I want for nothing. I have been blessed with a profitable career which I was able to give up when I needed to take care of myself. My husband has a career that supplies us with all our essential needs and then some. I have nothing to complain about.
Unfortunately, not everyone can say that. And in rural America, it can be particularly difficult for people in need. Our communities lack the resources for the hungry and the homeless that many find in larger, more metropolitan areas. We lack both shelters and soup kitchens. We have nothing much beyond the social service welfare programs that the state and federal governments provide and then you must meet the eligibility criteria. Often, the working poor don’t meet those criteria and they still don’t have enough to make ends meet. Living in a small community, I know elderly who don’t have enough retirement income to cover both necessary food and prescription medication. There are single parents earning near minimum wage, paying rent on run down apartments, struggling to maintain a battered automobile and lacking in nutritious food for their families. The homeless have established communities in sheltered areas of a wooded park in my community within walking distance to town where they can access public restrooms and purchase what goods they are able. All of these people and more are dependent on the kindness of others in order to survive. I’m sure it’s this way in your community as well. It is up to those of us who have, to provide every little bit we can. And how can we best give?
One need not be well to do to make a difference for others. No amount is too small to help just one person in need. You might think helping one person won’t change the world but it will certainly change the world for them. Even if you are struggling yourself, you can do something to contribute. It’s easy if you add charitable contributions into your budget and commit to paying them just as any other expense. Here are some actions I take that make contributing an easy habit to maintain:
1. Determine a charitable budget and withdraw it in cash each payday. Be it $10.00 or $100.00 per month, it all helps.
2. Locate charitable collection sites in your community where you can make donations and frequent those establishments, if only to drop off a few dollars from time to time. By having your donation available in cash, you can easily give when a spur of the moment opportunity arises.
3. Consider altering your charities to spread your donations further around. Perhaps you donate your entire budget to only one charity every month, but in choosing a different charity each month, you personally touch more people. And don’t forget the animals. Pet charities are always in need.
4. Inquire with your local grocery store as to any food bank programs they participate in. My local grocers collect for specific charities throughout the year, such as United Way and the Red Cross but they also accept donations of canned or boxed food for the local food pantry and you easily buy one or two items when you do your personal shopping and leave them in a cart by the door.
5. Consider making your charitable donations at the cash register. Many businesses collect for worthy, well-known charitable causes making donations easy. McDonald’s run it’s very important Ronald McDonald House and several retailers collect for St. Jude’s and the Red Cross.
6. Look into payroll deduction as a means to make charitable contributions such as to an annual United Way campaign.
Of course, our money is not the only thing we have to give that will help others but it usually is the easiest way for most of us to contribute. If you have time to spare, that is just as valuable if not more so. Consider giving just one hour a week to a charity in your community and see what a difference your time makes. Some of the local charities that likely need you include:
1. Your local library or community college, which often needs volunteers for literacy programs.
2. Food banks always seem to need people willing to cover a few hours now and again to stock shelves, pack boxes and hand out supplies. “Meals on Wheels” programs look for drivers and food prep workers, both of whom provide a much-valued service to the elderly and disabled.
3. Local parks often host ‘spring clean-up’ days or weekly maintenance shifts that require assistance from the public so you can enjoy the park while helping others enjoy it as well.
All of these charities and more will be grateful for any time that you can give but more importantly, those who benefit from your time will reap rewards you probably can’t imagine.
Giving to others is a gift to both the recipients and the donors. Knowing you have done something to make life better for others in your community will give you a feeling of contribution and elation. While your contributions may almost always be anonymous, know that recipients are grateful beyond words. You may make the difference between a family having a bowl of soup or an entrée with healthy sides tonight. That homeless man you pass in the park who walks with the stray dog may keep his companion for a while longer thanks to the heartworm medication he received from the local animal clinic. No matter how much you give, or where it goes, it is lending a hand to a good cause and improving the life of someone in your community. And that is a gift we may all benefit from.
Live a beautiful life.