This past week, like many people around the world, I was horrified over the photos of the lifeless Syrian toddler who, along with his brother and mother, drowned while attempting to flee to a safer home. (Warning: the photos are highly disturbing.) His tiny body washed ashore in Turkey, and the world was forced to face the reality of what it means to be a truly powerless refugee.
Refugee: a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.
Upon further investigation, I found that over half of the 4 million plus (registered) Syrian refugees are children. Unsurprisingly, this is true of refugees everywhere, and the worldwide figures are staggering. I considered what it would take to tear my family from our home, to leave belongings that couldn't be carried, along with family and friends who would not or could not go, and to risk the loss of everything - up to and including life itself - all in search of a safer existence. As unimaginable as that seems to someone like me, I know one thing. This is not a decision people make on a whim.
This is the crucial point - when the face is the mirror is disillusioned and frustrated. The temptation to harden your heart in light of the seeming impossibility to make any kind of difference is strong. The excuses flood in: Leave the volunteering to people who don't have careers just taking off or families to support. Leave the donations to the wealthy and the government and all those tax dollars your hard work already provides. You can't help everyone, and besides, you aren't really sure what's going on and who's really on the receiving end of all those aid efforts anyway.
On the receiving end are people in need of the most basic necessities. Food. Shelter. Clothing. Jobs. Medical care. Homes. Yes, it's a good idea to educate yourself as much as possible, and you may feel more comfortable donating closer to home. But we don't have to understand every aspect of a fellow human being's plight to know they need help and to offer whatever assistance we can.
What could you give up over the course of one month? Could you ditch a bad habit (like smoking) and give part of what you save on cigarettes to improve someone else's life? What if one day every week you pack a lunch instead of heading for the drive-thru, or skip one trip to Starbucks? "That's only like ten or twenty bucks per month," you say. "How the hell is that going to actually help anyone?"
I understand - but stick with me.
What if twenty percent of your Instagram followers did the same thing? What if twenty percent of my Twitter followers did? Or twenty percent of the 72,845,934 people who follow Justin Bieber on Facebook? The latter would add up to over $1.7 billion in one year at $10/month each. No joke.
This is how we help, then. We bind together. Please check out the organization links below, and think about that ten bucks per month. Don't be afraid to check the "other" box and fill it in. That $10 is important, not only to the recipients, but to challenge your own fear about being a drop in the bucket. Be a drop. There are millions more where that came from, and together, we can do something good.