One of our son’s best friends just got a new house. Kids think if their friends get something, they should too. He asked me when we were going to get a new house. I told him that we were not and that we should be grateful for the house we have. That so many people do not even have a home.
When you think about, we really do live in such big houses today. Most of our parents grew up in smaller houses and shared bedrooms with their siblings. When did we start expecting to keep moving to larger and larger homes?
As if the television were listening to our conversation, a news report about an area in Ohio came on NBC. This area is one of the poorest areas in the country. The story featured a woman who is trying to run a food pantry and soup kitchen to feed them all. It also featured two families – one family with a mother, father, son and daughter all living in a trailer with no running water and a single mom and her three children who are living out of their car. This caused all sorts of questions from our son. He could not understand how that family could not have a home. Even though I had told him there were families who were homeless only a few seconds ago, it obviously did not sink in as much as actually seeing a family in that situation did.
Another part of the story was an interview with the Governor of Ohio. He himself grew up extremely poor in that area of the state. He spoke about a prejudice for poverty and a selfishness that people have that is accepted by society these days.
Some people do believe that poor people are lazy, unskilled, substance abusers that have a victim mentality. In reality, less than ten percent of the homeless have addictions or mental disorders. Most are people with some skills who have worked most of their adult lives, but have fallen out of the system due to lack of jobs, family breakdown, or poor health.
America is supposed to be the most compassionate country in the world, but people are hesitant to help people now because we think we are being ripped off. We think we pay our taxes which pays for welfare so we have done our duty. Our own finances are tight so we do not think we can help. I know that I blogged about shutting off our cable. It strikes me now that for so many families cable was never an option, they worry about having money for food or electricity instead.
This all made me think about what our family can do:
- Buy local. By keeping our money in our town, state or country we are creating jobs for our neighbors who need them.
- Donate to the food banks and food pantries like the one featured in the story. Because of the recession these places are more in need than ever before.
- Donate clothing. If something is just sitting in my closet, someone else could be using it who really needs it more. Plus I will be de-cluttering my closet at the same time.
- Volunteer. Before I had kids I volunteered weekly at a development center for children in Portland. Most of the children were refugees from Somalia or Sudan. In the almost five years since I have had children I have only volunteered a day or two here or there. What am I doing? It is more important that I volunteer now so that I can teach my sons a life of service and giving back.
After the story was over I tried to discuss what we could do to help with my son. One of my suggestions was that instead of gifts for his birthday this year he could ask everyone to bring one unwrapped toy that we could donate. I explained how he has so many toys and so many children do not have any. Even though he was very concerned about the family without any home on tv, he was not a big fan of my idea. He very quickly and furiously started shaking his head back and forth to say no.
Yet the last time I told him we needed to go through his books and toys to clean out some we could donate, I had to pull him back. He wanted to donate everything he did not play with any more so I had to explain to him that we need to keep some of his old toys for his little brother. That might not be a sign of brotherly love, but at least it is a sign of progress.