Most people spend most of their lives trying to meet expectations for themselves that were set by others. We go to school or learn a trade because that is expected of us; usually by our parents and peers. We find a mate and get married, because that is the natural state of things that are expected. We have children of our own and strive to give them “all of the things that I never had”, because that’s what parents do. We strive to get ahead, to get promoted, to make more money; so that we can buy more things – a newer car, a bigger house, a college education for our children and lots and lots of stuff (which usually ends up in a yard sale someday), because we have to keep up with the Jones.
At some point, usually fairly late in the game, we realize that most of what we are doing is making little to no difference in the world around us. Hunger and poverty and homelessness are still there, all around us. We realize that we have been totally focused upon meeting our needs and have given very little time or attention to the needs of those around us. At church we took on one of those background roles that receive mention in the credits that role up at the end of a movie – the role of “man who sits in pew and gives money”. Maybe we drop a buck or two into a red kettle one a year or send a check off in support of Breast Cancer Research. Perhaps we drop the old clothes or other items that we no longer want off at the Salvation Army Store, or at least the things that didn’t sell at the garage sale. Maybe we even volunteer once a year to stand on a street corner and collect money for some worthy cause (just so long as it’s not too cold or rainy). All of those things are good and they do make some difference; and, best of all they allow us to feel good about ourselves, for a short while anyway.
Did you ever think about where that money that you gave goes, who uses it and what do they buy with it? Some charities, like the Red Cross and the Salvation Army do a good job of showing donors where the money goes and what they are buying with the money that you gave. That makes you feel good again, for a short while. But that feeling passes and sometimes you may wonder why? Maybe it’s because you realize that your giving was just a substitute for actually doing something. You aren’t out there making a difference; but, hey, you paid someone else to do it for you; so you’re good, right? Certainly, giving to good causes is great. The good that is oft done with the collective donations of hundreds or thousands of people is real and does make a difference. After all, your ten dollars may have gone to buy a Petri dish so that a cancer researcher could perform one more experiment, maybe the one that finds the cure. You will never know that the Petri dish that your donation bought was used to make that difference.
But what if you spent a morning or afternoon serving meals to homeless people at a local shelter or maybe you spent the day delivering Meals-on-Wheels meals to shut-ins who otherwise may have gone hungers? What if you volunteered on weekends to visit with elderly residents in a local assisted living facility? What if you volunteered to relieve a caregiver who is caring for a loved one who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease? What if you cared so much that you dedicated your life to serving the needs of others? Do you think that making a difference in those ways would make a difference in your life? Do you know someone like that? Do you wish that you could be someone like that?
The fact is that you cannot solve world hunger or cure all of the dreaded diseases of the world. You cannot help everyone that needs help or feed and clothe and house every homeless person. But, the good news is that you can help some. You can feed and clothe and find homes for some. You can make a difference for some and that will make all of the difference in your life. There is a movie just out about Mother Teresa‘s work in India called “The Letters”. I have only seen the trailers for it, but I love the part where her superior tell s her “You can’t save them all”, to which Mother Teresa replies “I can try.” You can’t be a Mother Teresa, but you can try.
There is a lady locally who has dedicated over 15 years of her life to helping the developmentally challenged adults in our area live as much of a “normal” life as they can. Patricia Peters is the current Executive Director of S.A.L. (Supportive Alternative Living) in Milford. She joined S.A.L. in 1994 as a care giver and now runs the local organization. S.A.L. provides the staff to assist and advise and care for adult developmentally challenged people who might otherwise have to be placed in a group home or a facility of some sort. S.A.L. does what is necessary for each individual to help them maintain an independent home. For some that is 24-hour on-site care and assistance, for others it may just entail providing advice or something as small as a ride to work or to the doctor.
The work that S.A.L. does has been funded in the past by funding from various governmental Healthcare programs and by Oakland County. Much of that funding has been drastically cut back. The need hasn’t changed, just the funding to accomplish the work. Patricia has never asked for money through donations or solicited funding through grants; however, the changes in local government funding require that new sources for funding and for staff help be pursued. It was that need and an overwhelming desire to actually being doing things that make a difference that led Patricia’s sister Nancy Frasier to leave her six figure job in Texas and move back to Michigan to help as the Development Director (which is a euphemistic title for chief fund raiser). Nancy is a single mom who is taking a giant leap of faith, based upon her desire to help her sister and to make a difference.
I admire Nancy, and let me say right now that I’m not sure that I could take such a leap. I am sure that Nancy will make a difference and the difference that she makes will allow her sister to continue to the make the difference that she make through S.A.L. The organization in Milford currently serves 18 adult developmentally challenged individuals, each with their own home, due to their efforts. You can visit their new web site and watch the video that explains what they do or to read more about the services that they provide. When you’ve watched the video and read about the services, go to the donation page and see how you can help.
If you’re really moved to help see how you might volunteer to provide some of the services that S.A. L. provides. Many of the adults that S.A.L. – Milford helps live within two blocks of my home, so they are my neighbors. I see them out and about and some of them work at the local stores that I frequent. I can get my head around what S.A.L. is and what they do. I know exactly where my donation will go and how they might spend the money that I send to them and I can see the good that it would do. I certainly can’t say that about most of the bigger causes to which I also contribute.
I know that I’ve written here about S.A.L. three times now; but, I’ll continue to write posts from time to time to keep them top of mind. S.A.L. is an organization where making a difference makes all of the difference in the lives of their clients and in our community. Visit their web site and donate if you can. You can make a difference, too.