Monday, January 16, 2012

Big solutions start with small actions.

I am in love with New York City. I love this place so deeply, I’m like a horrible Carrie Bradshaw cliche. NYC is fast, exciting, diverse, colorful and so very chic... all things I aspire to be. That’s why I’m troubled when people are critical of my urban love affair and insist that there must be something I don’t like about living here. Well, there is one HUGE thing I hate about living here - the almost daily exposure to homelessness. Seeing a fellow human without food and shelter or a loving family member to assist in a time of great need makes my heart ache. Though homelessness exists everywhere, it’s particularly present in urban settings and it’s in stark juxtaposition to the shiny skyscrapers and fancy restaurants we have here. And regardless of how you feel about a person who spends their day begging for charity, the idea that they are so alone in this world that you’re their best hope is sad.

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, who believed in ones own ability to make the world a better place, here’s a list of WAYS TO HELP which I think are worth considering:

* Volunteer at a soup kitchen - There are lots of places looking for people to spend a few hours cooking and serving. Look HERE if you’re in NYC. It’s an eye opening experience and I believe it means as much to the volunteers as it does to those you’re serving.
* Give away food - If you’ve got food in the fridge that you know is going to go bad before you have a chance to eat it, pack it up in a plastic bag and hand it off to a person in need on the street. You can do the same with restaurant leftovers that you’re unlikely to actually reheat. Sure you get the occasional individual that doesn’t want anything but cash, but most often the men and women I’ve done this with are incredibly appreciative.
* SMILE!!! - In college I volunteered every week at an amazing soup kitchen called Charlie’s Place and I became “friends” with several of the regular patrons. One man told me that what he loved best about me was that I smiled at him. He told me that being homeless means people are afraid to look at you, that they avert their eyes and rush past. He said eye contact and a smile made him feel human and that’s something I’ll never forget. Next time you’re passing a homeless person on the street, share a smile even if you don’t want to drop anything in his/her cup. It’s free and it just might be the nicest thing anyone has “given” them all day.

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