This is a follow-up to my story about assisting Chandan, a young man who had never lived in his own place, was not employed and needed help caring for his 3-year-old daughter. For more on the original story, read here for the beginning and here for the unfortunate ending.
There are so many lessons to be learned in this experience. The biggest one I'll be adhering to is to donate to organizations instead of to the people those organizations are helping, unless it's someone I personally know and trust. But there are other, smaller, more hopeful lessons to be learned. Truly, every day that someone reached out to me to ask what Chandan needed or made a donation to the GoFundMe campaign, my heart filled with gratitude.
I learned that people genuinely want to help others in need. One of the reasons why the fundraiser for Chandan was so successful was because all of the donations were helping one person who shared his story. The need was clear, the impact of giving was obvious. In the Twin Cities there's an organization called Bridging that basically does exactly what my donation drive was doing: provides furniture and household goods to people coming out of homelessness into housing. People donated furniture to my request and not to Bridging. Why? Because mine was going to a single person with a face, a name and a story that they could understand.
I also was surprised by the number of people who, when the donations fell through, asked for their donations back. I'm not saying they are greedy, my point is that they weren't going to give these things away in the first place. They were inspired by his story and chose to give away items that they intended to use themselves.
Some more incredible stories of generosity that inspired me in the past few weeks:
- A woman shared the story of having to escape an abusive situation early in her life. She was able to do so thanks to the generosity of complete strangers who supported her after she got to a safe place. She considered her donations as a way to pay back for the kindness shown to her years before.
- One person had thousands of Amazon points in her account. She used the points to buy a brand new, adorable bedding set for his daughter, new kitchen supplies, cleaning supplies, a hamper, and other items that people experiencing homelessness usually don't own. She was happy to be able to use the points to help someone else when she could have used them for her own family.
- Someone reached out to me after the donation drive had been going for a while to ask what was still missing. I had secured dining room chairs but not a table. She went to a local Goodwill, purchased a table for $50 and her husband refinished it for Chandan's apartment. The labor of love that went into this was so inspiring! When the donation fell through, they decided to keep the table and will use it as a card table in their basement.
- One of the donors runs her own company staging houses for sale. She has a garage and basement filled with furniture, small appliances, household goods and other items that have never actually been used, just displayed and then put back in storage. It struck me how she owns nearly two households worth of goods while people in other areas of our city don't even have one. I'm not faulting her for her company or what she does, it's simply another example of the difference between the "haves" and the "have nots."
When our house was remodeled in 2016 we made a significant donation to Bridging, getting rid of furniture that was perfectly good, just no longer needed. One of the workers who came to pick up the items said, "Wow, this stuff is in really good shape. This is better than the furniture we usually get."
People in my community put decent furniture like ours on the curb for solid waste pick-up every week, while people in other areas of this city would love to have that piece of furniture in their home, yet they don't have the transportation to retrieve it. For many of my friends and family, making a $100 donation to help someone out is no big deal, while for someone else, an extra $100 means they don't have to choose between rent or food that month.
I've done a lot of learning about the history of Minneapolis, about how white people kept Blacks out of the desirable areas in Southwest Minneapolis using racial covenants and redlining practices and how BIPOC folks were given little choice but to live in what is now the notoriously poor North side. The disparity between the resources of North side and the wealth of the Southwest area is staggering. I have to believe that there is a way to make a direct connection between those with excess to give with those in need.
I'm not going to be fundraising for a single person again, but I will be reaching out to organizations working in the North side neighborhoods to see how I can help make connections to people in my area of the city. There's got to be a way we can do more to help people in my own city.