Lately, I have been experiencing somewhat of a dilemna. Actually, it's an issue I've been conflicted about for awhile. My decision to evaluate life in general and make a one and five year plan have simply brought this issue to the forefront as I look at what is valuable to me in life. Unfortunately, putting this issue into words is not always simple.
My challenge is this: for some time, I have been unable to reach out and help others the way I am used to doing, either in terms of time or of money. Why? Quite simply, I've been a bit distraced in both areas. I've also, frankly, been thinking about "me" way to much (in my opinion).
It's difficult to write this without sounding like a "Susie look at me", and that is not my intention. However, I have a strong personal committment to helping others, especially those who need help much more than I do. Again, that's not meant to be a "see how good Barbara is" comment, just an explanation. I was raised in an environment where that was the standard-helping others as much as possible (without attaching strings int he process). I am also part of a faith and a specific church that consider outreach the standard. Add to that my left wing hippy bleeding heart leanings and there you have it.
While we never were able to give huge amounts, I have always made annual commitments. Those were important to me and something I am still working through (this is not about tithing, per se, but about commitment). Just as importantly, I have always felt it was important to give to those "immediate causes" as I was able. The inability to do this has hit me just as hard.
This is where some readers will jump in and suggest that it's time for me to take care of myself and not worry about others. I appreciate that response and made the same suggestion to someone in a different circumstance recently. While I understand the thinking, I'm unable to take it completely to heart. Compared to so many people in the world (and in this country) I am extremly blessed. I have a home, I have reasonably priced health care, family, and so many other things.
So my dilemna is how to find ways to help others, within the limits of time, space and money. While I'm still a work in progress, I am working towards some solutions. In terms of time, I am looking at how I spend my time in semi retirement and making some adjustments. As much as I enjoy school, doing it full time made my life much more hectic, and not just in terms of my ability to volunteer. In the future, I will be taking one art class a semester. After all, I dont have a deadline for graduation. This will allow me to return to a volunteer commitment-acting as a liason for and volunteering with ad agency that provides after school care and summer camp for kids who live in one of the highest risk areas in the country (right here in my city of Dallas). Being able to make a half day to a day a week committment will make a huge difference for me and for them.
I'm also finding ways to make a bunch of smaller, shorter commitments that add up-and that often can be done at home. One day every week our church provides 500 meals for a homeless shelter.Each week there is a different team, and on "myk night I make one hundred cookies which someone picks up. I've volunteered to be the "coordinator" for two groups at church (one which reaches in to families in need through temporary help, and the other the committe that is responsible for all the church get togethers). Most of this work can be done by phone or from home, even online, in between other activities. I plan to take on more of these "little burdens", the ones that working families simply don't have time for but are still needed.
When it comes to the "money honey", I'm still working through it all. On the one hand I know volunteers are always needed. On the other hand, I kow that most agencies need money. Somethings can not be fixed by human labor alone. Pantries need to be able to buy food, agencies need to buy medicine, medical transports need gas-it goes on.. For the moment, since my church has such a large, far reaching outreach program (we sponsor a shelter, the abovementioned day care, a low income school, and an aids hospise), I am working out an annual commitment or promise. As for the amount, meditating and praying are im progress.
The final thing that I am turning my attention to is going to the source-that is, making my opinions heard, and heard as loudly as possible. After living overseas and then in Texas, I have tended to avoid the political scene. When you have Rick Perry for a governor, sometimes all you can do is hit your head against the wall. That is not meant to be a political statement. Instead, Ive begun writing and joining groups on the local level that can (hopefully) effect change. In Texas, we've had many planned parenthood locations close for lack of funding. This means that my clients have nowhere to go to get mammograms or annual exams (basic health care). I work with a group that hopes to either reopen some of the clinics, or convince the tightfisted governor (who turns down federal funding) to come up with an alternative. It's a goal at least.
I may not be able to do everything, but I can certaily do something.