What to do when helping feels too hard

by | November 30, 2018

I recently set up a table display for the Millionair Club Charity at a community event, but I wanted to make an impact that would make a real connection to our cause. What I decided to do was set up a tent like you might see on so many of Seattle’s sidewalks. It had the tarps and containers and bags of clothing and cardboard floor mats that are so common to those who are stuck carrying all of their possessions everywhere they go.

I talked to many people at this event, and I watched them as they approached my table.

The vast majority looked at the tent in a passing glance and quickly averted their eyes. Even though this was a controlled setting, and it was clearly a display not actually occupied by someone, people didn’t want to look.

When I made conversation with them, I asked everyone to look at the tent and tell me how it made them feel. Every single person said it made them feel sad and wishing they could do something about it. They didn’t all explicitly say it (though some did), but their eyes expressed shame and helplessness. They felt guilty for not doing more, but they didn’t know what to do about it.

This is not a surprise that people want to do something about homelessness, but I want to emphasize that people are not just angry and disgusted. They feel compassion and guilt, and those two things make the issue very hard to address when it feels so insurmountable. They believe people should not have to live on the street and should have affordable housing, but when I asked how do you pay for affordable housing, most shrugged without a practical answer.

When I proceeded to tell them about Millionair Club’s job program with very low barriers to entry, they relaxed into a state of feeling like, “yeah, okay, that’s a reasonable solution that should work.” I made sure to ask, too, “how do you get a job if you don’t have an address? If you’re not clean? If you’re hungry or can’t afford transportation to get to the job site?”

That helpless feeling crept back onto their faces, but I quickly shared all the resources MCC provides to workers, all at no cost. Meals, showers, laundry, training workshops, bus passes, eye care, affordable housing opportunities, food handler cards, computer lab, and on and on and on. That helpless feeling was replaced with “wow” and “how can I help?” It clicked in that moment that these problems, homelessness, poverty, and unemployment, were not so insurmountable. It was suddenly not so out of their reach to make an actual difference.

What we do at Millionair Club Charity is make success, dignity, and hope attainable for people at their lowest. What you all do is make it possible through your contributions, hiring MCC workers, spreading the word, and volunteering your time and talents. I believe that people truly do want what’s best for their fellow man, but it’s sometimes hard to know how to achieve that. On the matter of homelessness and urban poverty, Millionair Club Charity is a proven model that lets people give back to those in need and know that what they’re doing truly matters.

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