The big-hearts thing is actually pretty common to human beings in that there is an obvious tendency — excepting only when political or religious differences get in the way — to want to help fellow beings in trouble. However, the big hearts are especially notable in the U.S. when some major calamity occurs. Perhaps this is due to our general well-being (most of us have a little something to spare), or religious/moral principles ... or just because that’s the way members of the human “herd” are when not themselves stampeding away from danger.
The short memories part may be the result of the flood of information and clamor via electronic media forcing attention to too quickly shift from one thing to another. Or, sadly, acceptance of some sorrows as just being a constant background to life as our society lives it.
All this is by way of intro-duction of what may seem an odd comparison that is local/national and small/huge: The misery handed out along by the eastern shores by Sandy and the SOW homeless shelter, the only one for families in Greater Rome, being forced to shut its doors for lack of financial support, at least for a while.
The Jersey/New York shore calamity is in the “big hearts” stage. Heck, nobody has yet started seriously questioning the billions in tax-supplied aid government is handing out to deal with the storm aftermath. Please say you’ve already personally contributed to the Red Cross or other funds providing assistance.
THE CREATION by local startup nonprofit SOW (it stands for “Serving Others Worldwide”) of the family shelter to fill a void in Greater Rome’s rather remarkable existing assistance for this population dominated local news, and giving, back a couple of years ago. Then it faded from in-your-face view, though the problem of homelessness did not. So now it is in financial trouble, in the news again and — fingers crossed — that will help revitalize local attention and giving.
According to SOW’s Facebook page it has also stopped feeding the homeless in Riverside Park on weekends when the food kitchens are closed (that’s how the organization began) for lack of volunteers. It has also been given a five-bedroom house near its South Rome facility a couple of months ago that, with some repairs/upgrades/money, would allow it to expand. The need certainly exists. When the main shelter closed some 30 persons (counting the children) were “evicted” although they apparently found other roofs and did now have to go down the hill toward the river to join the considerable number of homeless still living there.
That, by the way, is only in part due to the several local shelters (Davies homes, Salvation Army, and to some extent the County Jail provides such havens) being full but more often involves a choice. A lot of homeless, it seems — just like most of us with homes — don’t like to live where others can tell us what to do and how to act.
Call them the tea-party homeless in what is an unspoken problem within “homelessness” that has long not been addressed.
AS FOR the big hearts, near and far, they don’t so much shrink from this perpetual problem as they just get overwhelmed by requests for assistance (apparently the main reason the postal service and e-mail exist, as those who have ever given any help to anyone can attest) or by bigger, worser human calamities.
Katrina’s ravaging of the Gulf Coast still remains visible in many places; the super tornadoes in Joplin and Tuscaloosa even today have those who were left with matchsticks as their legal addresses remaining in federally provided shelter. Two years from now, five years ... maybe even 10 ... some of the current Sandy victims will similarly still be trying to get back to where they were but without the general attention they are now receiving.
All this is just to say: There’s got to be a better way than American and human big hearts simply winding up running from fire to fire trying to put them out … until another earthquake or flood diverts attention.
There is, in a refrain on this topic certainly not new to this space over the years, no overarching policy/approach to make this, and other miseries inflicted on fellow beings largely through no fault of their own, go away.
This is not meant to imply a need to “throw more money at the problem” whether coming from taxes or charity. It is meant to again emphasize that permanent answers/repairs to such human travails must be found and that this should be a shared concern. And that there must be clear understanding, not always present today, that there is a difference between providing a hand up and a handout.
IT SHOULD also be understood that whether assistance is provided by government out of a common purse or by charitable/religious groups there will be mistakes and inefficiencies and stupidities so long as it is humans involved in helping other humans. All are fallible, not only those who hunger and have no place to escape the cold.
That is not the true problem. The come-and-go nature of attention paid and resources provided is the problem.
SOW needs help … as do the victims of Sandy … and the refugees from war-torn or famine-stricken areas of the globe for that matter. It is the nature of the limitation on how rapidly big hearts can beat that the more one directs to Sandy or SOW or Africa the less there will be to give to the others. This is because, given the nature of how such things are being done, and the haphazard and emergency direction of the assistance flow, none of the problems are ever eliminated to the point that aid to them can be redirected.
It’s time to address this on all levels — local, state, national and even global. At minimum, it is past due to start thinking about this.
It is actually a blessing that Americans are largely able to try to address such situations on their own. Many in the world’s human population remains unable to do so.
It really behooves us all to make such an effort. What keeps our largely common big hearts going is a general acceptance of the old saying: “There but for the grace of God go I.” We help not only because it makes us feel good but also to try to assure similar assistance for ourselves should something terrible befall us due to physical or human forces beyond our own control.
THE QUOTE is generally attributed to John Bradford, a 16th century English Protestant reformer in the time of Mary Tudor when his opinions were heresy. He reportedly said it while in the Tower of London as he watched another prisoner being marched off to execution.
So, what happened to Bradford that the quotation does not reveal? He went … being soon thereafter burned at the stake.