Lately, watching the news, I feel small, insignificant. In fact, aside form childhood, I’m not sure I’ve ever felt this small. It seems like disaster after disaster making the news, the natural ones, the manmade ones, the ones that fall somewhere in between…
I marvel at firefighters, law enforcement, and other public servants who rush towards the horror as the rest of us run away. It’s not their bravery that astounds me, though I marvel at that too. It’s their belief that they matter, that they can make a difference, that impresses me.
And that’s the hurdle we all need to jump before we can help, the one of our own self esteem.
What can my small donation accomplish in the face of such loss?
Will it really make a difference?
What can my tiny action mean when there is so much to be done?
Answer: a lot!
I believe it was Deepak Chopra who said that his parents taught him he should never arrive as a guest without bringing a gift with him, even if the gift were only a prayer.
And maybe it wasn’t Deepak Chopra. I’ve got a busy day, and I’m not going to look it up. I’m hoping that the idea, whosever it was, will be enough, just as I hope that my words to my friend who lost her home in the fire yesterday will be enough, for now, as I figure out what more I can do.
I don’t have a ton of rich friends, and I even worry that asking people to donate to my friend’s cause might make someone feel bad about what they can or can’t offer, and that’s another hurdle. I’m not only worried that I can’t do good, but that I might do harm!
But I’m jumping in, trusting that everybody can take care of themselves in this regard, and wanting most of all to say “do what you can, offer what you can, open that channel however you can, even if it is only a channel of the heart.”
But even when you want to help, there are more questions.
What should you do?
Is it meaningful to help animals when humans are suffering?
Is it right to give to a small organization that helps only one small section of society, like the elderly, or children?
What to do, what to do, what to do.
What to do? Something.
Many people out here watched the horrible hurricanes far away and felt helpless at nature’s awesome power. The animal rescue pipeline is an easy place to see the interconnectivity between kind actions here, and problems far away.
The Milo Foundation, for example, has two shelters. The one in Willits had to be evacuated due to these recent fires, and now their other shelter is overflowing. Some of the animals at the shelter were brought in by other rescue groups from those far away hurricanes. And now they need foster homes here in the Bay Area, to keep them safe until they can find forever homes. So fostering an animal here, or making a donation to a local animal shelter, is a concrete way to help those far away, and that goes for the rest of the country as well. Shelters all over the U.S take in animals from all over, so supporting your local shelter connects you to those in need.
Many want to offer material help, and currently there is a facebook page with people offering clothes, help, bedding, etc. Money always works, as does volunteering. There’s no wrong way. Something that moves you, or concerns you or hits close to home. For me, “Greyhound Friends For Life” hits very close to home. Next door, in fact.
When I moved into this house, I was going through a divorce. I brought my dog with me, and my grief. I was drowning in an unhappy self absorption. But in the neighbor department, I got lucky.
On one side, was a lovely older couple, the man a retired contractor who liked to fix things, the woman prone to outbursts of baking. On the other side was Barbara, and her dogs.
Since meeting Barbara, I’ve gotten to know many people who devote their lives to improving and saving the lives of animals, and they’re a special breed. In Barbara’s case, in her time next door to me, I saw her bring home abused dogs from Europe, Korea, the middle east, and various places in the United States as race tracks were inevitably, mercifully shut down. (Greyhound racing is still legal in several states, despite the overt cruelty enacted upon these dogs. Anyone who thinks dog racing isn’t cruel has not seen the parade of frightened, injured animals I witnessed go through Barbara’s gates.) I always felt lucky when Barbara invited me over to see some of her new friends. One time she even had a litter of puppies over there. Her house was always full of sweatshirts with the Greyhound logos, bumperstickers, educational material, and dog supplies. With her on one side, and the kindly couple on the other, I’ve been surrounded by helpers, and I think maybe some of it has rubbed off, I hope.
About two years ago, Barbara moved away, about fifty miles north. Why? Like most of her life decisions, she was guided by the fact it would be better for the dogs. A more level yard, closer to the facility the dogs pass through on their way to new homes. Cheaper.
But now, thanks to a violent wave of heat and wind causing unprecedented and destructive fires in Northern California, her new home, and everything in it, is gone.
She and the dogs got out safely, thank goodness. But her home, and that of her main volunteer, Jon, have been destroyed. Today, one day after the destruction, she’s back at work.
“The GFFL business,” she said in an email to me, “goes on”.
So I’m going to try to raise some money for that cause. I can only imagine all the items that will need to be replaced to keep this wonderful organization up and running. But I’m confident she can do it. With help.
So maybe give in the way that feels most natural to you. Some ideas, animal welfare, children’s welfare, elderly care, the environment, political progress, pick one! It might seem random, but it’s just a matter of not doing nothing, and as with the animal shelters here absorbing and filling the needs of animal shelters far away, it’s a matter of recognizing that we are all connected, and we’re all important. And it’s not only about helping organizations, or even those in crisis. I’m convinced that my neighbors’ kindness to me has, so to speak, helped fill up my generosity bank account, so I can make withdrawals.
Maybe you have a smile to offer, or a text or message saying “I hope you’re doing OK.” Or five bucks, or fifty, or a thousand. Help where you can, how you can, even if it’s “only” a prayer.