Saturday, January 16, 2010

My Haitian problem

I sent money to UNICEF. I encourage everyone to help our Haitian neighbors as much as they wish to and in the way that feels most comfortable.

But why can't we show this same enthusiasm when it comes to helping those we encounter in our everyday lives?

Yesterday I saw two people on the streets of Chicago that no one was interested in helping. The first was a homeless man, standing under the awning by the el stop, cup in hand, same as always. Commuter after commuter walked past him as though he was invisible. I admit there have been mornings that I not only haven't given him change, I haven't even given him a smile. Friday morning I saw him do an extraordinary thing -- he crumbled up a bit of the empty hamburger bun he was having for breakfast and tossed it to the pigeons. If he could share his "bounty" with other creatures in need, so can I. If I can send money to assist Haiti's children, I can drop some change into the cup of the cold, homeless man whose breakfast is an empty hamburger bun.

The second was a man in a wheelchair, foot in a cast, who was desperately trying to get someone's -- anyone's -- attention outside Union Station. He had arrived on the Amtrak from Florida and was trying to get to the other train station (just a few blocks up the street) and to the friends he's visiting in the Chicago suburbs. But the cold night air triggered his asthma and while he was struggling with his inhaler, someone walked off with his pouch. His phone was gone. His cash was gone. He was so vulnerable and brave, trying to find someone to help him but not exploit him. I dug into my wallet and gave him $14, the petty cash reimbursement I just received a few hours earlier. I wish I could have given him time, too, but I had to get the enormous art boards for Tuesday's presentation home safely and they could NOT be rained upon.

I worry that while everyone opens their hearts to Haiti, they then may have to close their wallets to the charities they normally donate to. So many not-for-profits are already suffering in this economy.

My Haitian problem reminds me of that song from Hair, sung by Three Dog Night. "Easy to Be Hard." I hope that we all don't find ourselves just caring about "the bleeding crowd," and ignoring "the needing friends" in our own lives.

Lyrics | Hair lyrics - Easy To Be Hard lyrics


  1. I agree people should do more to help people at home.

  2. Living here I don't always see the people who need help. You've given me a good reminder to step it up in my own community.

  3. You've got such a big heart. I feel you on this one, girly. Sometimes, it takes a BIG catastrophe for us to see who needs help right around us. It's also easier to send money *somewhere else* than to pay attention to it right in front of us.

    I'm with Kwiz - thank you for the wakeup call. And thank you for being someone who notices these individuals in need and then acting upon your intuitive gifts.

    BIG HUG ....

  4. My dad has been complaining for two days about how much money we're giving to Haiti when there's so many needy people right here in the US. I have to agree with him.

  5. I have been singing this song for years now. American people only get generous when there is a big tragedy. I feel there are way too many people right here at home that need my help. I am not sending my money to another country while my fellow men suffer here....Thanks for posting this


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