*Thoughts and Prayers*
What are you doing to make the world a better place?
When you stop to really take a minute and think about it, we’re pretty lucky to be here. Sure, some of our situations are much worse or far better than others’, but the fact that we are living and breathing is reason enough to be grateful. So it’s only natural that we should be giving back in some way, shape or form, big or small, whenever possible.
So what do you do to help out? Perhaps you’re the best family member that you can be, or the type of friend everyone knows they can count on. Maybe you tutor English to immigrants, or donate blood regularly. Maybe you’ve even traveled domestically or abroad on service trips to help communities in need. Even the smallest of kind actions can have enormous impacts on others.
In our ever-connected world, you’ve likely seen someone post on one form of social media or another promoting a charity, asking for help, donating to some fund or another, or maybe just humblebragging about a random act of kindness.
Unfortunately, for all the good it might do, charity works are a tricky business, and it’s often hard to know exactly where your time, energy, money, and yes, even your blood, are actually going. Sadly, some forms of charity can do more harm than good. Here’s how.
One of the easiest ways we can help those in need is by donating items we personally have no need for. This often comes in the form of canned or non-perishable goods, or in gently-used clothing and shoes. Who hasn’t donated toys to children in need around the holidays?
Unfortunately, it’s possible to have ‘too much of a good thing,’ especially after a natural or manmade disaster. Though immediately after the fact is when these communities need the most help, including food, shelter, and clothing, even this form of help can be overwhelming.
For example, NPR reported in 2013 about several instances when the relief efforts were a disaster in themselves.
After the school shooting in Newton, Connecticut, parents had to ask people to stop donating after the town became overridden with toys, stuffed animals, and other gifts. Areas affected by Superstorm Sandy were overwhelmed with donations even before they had reestablished the means to distribute them. Following Hurricane Mitch’s 1998 devastation in Honduras, disaster specialist Juanita Rilling recalls the circumstance when a plane carrying medical supplies couldn’t land because the tarmac was so filled with other, even unnecessary, donations.
That being said, definitely don’t stop donating, just donate smarter. The Red Cross and other organizations have experimented with more direct, registry-oriented means for donating items that victims can actually use.
Do you donate blood? For healthy, able adults, it’s a selfless and great thing to do once in a while, even several times a year.
Often, there’s an increased call to donate after a disaster, when victims have lost large amounts of blood and the local blood banks can’t keep up with the demand. Unfortunately, too much donated blood can end up sitting around, and after 42 days, it becomes unusable “biological waste.” While blood centers are always in need during the year, the time immediately following a disaster often becomes a catch 22 because much of the donated blood ends up going to waste.
Again, this isn’t a call not to donate blood, but rather to do so regularly.