Making a difference

I grew up in Minnesota and there were certain things instilled in me from a very young age that were absolutes. Give when you can – especially to those in great need – was at the top of the list.

We have a homeless population in Minnesota, but not nearly to the degree other states experience, our harsh winters simply keep many people away. The first time I was exposed to the homeless crisis on a large scale was when I visited my dear friend in NYC. As we walked the city I was overwhelmed by the need as well by my need to help.

As I handed my first dollars to a gentleman on the sidewalk, my friend was quick to explain that by giving I was only exacerbating the problem. I guess I understood the logic in that statement, but my heart and soul simply couldn’t process it that way.

As a nation, we have a homeless problem. And we are light-years away from wiping the problem from the planet. Understanding there are governmental programs and a myriad of volunteer programs (thank God) to help address this heartbreaking issue, why is it that my tiny effort – a few dollars I can spare to help a person eat or drink or feed their dog on a given day – is seen as “exacerbating the problem?”

Personally, I feel it’s that perspective that exacerbates the problem. The less we, as individuals, are willing to do to address an issue, the less likely we are to engage on a larger scale and the worse the problem will become. Think about the whole “pay it forward” movement. Do what you can for someone, in some moment, and WHO KNOWS what that gesture might return?

Logic. Statistics. I get it. But personally, I will never overlook an opportunity to help or support someone or something in need as long as I have the ability to do so. I will always allow my heart and intuition to rule over logic and statistics when it comes to a life.

There is a great song out there that motivates me each and every time I hear it. The chorus goes like this:

If not us, then who if not me and you?
Right now it’s time for us to do something.
If not now, then when will we see an end to all this pain?
It’s not enough to do nothing, it’s time for us to do something.

It can feel overwhelming. You might feel – as many do – that there are so many people and organizations that need help that your individual gestures, spread thinly, won’t make a dent in the larger problem. I hear that voice in my head all of the time and I always respond with this: I may not be able to help everyone and everything today, but I can help this one life today. And today, that will make all the difference to them.

*This photo is from assembly day for “Random Packs of Kindness.” A personal, passion project that entailed filling backpacks with basic necessities – as well as some “not so basic necessities” – to provide to the homeless.

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