My husband and I are co-chairs of the Household Items Acquisition Team in our town's coalition to get refugees here.
It's a bit of a daunting task for me because I've never done anything like this before. Talk about a learning curve! But it's also teaching me patience when dealing with those people who 't believe that we should not accept any refugees at all.
Some say that we should help our homeless and the poor here first before we accept any refugees.
I disagree. I believe that the refugees coming to this country will not only add to our diversity, but add to our economy and our future. They are an investment in our future. Statistics say it's extremely unlikely that any of them will become terrorists, and studies have shown that they will not take over your town with their beliefs and creeds. There will be a blending of beliefs, but don't worry, you won't lose your identity.
Yes, here in Canada, we have to support refugees for one year, but I expect a lot of them will get right into the workforce and start supporting themselves because for many in the Middle East, it's a point of pride to work. Where they have lived, in refugee camps, very few are allowed to work. They aren't allowed to have any status but refugee because those countries get paid by the UN to keep them, and it has become a source of revenue for those countries. So when they hit ours, they are very willing to support themselves!
But what about the poor you ask? Yes, we need to help our poor, too. But let me ask you something and I want you to answer honestly.
What have you done to help the poor in your community?
Here are some suggestions for helping the poor and the homeless:
Take a mental health first aid course
Donate to a food bank
Volunteer your time at a food bank or a homeless shelter or a soup kitchen
Donate gently used furniture to a homeless shelter.
If your homeless shelter won't accept gently used furniture, sell them privately on Kijiji or Craig's List and donate the money to the homeless shelter
Put together winter packs such as that contain granola bars, toothbrush, toothpaste, warm socks and mittens. Put them in small overnight bags and keep them in your car so you can donate them to homeless people or those begging on the street
Take a psychology course or make yourself fully aware of the different causes of homelessness, because guess what? There's more than one cause.
Be an advocate for the homeless in your town
Write to your MLA or your Member of Parliament or your Congressman about what they are doing for the plight of the homeless and the poor.
Find out which homeless shelters or which mental health facilities in your area that have been shut down and ask your congressman or Member of Parliament why that has happened.
Volunteer at a senior center or hospital
Give to reputable charitable organizations that help the poor such as The Salvation Army or the United Way.
Do you see where I'm going with this? Those of you who say that we need to help our poor and our homeless need to step up to the plate.
I know some people who say "We have to help our own kind first." What does that mean exactly? That we help our own countrymen, our own state or province? Or perhaps our own town or city? Or do they mean just helping our own family and friends?
I challenge them. When they say our own kind, are they saying the color of our skin or our religious beliefs? Or are they only talking about the immediate family? Either way, it's a sad commentary of our lives. Sometimes, it's the elephant in the room, that one thing we don't want to talk about. Prejudice.
We need to go beyond that. It's easy to help your immediate family and some people will say "No let's help ourselves first." Yes, some say they will only help themselves first. Their own person first.
But I challenge you to stretch yourself, to learn and to be part of a broader community. It's not only the right thing to do, but it's an invaluable education. If you dare, that is, because you'll find out that we're all the same, and that's scary to some folks.
So tell me, those of you who say we need to help the poor and the homeless first, what have you done?
And those of you out there who are honestly trying to help the poor and the homeless, what other things can be done?
And those of you who want to help the refugees, don't forget the poor and homeless, too. If you really want to help, you'll find a way to do it.
Do you agree with this? Can you add anything more to it? Let's hear from you.