We’ve heard weeks of analysis regarding the “haves” and the “have nots” in our country. The recent Presidential election harped on the success of 1% of the wealthiest and the fact that the middle class is disappearing, yet poverty wasn’t front and center. Statistics about poverty certainly exist, but they don’t seem to demand enough attention.
For example, one in five children goes to bed hungry every night. When we read or hear that statement, we may wonder how that is possible in a country as wealthy as ours, but does it actually move us to action? Perhaps we feel that the problem is so great that there is nothing our individual effort can do about it, yet many great philosophers and religious leaders have taught us that change begins with us.
In actuality, small change—what I refer to as micro-philanthropy—may be more important than you think. For example, this week a group of Boy Scouts went door to door in our community asking for donations for the local food pantry. They collected almost 8.000 items. Or, the dollar store, where many people with lower incomes shop, has a campaign underway to help fund the boys and girls club. Employees at U-Haul are conducting a used coat campaign, the library is collecting toys to distribute during the holidays, and several churches have opened clothing closets.
Wherever you live, simply look around and you will find the opportunity for helping others—for being a part of that needed change. You may not be financially able to write a check for a national charity, but you can put your loose change in the donation box at the fast food restaurant. You may not have a coat to donate, but socks are especially needed at shelters for the homeless. When you shop online, take advantage of the rebate links to various causes. Small steps like these, when combined with the efforts of many, can lead to very big change.
This season of thanksgiving is a great time to begin your own career of philanthropy. Become more aware of the needs of others. Look for ways to make personal contributions that are commensurate with your financial abilities, and realize that your time and effort are gifts, too. Most importantly, don’t let your micro-philanthropy end because the holidays are over. The needs go on all year.