So, my blogging buddy Deb just hit me with a challenge. In this exercise, she challenged me to engage in compassionate and philanthropic activities on a meager $5000 allowance. That’s tough to fathom, given how nearly a trillion dollars in government spending has not even made a dent in the current looming economic situation. Still, like any good challenge, I was game.
For starters, I would likely attempt to do as much as possible for the largest group possible. While Deb’s hypothetical $5000 allocation would be focused on a single family for a much greater purpose, I think I would be more inclined to offer smaller, more minimal services for a more sizable population.
To accomplish the feat of mass distribution, food is always the most obvious thing that comes to mind. With the proliferation and expansion of low-cost food stores, $5000 could indeed go a long way towards feeding a host of people. But in the interest of long-term sustainability, I would opt to invest in something not as quickly perishable. So, if I had $5000 to offer as a bailout, I would devote the funds to buying clothing and outerwear for as many people as possible. Specifically, I’d buy enough hats, gloves, coats, shoes, and clothing to freely hand out to others. With so many retailers liquidating their assets and selling clothing for next to nothing, I think a $5000 shopping spree would provide more than enough goods to distribute to others. Many of these closing businesses still have a wide array of dependable clothing, accessories, and footwear.
Admittedly, thrift stores and consignment shops are also typically well stocked with donated clothing. But in most cases, these items are resold to consumers; albeit for ridiculously low prices. But most homeless people are unable to afford a cup of coffee to stay warm, much less a wardrobe of comfortable and quality clothes. In a place like Michigan – which habitually succumbs to unbearably cold winters – the thought of people not having proper clothing to brave the elements is sad; almost as sad as the reality that they are relegated to a life on the streets in the first place.
Ultimately, whatever I did would be in the interest of the least of us. It’s in this respect that I think Congress has this bailout nonsense all wrong. Rather than the poor and marginalized being the focus, companies are being propped up with the expectation that they – in return – will take care of their employees and the greater society. But extravagant CEO bonuses and corporate perks paid for with taxpayer dollars put an end to that idea. But I digress.
But not dissimilar to Congressional bailouts, my oversight and conditions would be minimal at best. Whatever I offered to others (be it food, clothing, or anything in between), I would avoid giving anyone the third degree. I would shy away from condemnation. I would even refrain from evangelism; perhaps other than to remind people that I am merely trying to extend the love God has for them through my actions. After all, I’ve learned that it’s hard for people to hear about God’s goodness when their ears are frozen. Besides, I suspect that most poor and marginalized people have already heard it all. The last thing they need is more sermons. For me, there is something special about aiding others with no strings attached.
To be sure, a mere $5000 bailout would do virtually nothing to quell the ongoing struggles facing our impoverished brothers and sisters. But I am quick to recall a stirring story I once heard:
A fisherman was walking down the beach just as high tide was rolling out. The tide had washed thousands of starfish up onto the sand. As the waters repealed, the starfish were left to wither away in the hot afternoon sun.
As the fisherman walked along the beach, he noticed an old man picking up the starfish one by one and tossing them back into the ocean. The fisherman laughed to himself, wondering what this old man thought he could accomplish by saving maybe a handful of starfish out of the thousands left stranded on the beach.
As he approached the old man, the fisherman asked “What are you doing old man? Don’t you realize your efforts are futile? You can’t possibly save all these starfish.”
“You’re right,” the old man replied. “But I can save this one.” And with that, he picked up another starfish and threw it back into the ocean.
The way I see it is simple: if one person can be helped, God gets His glory. And with extra effort and compassion, the story does not have to end there. That one person helped could turn into one thousand. Those one thousand could turn into one million. That one million could turn into hundreds of millions. Crisis averted. But it all starts with the one. The power of one.
As I write this post, I’m inspired to do my part. I spend so much time hustling and bustling through the day that I don’t always stop to think of others and to appreciate their struggles. For that matter, much of time I have recently spent on my blog has been criticism of others (though some people really do deserve it) or engaging in occasionally pointless arguments about things in which I am only half interested. While I think much of my interaction with others through day-to-day discussions and even via my blog have – for the most part – been cathartic, they have not been completely edifying. I would rather be remembered for what I accomplished in my life, not for the words I wrote on a web log.
Thanks for the eye-opener, Deb!