One of my favorite places on the Net is Natural News where Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, dispenses news, views and reviews of everything health-related. Unlike some of the Fish Oil Salesmen (the modern version of Snake Oil Salesmen), Mike doesn’t just paste up some tacky recycled content in an effort to get you to buy stuff. Yes, he sells a lot of the things he writes about, but there’s no pressure to buy and he’s obviously an advocate for a healthier, more planet-friendly lifestyle. I’ve never bought anything from him and I’ve been a subscriber for a long time.
Anyhow, one of his recent posts, “Helping People Isn’t Complicated: Four Simple Steps To A Better World”, really struck a chord with me. I’ve always believed that the world would be a very different and better place if everyone helped someone else as often as they could. I’ve seen this from both sides.
I grew up dirt poor, raised by a single mother who worked in factories to support my brothers and me. There were many times when we didn’t have enough food and I remember my mother throwing winter coats over us because we didn’t have heat in the dead of winter in New England. My mother was too proud to accept government help, so we struggled along, hungry, cold and discouraged. What a difference it would have made if someone at our church or in the community had brought us some groceries once in awhile or a couple of warm blankets. But she wouldn’t ask and they didn’t offer.
After I left home, I traveled around the US by thumb – a very stupid thing for an 18 year old woman to do. But it was the 70’s and “everyone was doing it” so I did. I worked at day labor jobs, donated blood as often as I could and picked vegetables and fruits, but there were times when there were no jobs and I panhandled for small change. Once in awhile, someone would tell me that they wouldn’t give me change, because they were afraid I’d spend it on drink (I’d never had a drink in my life at the time), so they gave me cups of coffee, doughnuts or sandwiches. One woman gave me a warm winter coat and a pair of mittens when I was in St. Louis in a sleet storm. A mother and daughter gave me a blanket. I think my favorite donation was a big thermos of hot homemade soup. I used the thermos for the rest of my trip.
The point of all this is that helping people means giving them what they need, not just throwing money at an organization that “helps people” and feeling like we’ve done our duty to the world. It means that we don’t have to have a big bank account to lend a helping hand to someone else.
It might mean that you use the money you were going to spend on a coffee and donut to buy a coffee and donut for that guy who begs for change on the corner near your office building. It could mean that you pay for groceries for an obviously struggling single mom or elderly person when they’re standing in line in front of you at the supermarket.
Helping can mean going through your closets, grabbing all those old but still good winter coats and walking around downtown asking homeless people if they want one. Or you could find a homeless shelter and ask if they’d take them and give them out. What about blankets? Sleeping bags you don’t use anymore? Are there people in your neighborhood or around town who are cold at night because they can’t afford to keep their heat up enough to warm their houses or apartments? I can tell you from personal experience that it’s really hard to sleep when you’re shivering.
There are so many things we can do. The Natural News article has a list at the end of organizations that help people directly and there are tons more on the Net. Sure, you can just give them some money if you have it to give and that’s a really good thing. But beyond that, it might be better to find someone in need and fill that need, personally, if you can.
Poverty is a real barrier to healing and protecting our planet. I don’t believe that we can be really eco-conscious without caring for our fellow human beings as well as we care for the Earth.