Sunday, February 12, 2017

Not In Your Neighborhood?

"When I was very young, most of my childhood heroes wore capes, flew through the air, or picked up buildings with one arm. They were spectacular and got a lot of attention. But as I grew, my heores changed, so that now I can honestly say that anyone who does anything to help a child is a hero to me."
Fred Rogers

If only a child's needs were make believe, then we could just turn away and not do anything to help, guilt free. Of course, make believe won't help. Real needs must have real help. But you can't turn into the Hulk, can you? But what can you do?

Why not start by looking around in your own neighborhood? There are children in need everywhere so why not start in your own town? What is needed there?

Is there a food bank? That's an easy one for helping. Children may not be dying of hunger where you live but there are malnourished children in many places in the U.S. Malnourished children do not thrive, their learning is affected, their motivation to succeed is affected, and therefore their lives are threatened. In way too many school districts there are children who only get one meal a day - the one they get at school. And on days there is no school they go hungry. Check with the schools in your neighborhood to see if there are children who have no food security, who don't know if food will be available outside of school.

You can give food to the food bank, of course. But usually it is more effective if you give money because they are able to buy more with your donation than you could due to the system they have established with grocers and food suppliers.

Or you may want to support or organize a program in the schools that sends food home with the children in need on Fridays to provide food for the weekend. Some schools have programs that provide canned or boxed meals for two days at the end of the day on each Friday. If this is available in your neighborhood, or one nearby, offer to help by providing canned or boxed meals or by financially supporting one or more children's participation in the program.

What else might children in your neighborhood need? That's easy. Kids need attention. Consider being a Big Sister or Big Brother and mentor a child. This can definitely save a life. This can make you into a real life hero by helping a child grow and develop into an emotionally healthy adult. Giving of your time can be more important than giving money or food.

Or you might prefer coaching a youth sports team, mentoring in the school, or coordinating after-school activities at the local community center or library. There are opportunities everywhere.

Not into actually being with kids? There are still ways to touch their lives. Make fleece blankets for children experiencing trauma by helping with (or starting) a local chapter of Project Linus. Handy with knitting or crochet? Make caps for newborns at a hospital's maternity ward, layette sets for newborns of the mothers living in poverty. Provide clothing and shoes for children in a local homeless shelter. [Yes, there are homeless families with children in need.]

Be creative. Come up with ways to help children in need that fit who you are, who you want to be come. You don't have to pretend to be a hero like The Hulk or even wear a cape. You can get angry about children being in need and turn into a real, live hero. What need will you meet in your neighborhood this week?

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