Helping Others

11442985030In my last post I promised a new series on the topic of personal accountability. I decided to run this series because sometimes it feels like the issues of health care reform are out of our hands; that we don’t really have much impact or influence on those who are making the decisions.

Call me a control freak if you’d like, but I like feeling like I have impact over things in my life. If there are others like me, then we might be interested in learning more about how we, as individuals, can take charge of our health care. Personal Accountability is the subject that came to mind.

Dr. Joshua Freeman, on his blog Medicine Social Justice, reminded me recently how the topic of personal accountability may not be an effective prescription for those who need it the most, America’s poor. We’re so accustomed to thinking that America is the biggest and the best that “America” and “Poor” seem like conflicting terms. Today we are seeing increases in the number of poor people in our country. In fact, according to Take Part, “43.6 million Americans—the largest number in  51 years of poverty estimates—were living below the federal threshold in 2009, up from 39.1 million in 2008.” That means that 1 out of every 5 children under the 18 of 18 is living in poverty.

I don’t know if any of us personally are feeling the impact of this yet, so it makes it hard to truly understand. So I decided that my first post on Personal Accountability will be about ways we can help others. How does helping others translate into “personal” accountability? Nearly every religion on this planet includes some proverb or prescription about feeding the poor or helping those in need. If you ask me, it’s a very endearing characteristic of humans – the ability to look beyond our own needs and help others who may not survive otherwise.

What can you do to help those in need? Below are some ideas.

Waste not, Want not

Over 41 billion pounds of food are wasted each year according to America’s Second Harvest, with each household wasting 10% of their own food purchases. This is more than a waste of natural resources, it’s an economic problem too. At the same time there are over 30 million Americans without adequate food supply in their homes. Do not buy more than you can eat…unless you plan to donate it!

Raise the Bar

According to American Progress, the current level of minimum wage in this country is too low. They say that raising the minimum wage, “would help nearly 5 million poor workers and nearly 10 million other low-income workers.” Have you heard the comment that a rising tide lifts all ships? Be supportive of America’s poor by supporting an increase in the minimum wage.

Education

Because public school funding is impacted by property taxes, the quality of the education children receive is impacted by where they live. Because America’s poor cannot afford expensive housing, their children are forced to go to underfunded schools. That generally means a low teacher to student ratio. Tonic.com points out that “kids from poor families are up to six times more likely to drop out of school than kids from wealthy families.”  What can you do? Volunteer with schools in need, take the Parent Pledge at Project Appleseed, participate with Big Brothers Big Sisters, or if possible, consider becoming a Foster parent where you can take a child into your home. There are many ways to help America’s children improve their circumstances. Hopefully some of these resources can be a good starting point.

Donate

Remember Maslow’s Hiearchy of Needs? People who are living below the poverty level are struggling at the lowest tier, meaning they need food, clothing, and shelter. Most cities have ways to donate these items to help the poor. Here are some ideas you could consider. Find a Salvation Army near you where you can donate everything from cars to clothes and even sponsor a child in poverty. You can donate supplies to homeless shelters in your area; find one near you through this national listing of Homeless Shelters. Remote Area Medical (RAM) provides health care to thousands of uninsured Americans each year. You can donate money to help this valuable program on the RAM website.

These are just a few ideas of ways we can all reach out to help Americans in need. I’m sure many of you have found other organizations that help. Please share your suggestions so we can all find new ways to reach out.

Mahatma Gandhi said that “Poverty is the worst form of violence.” Let’s be the change we wish to see in this world and do what we can to end the violence of poverty.

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