I was sitting in church a few months ago and there was this man speaking on some topic (honestly, I have no idea what his topic was) and he mentioned how if we want to help people, we have to be prepared to help people. Not some “stay in tune with the spirit and listen to it guide you” type of vague advice that we hear all the time (I get it, it’s true, it’s just not very concrete) but actual, tangible guidance.
He mentioned how he always keeps water bottles and granola bars in his car and some ones in his wallet in case he comes across someone who needs money/food/water. It was the simplest concept but it was revelatory for me.
How often do we come to a stoplight downtown or at an exit where there is someone on the corner, often homeless, asking for something? And instead of offering help, we avoid making eye contact while anxiously waiting for the light to turn green so we can drive away? It’s usually not because we don’t want to help, but because we aren’t even able to help. In today’s world, nobody really carries cash and all we have in our cars is trash and maybe a half empty pack of tictacs, and so we just feel a momentary twang of guilt and then drive off, thinking, “I would have helped if I could.”
My office is downtown, I go to church downtown, and my therapist’s office is downtown, so this scenario happens to me often. And somehow it didn’t naturally occur to me to prepare for those encounters by always having something on hand so I’m able to help. I know there are so many stigmas surrounding homelessness and panhandling, much of which we will get into later, but I feel like we can all agree that people deserve to eat and hydrate, whether or not they can afford it.
I’m both shocked and ashamed I’ve never thought of it this way, but we will have so many more opportunities to help people if we:
- actually want to help people and
- have information and guidance on how to do so (like concrete, tangible, everyday ways)
I believe that most of us want to help, we just don’t know how. We don’t always have the money to donate to worthy causes, and if we do have some excess money, we don’t know which charities are the most deserving of them. We don’t always have the time to volunteer and, if we do, we don’t know which places need help. Our hearts are in the right places, but we ourselves are not until we get educated. So it is my goal to rectify this as much as I can.
I want to create a space where people can come together and discuss everyday ways to actually make the world a better place. There’s too much posting on social media and not enough taking action and I truly believe the reason is because the people posting don’t know what the next step is. Raising awareness is so incredibly important and I don’t mean to undermine the good it does, but then we also have to act. With this platform, I plan to
- create a collaborative space where we can have conversations to share how we already/plan to help underprivileged people in our communities (this space will mainly be @theheckfest account on Instagram)
- research local, national, and global charities to examine how they operate/distribute their funds in order to give donors perspective and feel more comfortable knowing how their money will be used
- spread awareness and discuss causes that might not deal with people directly but that we can still address
- learn, grow, build each other up with positivity and humor, and empower people to feel like their efforts can make a difference
Also I’m never going to stop talking about mental illness so just… expect that.
This past year I’ve learned a lot of eye -pening information regarding donating to charities and other nonprofit organizations. I feel like I am less inclined to want to give now because I don’t want the money that I’m trying to give to people in need going to CEOs or tax breaks for big companies instead. I recognize that people who give their lives to running charities deserve to get paid, too, but it feels unsettling and I haven’t done the research yet to find out what I’m comfortable with. I also feel like, even though I believe in paying tithing and offerings to my church, the good it does doesn’t always reach the places I want it to, and therefore, it’s not enough for me to pay my tithing and have that count as my financial contribution to the world (more on that later). I want to include more people in the researching and sharing of information on how we can do better and do more.
I have a crazy vision that eventually every urban area can have a heckfest hustle where people keep items in their car, prepared to hand them out to those in need. Where people who live in suburban areas and have less homeless interactions but want to help can donate to their nearest (or preferred) urban hustle and 100% of any donation will go directly to whatever they choose (dollar bills, blankets, gloves, food, water, et cetera). Where everyone who helps does so without any desire for compensation because the effort is so minimal and the execution, so simple. I know that maybe it’s too lofty of a vision and that maybe it’ll never happen. But it’s something that wont let me sleep until I do something about it and it’s something that definitely won’t ever happen if I don’t start it.
I really believe that any good you try to do comes from a good place. I believe that any good we put into the world is positive. I’m not advocating for anyone to stop donating to charities or to stop paying tithing. These are all good things! I’m just trying to start one more good thing.