I've been doing a lot of people watching & listening lately. I read Facebook postings to see what is new with the people I know, I listen to conversations to hear who could use my support and prayers, and I observe people's reactions and behaviors to see what their priorities are. I've become more aware recently that a lot of people seem to wear blinders (metaphorically speaking). While many people are fully aware of their surroundings, a lot of people seem to look past (intentionally or not I wouldn't begin to assume) what and who is around them.
My church recently held a volunteer food packing event. My daughter took a donation bag to school to see if anyone would want to donate to the cause. The students in one of her classes were watching a documentary about a past tsunami and how it devastated the area and the survivors. She took the opportunity to ask her teacher if she could speak to the class about the upcoming food packing event, to which he said 'yes'. She explained the concept of packing the food and how it could get shipped to areas of disaster where it was needed most. While some students donated their leftover change from lunch, a few students were dumbfounded and responded with replies like 'isn't that like volunteering?' and 'you mean you actually give up time to volunteer?' as if to say 'what's in it for you?' My daughter had a mix of emotions ... thankfulness to those that had donated, anger to those that mocked her efforts, sadness to those who were oblivious, and disappointment for those that didn't seem to care one way or the other.
Last week I was speaking with some adults at a school function. We were discussing the differences and options between fundraising for groups and the possibility of just charging larger amounts to the parents for their student's involvement in the program. There are a lot of opinions on that subject, so I'll save that topic for a future blog entry. Some parents like the fundraising aspects because it's a way to unite the families that are involved, while some parents would prefer to write a check. No one approach is right or wrong or better than the other. The part of the conversation that surprised me was when one parent (who I like) suggested that she didn't understand why everyone wouldn't just want to write a larger check and be done with it. She suggested that we lived in nice area and she couldn't believe that not everyone would have the money available to them to do it. My input was that perhaps she wasn't seeing the whole picture. I mentioned that I knew of people who had 2 income households and after one or both of them had lost their job they were doing their best to maintain their home and lifestyle. If we really look around us we will see that some households are doing fine, some are tightening their belts, some are re-prioritizing their needs and wants, and some are experiencing the possibility of losing it all. The teacher that was present even suggested (to her surprise) that our own high school was considered in need (not sure if that is the correct term) because a large enough % of the students qualified and received free school lunches.
The point is that when you walk down your street and criticize someone because their grass is getting a little tall for your liking, maybe you should ask yourself why. Have they taken on a 2nd job recently and haven't been home all week to cut the grass? Is the house in foreclosure? Did the homeowner suffer a heart attack last month and isn't able to handle the maintenance just now?
If we don't make the effort to interact with our neighbors, friends, and even strangers how can we truly expect to see the big picture? How can we know what is needed or how we can help?