condition” of privilege. Those who do not understand this should step down from their high horses and get to know some of the people whom they judge so harshly.

  5. Volunteering is so important AND so rewarding. Sadly, I haven’t done as much of it as I thought I would post retirement, but I have volunteered in some capacity since my 20’s. I have found that I may reap more rewards than those I’m supposedly helping. There is something intensely rewarding about reaching out to others and offering them a hand.

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