Two weeks ago in this space we talked about five things we – as a people, as a nation – can do to get busy fixing poverty. Those things are important, vital, even. But they’re big enough to let us all off the hook as individuals. Which will not do.
As with many political issues, we’re all more likely to demand political change if we have a personal stake in the issue. Skin in the game, a dog in the hunt. If you’re only interested but not committed to action against poverty, here are three things you can do (today) to get personally invested … before you end up learning about it the hard way:
1.) Do Something. There’s at least one homeless shelter in your town. Go there. Ask what you can do and be ready to do it. Yes, it will be icky. People who don’t have a place to live don’t shower very often and they smell bad. Roll up your sleeves and help them. Then thank God/the universe/whatever you believe in that you’re not the one who desperately needs clean socks and a toothbrush.
2.) Give Something. Something green. It’s a universal truth that “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” It doesn’t matter how much you have to give, go give some of it to a group that is actively delivering services to people who have been left behind by the largest economy in the history of the world. I recommend something local so you can see exactly what your money is doing. But be prepared to learn the hard truth that (unless your last name is Gates or Buffet) your money isn’t going to do a damned thing on a permanent basis. It’s just not going to be enough. All the charity we can muster won’t get it done – the only way to fix the problem is to fix the system. You should – we should – give anyway because until the problem/system get fixed, somebody has to. If you did item 1, above, you already know that.
3.) Raise Hell. Talk about poverty. In polite company. Make people uncomfortable. Tell them it is unacceptable that a child in your community is going to bed hungry tonight. In a car. But don’t stop there. Make an absolute nuisance of yourself with your local, state and federal elected officials. Tell them you’re embarrassed and outraged at the lack of a national conversation about poverty and that you demand better. If only one or two of us does this we’re crazy. If a few of us do it we’re annoying. But there’s a point at which we become a movement – and that’s when things start happening. It’s time to start a movement.
The Everblog poverty series: