Let’s face facts okay? Some of us are socially conscious and empathetic to the plight of those in need and others (I’m hoping a small percentage) wish the poor would just disappear completely from view.
One of the things I’ve come to understand and realize is that as we age, Life has a way of changing the circumstances in which we find ourselves, and we get multiple opportunities to change our outlook. Eventually, many people shift their opinions away from their previous held viewpoints, and adopt new ways of thinking; it’s called growing and maturing. Not everyone changes their attitude or outlook of course, but I can bet that most people as they grow, think differently on many subjects as they spend more time on the planet and interact with people on it.
So, the poor. Well, they’re not invisible; you can spot them on the streets in cities, you can see them at food banks, cooling centres on days when there are heat alerts. You can see them hanging around shelters, rooming houses, lining up for jobs outside temporary agencies, in discount stores, cheque-cashing outlets, and sometimes outside coffee shops. Look for the soup kitchens and you’ll find them there, the clothing giveaways and of course the social assistance buildings in communities all over. You might even note the odd person standing at a set of lights with a coffee cup in their hand asking for a handout of whatever you can afford.
Well like I said, some of us are socially conscious, or at least empathetic. One thing you can do that would be appreciated by many is to think about the clothes you own that you’re never going to get back into. Whether too big or too small, that clothing is only taking up space in your closet. I call these, ‘someday clothes’. Someday you might fit into them again so they hang around – literally and figuratively. Do yourself and the less fortunate a favour and bundle these up and donate them to a second-hand clothing store, a charitable organization or give them to the next organization who phones you at home and asks if you have clothing to donate – like the Diabetes Association. You’ll feel good and do good at the same time.
Another thing you can do that doesn’t involve making a donation of any kind is think about the words you use in general conversations about those marginalized folks living in poverty. Be mindful of putting them down, nodding your head when a buddy makes some wisecrack about the bum blocking the sidewalk or who says to someone panhandling, “Just get a job!” Maybe you can start a conversation just by saying in return, “Hey man give the guy a break. Not cool.” Sometimes just a short comment will be enough to get someone else thinking about their own words.
Now of course you can make a donation – or donations. It needn’t be big to make a difference. In fact, you can start small. See someone on the sidewalk either sleeping or living rough? Walk up and put down a bottle of water or a piece of fruit. You don’t even have to stop and talk or say anything. Even if you don’t get a thanks, that gesture will be appreciated more than not. And if you’re an animal lover and the person has a dog with them, some dry dog food could be more appreciated by the person than food for themselves.
So all my columns and blogs focus on job searching, getting ahead and tips for getting and keeping work. Why a blog about the poor? Good question. Poor people are often people who have either been born into poverty and through no fault of their own didn’t benefit from good parenting, and weren’t supported in their schoolwork; their parents beliefs about education and what is important in life passed on through them as children. Poor people can also be those who have had circumstances in life happen to them which were beyond their control and they haven’t got the skills to overcome those barriers.
Either way you look at things, poor people are – well – people first and foremost; they just don’t have the financials resources to support themselves. Sure, I’d go so far as to say the decisions we make also impact our futures; and some people do make repeated questionable decisions and fail to learn from the consequences of those choices.
There are many however who just need a small break. Some kindness that comes unexpected can re-inspire a distrustful soul, or provide some measure of hope to a disgruntled job seeker. Pass on some clothing, makeup, the donation of your haircutting skills – even a smile instead of a scowl; it’s all in the little things we can do that can make a difference between giving up on looking for work or being encouraged enough to stick at it or start again.
A special word for employers too; think beyond your bottom line. No seriously. If you set out to use and abuse poor folks who don’t know their rights, you may get by paying minimum wage to people and regularly firing them just before the pass probation and starting all over again. Please remember you’re dealing with real people who often do their best just to learn simple routines having not had structure employers look for in their recent past.
Any kindness you can do makes us all better.