My friends who live in nice middle class (btw is that an outdated word?) neighbourhoods talk about child poverty as something dreadful, in need of irradication. They genuinely feel for people living in social housing struggling and feel even more concern for children overseas in need of or real support in order to receive the most basic of human needs. But are they gazing over the heads of children living on their street? Children sharing a classroom, sharing a weekend football team whose families are daily facing a herculean struggle to make ends meet.
I chair a charity that enables families to send their children to summer programmes, children that would not otherwise have a holiday this summer – lets be clear here they need a break from highly stressful environments entirely out of their control. This has enabled me to see at very close range a detailed account of families who are struggling. Not just unemployed families but ones who to the outside world seem to be hanging on to their jobs and making ends meet. They are the new poor, in the not too distant past they were run of the mill middle-class families, now they are struggling and juggling – to pay their mortgage – to pay their utility bills and keeping an ailing car on the road.
Is it our problem and if we’re being honest is there anything we can or should do to help these folks in our midst? I mean really ‘do’ on a daily basis. Small meaningful, random acts of kindness that might help someone whilst not humiliating them. I believe we can, and in the course of this show our children that Social Responsibility, caring for others around us is not a topic for discussion at school but something meaningful and real.
There is a Jewish concept called Tikun Olam that means repairing or healing the world. At the heart of the concept is that we all share responsibility with our creator to heal and transform the world. In modern circles it is interpreted that we can all help repair the world through our actions helping others, and that we have a responsibility to help facilitate positive change and improvement. I really like the idea of carrying out an ancient concept in a very modern way and that we are taking ownership and responsibility for positive change.
Here are a few simple ideas to consider to help a neighbour in difficulty:
Create and support a Bring and Buy sale at your local school of in the community hall – make it feel entirely okay to buy pre-owned pre-loved items this way
Look for opportunities to ‘give’ in your community. Schools frequently collect items, overcoats, toys, glasses, canned food.
If you have an opportunity to bulk buy share the benefit by inviting neighbors to become your buying partners
At the same time do remember to continue to shop with a local shopkeeper – his business is undoubtedly his lifeline and keeping his business afloat helps the elderly who shop on foot and those without a car
Create a community resource database which people in need can access – support can take all forms ranging from giving 2 hours to giving someone a hand to offering professional advice
Start a car-pool which goes further than school runs. Your neighbour isn’t going to tell you she didn’t renew the tax because she couldn’t afford to
Stop the cycle of having to have the latest gadget or trainers – that way the kid that doesn’t have doesn’t feel acutely left out
These are merely a few simple ideas which might just make someone else’s life a little easier