What makes a caring community? How do they thrive in a world filled with wars, poverty, and endless accounts of theft, murder, and mayhem?
Given the down turn in the economy, more and more families are reaching out for services and assistance in order to keep their roofs over their heads and food in their cupboards. The sad reality is that no matter how hard they try, there is just fewer jobs available, greater competition for the ones that exist, and more families left un-housed or starving than anyone would like to think.
In Northwest Arkansas, there are more than 900 children without a bed to call their own. Essentially this means that they are sleeping on floors or couches in the homes of relatives in order to remain out of the elements.
Every 2 years, there is a Point-in-Time (PIT) count which documents the number of individuals reporting that they are homeless at that point in time. This count is conducted area wide on 1 specific night in January. The Point-in-Time Count for 2011 documented that 70% of the homeless in Northwest Arkansas were families with children in school. Likewise, of the remaining 30%, 25% are Veterans and 5% are Chronically Homeless. Unfortunately, it is estimated that the PIT only captures 30% of the true need.
Those of us who work in the Social Service field realize that burn out is prevalent and losing sight of the clients we ARE able to help often takes a back seat to the number of clients we couldn’t help. One of the rituals I have established to help ease the overwhelming sense of helplessness to change the lives’ of my clients is to check out the HOPElights Facebook page to catch a snippet of positive inspiration for the day. I logged on this morning in search of the perfect quote, which ironically happened to be “Let loose of what you cannot control. Serenity will be yours. – Unknown”! Wowser!
The second ritual I have is to check out a few of the areas Nonprofit agency pages to see what their latest needs and/or accomplishments have been. One morning on the Samaritan Community Center's page I noticed a posting where one of the volunteers had asked a father dropping off school supply donations why he and his family chose to donate…his response…. "well, I’m out of work right now and i know how hard it can be."
Friends, I can’t even convey how tightly my throat clinched as I tried not to burst into tears. Such a selfless act of kindness and generosity! Not to mention the example he has set for his children with regard to sharing what little they have with others.
So, circling back to the original question, “What makes a caring community?” It’s people like that father who have realized, that given everything else many have lost, we must not lose our compassion for others. As a community, we must not forget that there ARE others less fortunate than us living right next door or just down the street.
It’s not our job to solve every problem our community faces; it is only our job to what WE CAN DO to help others in need, regardless of how much or how little that may be.
More importantly, It is our job to lead our children by example to ensure that the generations to come don’t lose sight of the need for true compassion while continuing to do what we can to help others in need.