- Posted July 7, 2008 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Slice of your life
Desensitization on the Rise
This afternoon, I was helping the executive director of the non-profit agency where I work; carry some books out to his car. I was surprised when he opened it and the back was full of non-perishable items and basic hygiene items. He has a car like a small Land Rover so you can imagine how much room that is when I say full. And by full I mean, almost to the ceiling. “It’s for this food pantry I help out in Arkansas,” Brian told me. I suppose my surprise both at the quantity and the destination of the items (we have a food pantry and we’re opening another) showed because he then went on to say that he’s always surprised at how people line up for the basics needed to live and that he hopes that we never become used to it, “that it never becomes the norm”.
Sadly, we, Americans that is, are terribly desensitized to the world around us. And that is something we in the non-profit world strive to fight. The numbers of those that need help increase as the numbers of those that provide that help decrease with each passing year. My own agency has seen a 30% increase in the past year. I’m not very good at percents but that seems high, even to me.
As I was thinking about this problem I was struck by an analogy. Non-profit folk are war reporters. We may not be tired, hungry, far from home or in imminent danger (though all those can apply to some of us) but we have to fight everyday to see the situation around us a new day, even if it looks the same as the day before, and the day before that. We’re trying to get a story out to people who maybe want to help but don’t want to hear the same drivel or bad news. People have heard the song and dance routine before and they’re glad someone is doing something but they don’t feel like anything they might do will make a difference, because it’s hard to think that you can. We live in a world with over 6.5 billion people, in a country with 300 million; 36.5 million of whom were below the fabled “poverty line” in 2006, 17.4% of them under 18. That number has risen.
So, what do we non-profit folk do?
We keep trying. We get up in the morning, drive our cars to work and keep trying. We send out emails and flyers, we talk to companies and schools. We raise food, clothes, and shoes while showing people how to do things like work a computer, conduct a proper interview, or balance a checkbook. Okay, I can’t do that last one yet, but I’m only twenty.
Welcome to 2008, the 8th year in the new millennium. Aren’t we supposed to have flying cars and cheery robots that do our dishes? Things HAVE to change. I even have an idea, an idea much like a plan.
Step one: watch, read, and participate in the world around you, even if it’s just about a local issue like whether the neighborhood should have pink flowers or white.
Step two: Take one lunch a week, say about 5 dollars, and donate it to a different non-profit. Each month you will have donated a total of $20 to about four different agencies, which you will now know more about.
Step three: One day a month, volunteer. Even if it’s just putting papers on your elderly neighbors steps.
Three easy, simple, steps. The Power of Three as it were. Doesn’t seem that hard to me, and my generation is the lazy one that seems to be perpetually stuck in apathy.
Even as I type this I can feel a cloud over my head. I’m one girl. One young person, what can I do?
So here’s my battlefield: to try or not to try. So far… I’m winning.