Homelessness is everywhere, but in warm areas of the country, the numbers of homeless people are generally bigger and caring for them poses a year-round challenge.
New Mexico’s Mesilla Valley is such a place, and in 2011 a camp for local homeless people was provided on city land. Dubbed Camp Hope, all it was was a place to pitch fifty or so tents. In the years that have followed, platforms have been built so the tents didn’t sit right on the ground and a nearby strip mall has been re-developed to provide social services, including a medical clinic and a soup kitchen where social workers connect with camp residents to help them with government aid.
To Mesilla Valley's credit, most of these services involve the work and effort of various local charitable agencies. But, the lack of real toilets and showers has always been a problem. In a place where dessert dust and dirt is a constant challenge, bathing out of a small bowl inside a tent is not very effective.
Enter Matt Holt, a professor at New Mexico State and his sister Julie Wilson, CEO of a business development group in Ft. Worth, TX., who started a movement called Project Dignity to improve the sanitary facilities at the camp. The effort has raised $65,000 from individuals, businesses, and the local Lions Club and Good Samaritan Society. They plan to build a facility--with a lot of donated labor and goods--that will include showers and toilets, along with a covered patio area and outdoor kitchen that can be used for cooking.
What would it mean to any of us to live without our bathrooms and kitchens? How can the value of a generous effort like this be measured?
So two people with comfortable lives, busy jobs and more than enough to do looked around and saw a place they could improve the existence of strangers living without basic necessities.
Some of these strangers are homeless veterans, others have had lives of tremendous difficulty. But for everyone at Camp Hope, these facilities are going to dramatically improve the current quality of life--all thanks to a brother and sister who cared enough to do a great and generous thing.
Let's all look around and see what we can do in our own communities and when you do, let me know. I'd love to write about you!
MONEY FEAR is a real thing. The fear that we don't have enough, won't have enough in the future, or can't do what we have to or want to do due to feelings of lack. Ross Levin, an attorney in Minneapolis recently wrote about money fear and the transformative power of generosity--something he's learned a lot about by shepherding his clients through the mental anguish that money fear promotes.
Here’s his story: “After a nasty divorce, one of my clients ended-up in a much different financial situation. Socially, she could no longer afford to do the things to which she had grown accustomed. Her network changed as her old friends continued their lifestyles. As she tried to cling to her old life, she became more anxious and unhappy.
“We took her through a list of things that she wanted to keep in her life as well as the reasons why--soon realizing that some people in her life were more like possessions than real friends. They didn’t fulfill her.
“Compiling a list without the reasons is not a useful exercise. Through defining what we want to keep in our lives, we can see whether we are doing so because of our true values or because of fear about our image or fear of change.
“Another couple I've worked with keeps pushing their financial limits beyond what they can reasonably afford. Their house is too big, their trips too extravagant, their cars too luxurious. They feel like impostors. This also wreaks havoc in their marriage, and yet they are still unwilling to adjust their lifestyle, and live in self-imposed chaos."
“Interestingly," he says, "an effective, yet counterintuitive strategy for money fear is generosity. We grasp and cling because we don’t feel like we have enough or that we are enough." Levin says although we feel like we are trying to control our often uncontrollable worlds through over-spending and other draining activities, we could take the paradoxical path of being generous to lead us out of our own world and into that of others.
Says Levin, "clients who are generous with their time or their resources have found it regenerative.
“When we give our time and money to causes and people in which we believe, we are subtly moving [mentally] from scarcity to abundance." We are then giving because we believe we can, that we have enough, he says. And, that is a transformative belief!
I like Mr. Levin’s list-making idea about what we spend our money on. I especially like the part about really focussing on why we feel that we have to spend money in a certain way. But more than anything else, Mr. Levin brings real-life experience to the magic of the effect of generosity in our lives. As always, I urge you to try it and if you are regularly generous, to expand your giving. It will expand your whole life!
When you write a book about the subject of giving it tends to open some doors and close others.
Most of us are so conditioned to save and always be careful with our money, that we are conflicted (to say the least) when someone starts sticking us in the ribs, talking about “paying it forward.” Doors close. It’s such a private affair. Nobody’s business. Even churches, which exist on the generosity of parishioners, tell them to “go home and pray about” what they should donate.
The sign says PRIVATE, NO ENTRANCE. Personal. None of your business. None of mine.
But then, what do we—who are not Bill Gates—who, like you, have mortgages and car payments, what do we do about the fact that giving is so great? I mean, how do we keep a secret like that from all the people who might really want to get involved in something so amazing as changing the world?
I don’t know about you, but to me it’s pretty impossible. So what DO we do? We stick our toe in the door and whisper “just give a little tiny bit.” “Just give a little bit.” “just give.”
And this is how: To begin a generous life, you may want to start small. Give a little when you feel like it might be a good thing to do. Do it because the kid looks so out of luck. Do it because the smile you get is worth a million. Do it because someone asks for a donation and it seems like a good place to plant a seed.
The thing is, no one wants you to spend the kids’ college fund money. No one wants you to give up the ranch. But some have given up everything and they can teach us a lot. Amy Carmichael left her home and family in Ireland near the end of the 1800s and traveled to India where she opened an orphanage. She worked as a missionary there for 55 years without ever returning home. One of her famous quotes was “You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.”
By 1913 Carmichael’s orphanage cared for 130 young girls who had been taken as Hindu temple servants. As a temple servant, these girls were forced to financially support the priests by taking “sexual assignments” or what we call prostitution. When the children were asked what it was about the orphanage that saved them, they most often replied "It was love. Amma (Amy) loved us."
Who wants to live without that kind of love? Who doesn’t want to open that door? If you do, you’ll find the most generous, open, accepting people inside. People, like you, that give out of love and compassion, people who understand the value of every human being.
Open those doors. You don’t have to sell the sofa, just do what you can and feel how good it feels. Do it often and let the feeling spread down to your toes and up through your brain. While you’re feeling good, like Amy Carmichael, you might just change the world.
Here’s to Amy,