I'm reviewing the national poll released today by the Northwest Area Foundation. MPR's Greta Cunningham has a blurb about it here. The headline suggests widespread worry in Minnesota, noting that nearly a third of those polled are worried that their incomes won't cover expenses this year.
In rural Minnesota, 71 percent of those surveyed rate the economy fair or poor. The rest of the report is filled with anxiety.
But then there's this:
It would seem that if the 87% who would like to do more, actually did more, then not quite as many people would be struggling. Armed with only anecdotal evidence, I'm going to theorize that 87% of the people are not going to do more and a sizeable number aren't doing that much now.
Maybe the answer is in this graph, which takes into account the answers of all the respondents in the northwest area.
Maybe we don't think our help will make a difference, so we don't "do more" to help. Or maybe we each speak a different language when it comes to "doing more." A closer look at the survey shows that a large percentage said they would be willing to get together to talk about ways to help. Others said they would be willing to talk to an elected official. Seventy-eight percent said they would take part in a church project to help someone. A somewhat smaller group said they would adopt a family temporarily if they were struggling. About the same number said they would pay another $50 in taxes.
Times are tough for a lot of people, of course, but could it be different if we did as we say? As individuals, what's stopping us, aside from our belief it won't make a difference? And what do you consider to be a definition of doing something?
Sometimes when you're poor the walk takes all you've got, not leaving much for extracurricular walks. A horrible truism about American jobs is that the less they pay, usually the harder you have to work. At a minimum low-paying jobs require workers to be on their feet most of their eight-hour shift. ++++
While working with job hunters it was painfully obvious that the lower income workers were the most tired and bedraggled. They were also by far and away the most sensitized to the needs of others. Wait staff will tell you the best tippers are often the customers with the least money, and I think that's part of this. ++++
I also suspect that those who say they wish they could do more already do more than you're giving them credit for.
Thanks for this post Bob- I agree with what you're saying (community involvement isn't something that just happens, you actually have to... get involved), but I have to play devil's advocate for this one...
I think it's worthy to point out that Greta's blurb focuses strictly on financial attitudes, whereas the chart showing 87% of Minnesotans would like to help those struggling in their community does not specifically address the method in which the individual would like to help (be it money, food, community involvement, etc).
As for the proposed question as to why Minnesotans don't do more for their communities... I think it's two-fold:
//I also suspect that those who say they wish they could do more already do more than you're giving them credit for.
Excellent point and you're probably right. I should've, now that I think of it, should have just stuck to my experience. I'm one of those people who would like to do more. I tell myself that all the time. I look at how easy it is. And yet I don't. I'd love to go build a Habit House. Heck it would combine a couple of passions. But I don't.
Why? I'm not really sure. I don't think there's a good reason for it. I just think that I'm a big part of the problem of the struggles in my community.
So I guess I'm curious as to how pervasive my experience/attitude/helpfulness is in the wider community.
Huge issue, so thanks for bringing it up. I have numerous theories with no real research to back it up, but it is what it is.. my not so always humble opinions:
1. Where do you start to help? Neighbors.. not necessarily because who wants to be intrusive. Folks tend to respect that privacy (sometimes more than they should) Ex. Neighbor's husband dies. No one in the neighborhood ever really new him.. you know the quiet guy next door. So, we do what we've been taught to do... "I'm so sorry for your loss, is there anything we can do? Please don't hesitate to call." Seriously would you call?
better to see even a little thing that needs doing and just do it. No need to put your name on it..
like shovel the driveway, fix a mailbox, drop off meals that can be frozen and used as needed, etc. Asking for help is the most humbling experience anyone can have, and no one is going to ask neighbors they don't know.
2. People donate to charities and think that is all I have time to do, but quite often there is no research done as to how much actually gets to the preferred charity and how much to the person on the phone or at the door.
3. "I always give $5.00 to anyone with the will work for food signs at an intersection" Go home and sleep well and know that 90% of the time you have been scammed. At least street musicians entertain for the money. End up at a stoplight and try to give food to the person with the sign saying will work for food and you will be turned down. But it is very difficult to drive by without offering something and if you don't ask and just give.. pleasant dreams.
4. Most people need an invitation to help. Even with a group like Habitat for Humanity many have a hard time believing they have much to offer. guess what..you are wrong. If you can, walk, talk, hold one end of a measuring tape..You are in.. but who do you call?
5. Fear... FEar... FEAr.. FEAR... "if I get involved I may be in danger of?????" or "What if I have nothing to offer?" or "What if this experience makes me own up to being vulnerable myself?"
enough for now.. great topic
Which reminds me of a good story I heard on MPR late last year.
I am one of those "needy" people, not financially, as much as that I have a spouse with a disability and kids with disabilities.What I appreciate are those that will step in and help, without any kind of attitude.
My neighbor across the street is probably a good Republican. He has the flag in the driveway.Whatever...but he will help us shovel, has a son who mows, and told me that he will repair our mailbox this summer (it is in ill repair).
I appreciate the respectuful help.
Nobody wants to be a charity case.
The biggest hurdle is to identify what I can do to help. Do I know enough to work in a Habitat House (using your example)? Do I even need to know anything?
Too often, 'helpful' organizations or projects make a point of making themselves known. They fail to make clear what Jane Q. Public can do to help. Sure, there's a great organization, but I don't help, because I'm clueless about what exactly they need me to do.
I have a spouse, kids, and am in grad school. I would be willing to help, if it didn't involve money. I can do things. But who needs me? How much time do they need? Where is it, and can I get there?
This is the fear of the unknown. Helping can be jumping into the deep end, not being sure of what will be expected. The charitable places/groups need to inform us not onl of what they do, but of how to help.
And, re: Minn Whaler --- there is some organization which rates charities based upon the percentage of money which actually goes directly to the purpose, and how much goes towards business overhead. I really wish I could remember the name. It is useful, though not absolute, to help determine which charities you want to donate cash to.
GopherMPH the organization you're thinking of is the Charities Review Council. ttp://www.smartgivers.org/
I've worked on habitat houses and I was amazed that I was able to help without having a lot of experience. It was great fun and I highly recommend it.
I work in social services and I am amazed at how much work it takes to get public assistance. I would never have the patience to complete all the paperwork.