When things were rough, people depended on their families and local community to help them through. When things are not going your way, who will you call? Family? Friends? Church? Local Non-Profit? State or Federal Government?
The reality is that the people closest to us are more likely to assist us in our time of need. We may need money, food, clothes or just good counsel. Parents that love us, brothers we wrestled with, or sisters we protected - Our Family. For better or worse, they are our first line of defense against a sometimes cruel and unfair world.
How many close friends do you have? I know many people, but there are few that I can call in the middle of the night. Fewer still that I can bare my soul to and receive sound advice. How many would give me the clothes off their back or their last dollar? Friends are our second line of defense.
Many churches have grown to amazing sizes with thousands of members. Some are still small with less than 100 members and everyone is known by name. In dire straights, either size church has people to offer counsel, financial help, and spiritual help. They may know your name and recognize your face but do they know you? Each church, synagogue or other place of worship will care for the physical and spiritual needs of the people in their community. This is your third line of defense.
How strong are these first three lines of defense? It is up to us. Our family, friends, and places of worship may be our first three lines of defense, but we are also theirs. This is how community is built - people helping people. We reap what we sow.
Local non-profits organizations are plentiful and have created a special niche in our society. Typically, they are focused on delivering specific services for people who meet their criteria for aid. Temporary assistance is often offered or referral is made to another non-profit organization. While a non-profit can't be counted on as a long-term solution, the workers are caring people who will offer you the best they have. To find a non-profit organization in your area, click here.
Switching gears, when was the last time you needed help and called the State Government? My hope would be "never." The bureaucratic route doesn't offer much in the form of warmth or compassion. Once you have been on the phone listening to the various menu items that don’t fit your needs, or a website with disjointed information and a seemingly endless stack of links, you may find your frustration climbing. Eventually, you may actually speak to a human being – a person who does not know you – who will brand you with a Case Number and an appointment for sometime in the future. With luck, you'll handle your problem yourself before the appointment arrives.
The further away you get from your family and friends, the likelihood of help diminishes. When you are forced to look outside your immediate community for aid, you begin to become anonymous – another one of the downtrodden masses. You are reduced to a number or file stacked on an over-worked caseworker's desk.
It is time to rebuild the communities of the past – a community in which neighbors help neighbors. It is time to create communities that support us and are supported by us. When you receive assistance from family or friends you receive 100% of what they can afford to give. Non-profit organizations have overhead costs, so they provide aid on the order of 55-75% of their available funds. State and Federal organizations use our Tax Dollars - $1.00 in, $0.10 out. Sometimes we don't have money to spare, but we have our time and our hands and our willingness to help. Already, there are grassroots organizations sprouting up all over our nation. There are many ways to help and to receive help.
When receiving assistance from your own community – from people who offer aid along with their words of encouragement, there is a sense of inspiration and motivation that goes along with it. We are bolstered by the people who believe in us. Community aid can be so much more than some spare cash or canned goods – it can come in the form of job contacts or a ride to a job interview. Real compassion can help those in need believe in themselves again. It does not strip us of our humanity or drown us in the gray anonymity of the bureaucratic system. It lifts us up, it binds us together, and makes for a stronger community and in turn a stronger nation.