The month of June was supposed to be a turning point, a time when the routine would be less routine and the world would begin to heal and look familiar. While that is happening in some parts of the world, the US went from one overwhelming crisis to another.
This is a place we have been to before, but it seems different this time. A pandemic, people out of work, a political climate spinning out of control, people are restless, divided and angry. It almost seemed inevitable.
Just like a pandemic has left us wondering about our new normal, a senseless murder and a week of protest has left us wondering how it will effect change? This is bigger than race and equality, much bigger. While protesting raises awareness, action creates change.
When you look around your community, you will likely see desperation of every kind – homelessness, addiction, abuse, teenage pregnancies, high school drop outs, mental illness, lack of adequate medical service, education and recreation. Does your community promote equal opportunity, education, community development and enrichment? Are there resources for low income families, children from broken homes, unwed mothers, the elderly, abuse victims, and recovering addicts? When you see desperation, does it compel you to want to make things better?
If you are not happy with the way things are, get involved. Attend your local Council meetings, understand the political climate in your community. Research ballot issues before you cast a vote. Hold your elected officials and police accountable. Look for volunteer opportunities that will utilize your skills. You can make a difference.
Lend A Hand
Some years ago I was a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity. Over a two year period, I committed many hours of service to this incredible organization by working on several construction sights. Habitat for Humanity was originally formed by President Jimmy Carter and has a powerful slogan that expresses their purpose – ‘offering a hand up, not a hand out.’ Habitat builds homes for low income families, regardless of race or religion. Homes are delivered at cost and interest free. Recipients pay a down payment and monthly payments towards the ownership of their home. They are also required to invest 300 hours of community service during construction. While the family’s home is under construction, the new owners take home management classes that include budgeting, and home maintenance. The goal of this organization is to eliminate poverty and homelessness from communities and to inspire pride in ownership.
There are a number of positive statistics associated with home ownership, but the one I tend to appreciate most is that 59% of children of homeowners are more likely to own their own home within ten years of leaving their parents household. Children of homeowners are also 25% more likely to graduate High School.
During my time at Habitat, I worked side by side with many new owners and saw first hand their hardships and struggles. A single mother raising two children, wanting something better for them. A young couple, just starting out with hopes and dreams for the future. Their determination to move up and not be caught up in a cycle of poverty was admirable.
My community supports many outreach programs for low income families, including pre-school funding, addiction counseling, victims of abuse, child advocacy and teenage pregnancy to name a few. I am proud that we fund many social services through a combination of grants, community contributions and taxes with much of the labor being provided by a generous volunteer community.
While I am outraged at the circumstances of the wrongful death of yet another black man at the hands of a police officer, I have to wonder where we failed these individuals and what might have made a difference in their lives and attitudes.
There will always be bad cops and criminals. There will always be prejudice and inequality. There will always be the ‘haves and the have nots,’ the do gooders, the instigators and people who just show up without a clue. And, the playing field will never be level. But, we can do better, much better.
When we care more about lifting people up and less about tweets, sound bites and vilifying each other, we will find a way to contribute, and we will effect change. Why be just an angry voice in the crowd when you can make a difference?