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Really,what could I do?

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So generally I try to keep my personal opinions about the bigger issues to myself here – politics, the big religious and social debates just aren’t what this blog is about though I definitely have my opinions.  But this blog is about simple living and though simple living can be attained many ways and at many different incomes and social strata one of the ties that bind is, to paraphrase Gandhi, to live a way of life so that others can live.

There’s a lot going on in the world now.  A lot of discussion about what is fair, getting equal footing, equal shares, and what is right, moral and good.  With the holiday season approaching we normally faced with these conundrums, but this year it’s a little more in your face, the talk about taking care of the needy, the poor and the unfortunate and whose responsibility it is.

Here is where I’m going to hazard my opinion.  Who’s responsibility is it?  I’ll give you my answer:  Grab a mirror, I’ll grab one too and on the count of three we’ll look at them… 1…2…3… and there you go.  That face in the mirror, every mirror, that is the face of responsibility.  Like anything you can see in a mirror the reality is not always pleasant, but it’s the truth.

Whether you believe change and reform should come from point A or point B, and whether you think it should end up at point C or point D doesn’t change that there’s a lot you could be doing now, right this second and it’s going to do no good to sit around and wait for something that might never happen while doing nothing else.

There are parents who could use a reliable babysitter (even a free one now and then).  You have neighbors who could use a ride to the store.  That friend who’s been job hunting for months could use that jacket in the back or your closet or that introduction to a friend of a friend.  That responsible coworker who’s having trouble making ends meet because her student loans could use a gift card for groceries magically appearing in her inbox.  That family down the pew at church whose sole breadwinner was laid off the month the mortgage or rent increased, which was th same month as the car accident could use anything even though they’re too proud to ask anyone or any institution for help.

There is so much good we can do if we take responsibility.

A few years ago a dear, dear friend was struggling to make ends meet in a large city.  She was working every job she could come across, but the bills were just barely getting paid.  So when an opportunity appeared that was almost too good to be true she took it, and guess what?  It was too good to be true; they wiped her bank account clean.

I was across the country.  I couldn’t bring her over for dinner, I couldn’t set her up on the couch.  Really, what could I do?  A lot.  Doing, first, what I always do for friends going through bad times I put together a care package – books, magazines, snacks, a few small gift cards were all I could manage, and that was all I could do right?  Nope, not quite.  I put a call out to some coworkers, gave them the low down and told them I didn’t feel like my care package had enough care in it and could they help?  The next day I had a stack of cookies, books and even a couple extra gift cards at my station.  No one knew my friend in the slightest; strangers caring for strangers and this was all I could do right?  Nope, not quite.  That night I got on Facebook and sent out a message to all of our mutual friends asking for help (my friend had already made her situation public, so I wasn’t revealing anything new) and even to friends of hers whom I never met;  I asked for them to send me cards with words of encouragement and IF they could spare it a little money.  Cards came in from old coworkers, teachers, family and I found out our department in our old alma matter set out a collection jar for spare change. The cards I received for her care package remained sealed I never knew exactly what I sent until she received the complete package.  I found out later that in less than a week I had gathered, from people who only knew her  and people who only knew me, hours of distraction and comfort and almost $500 in cash.  What could I do, right?

I don’t share this story because I believe myself amazing, I am all too human and all too prone to failing in dramatic ways, but for a moment, out of sheer luck and a little determination, I was a superhero, if just for a moment.  I saw someone who needed help and did what I could.  I’m not trying to say we shouldn’t be fixing the flaws and mistakes in our systems when we find them, I’m not saying that government doesn’t have some responsibility to care for its citizens, and I’m not saying that some time our systems fail us and should be fixed, but what I am saying is that if we see someone in distress and walk on by saying “Really, what could I do?” and hope that the next mild-mannered citizen will take up the cause than we’ve failed because the answer to that question, though it maybe hard to accept, is just simply “A lot”.

Are you missing out on your chance to do something amazing?


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