03 September 2011

Help them if you can

If you live in the U.S., you know that there have been numerous catastrophic natural disasters here on our own shores in the last several months, from the tornadoes that tore through the south in late spring, particularly that which devastated Joplin, MO, in May, to the flooding and chaos wrought by Irene last week.

It's often hard to know how to help in the wake of such a mess. My own natural inclination is to just show up and start cooking for people, which while nice, probably wouldn't be especially useful.

Instead, I've learned to channel my energies into helping rebuild the organizations that have been important to me, namely schools and libraries.

There are lots of worthy charities out there, and lots of worthy projects that need to be funded, including keeping folks clothed and fed. Still, in recent months, I've been supporting educational initiatives, especially as the school year started again.

One of my favorite charities is Donors Choose which allows you to fund projects for individual classrooms. A couple of weeks ago, an appeal went out to help Joplin schools recover and gear up for the new academic year. I'm sure that there are plenty of other school districts in hard hit areas that could use help right about now, too.

A few days ago, an item showed up on my Twitter stream about the damage to library book collections, especially children's books, post-Irene. On her blog, author Kate Messner writes here and here about how people can help libraries put books back on the shelves after the flooding and other damage Irene did.

There is no denying these are tough economic times for everyone. But it's amazing how far just a couple of dollars can go to buy books when a bunch of people give a couple of bucks, or how five dollars might help buy art supplies for a classroom. A few years ago, I helped to fund an initiative that provided paper for a school in New Orleans. The school quite literally had no paper for students, for copiers, for anything.

My personal frustration level has been really high these last couple of days, and I find I feel better when I can make a positive contribution somewhere. There's never any guarantee that it will help in the long term, but if something I do helps one person in the short term, I'll take that.

Go listen to some good music: "Help!" from the album Help! by The Beatles.

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