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October 16, 2017

An Easy Way to Help in Addition to “Thoughts and Prayers.”

Lately, people have been calling out the “thoughts and prayers” posts that often accompany tragedy.

Social media has jumped on the fact that “thoughts and prayers” do little more than send out energy into the world (assuming that every person who types the words actually follows it with thoughts and prayers) and makes the person who sends it feel like they have somehow done something helpful. It’s been called out for being empty and meaningless, and I can see why many would think that.

Don’t get me wrong, I definitely think we should thoughtfully consider the tragedies that are happening more and more frequently at home and around the world. People of spiritual or religious conviction should definitely pray for others. I don’t think thoughts and prayers are completely useless, but I do think that they need to be accompanied by one of the following more helpful actions. And I think they need to be accompanied Every. Single. Time. we type out thoughts and prayers.

For every single time we type thoughts and prayers, we should accompany it with at least $1 to a charity that specifically helps that particular cause/issue/tragedy. Whether we’re talking about a natural disaster, a particular cause, a mass shooting, or any other tragedy that touches our hearts, we need to make sure we’re putting our money where our mouth is.

I realize that most households live paycheck to paycheck, but we can always skip that convenience store purchase, that fast food order, or our coffee to scrounge up a single $1 for a cause. We can put down the cookies at the grocery store or save our loose change. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, right? If we really want to help, that $1 would be a lot better than just sending out thoughts and prayers. Particularly when you think about a local, regional, national, and even global response.

Think about an instance of police brutality that resulted in Black Lives Matter posts making their way around social media. Wouldn’t $1 toward the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) or Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) make more of a difference than only raising awareness? If 250,000 people would send $1 rather than just a sentiment, we’re talking about a quarter of a million dollars in aid for justice.

Think about the recent series of hurricanes (one is heading for Ireland now), earthquakes, and wildfires. If a million people voiced their concern and followed it up with a single dollar toward aid, it would make a significant difference. Sure, there are tons of tragedies that come up every single day. But if we were to even set aside anywhere from $1-10 a month to help where we can, we could make a difference.

When donating, we have to be careful to avoid scams or giving to causes that profit more than they help. Forbes suggests that we use Charity Navigator or Wise Giving Alliance to find out which organizations actually put donor dollars to work helping the people most impacted. This way, we can make sure that the single dollar we contribute has a chance of doing the most good. We can also make sure the charities and organizations we support line up with our other belief systems. For instance, if an organization is affiliated with anti-LGBTQIA sentiments or other things that go against our own belief systems, we may want to find another organization to support.

If we would rather donate an actual item for disaster relief or to help in times of tragedy, we need to make sure we’re sending only the items requested and in the condition that they are requested (no one wants your worn out jeans or your used teddy bear with one eye and an ear chewed off). Here are some of the worst things you can donate.

We need to make sure that we’re helping in the right way because otherwise we’re draining the time of volunteers sorting through our junk that isn’t needed, which takes time away from actual help. Amazon Smile offers a way to send items while also donating to a charity of our choice—it’s a great way to send money and make a needed donation at the same time.

We can follow up any sentiment with raising actual awareness. We need to go beyond social media posts. We can have conversations with friends and family to talk about the issues. We can plan events in our communities to raise awareness, funds, and support. We can network with other people who are passionate about helping others so that we can do the most good.

This doesn’t have to be boring. We don’t have to sit around and beg for money. We can host car washes or sell baked goods to raise funds. We can host a community potluck with live music and bounce houses, or any number of things, and ask every family to contribute a dollar toward the cause. We can look for fun and creative ways to get the word out while doing some good in the community and beyond it.

We can also take our sentiments into the voting booth every single election—not just the presidential ones. We can research which candidates best line up with our core values and have the ability to do the most good, and we can make our voices heard at the voting booths. And we can help spread the word by encouraging early voting, reminding friends and family to take an interest in local elections, and even participating in campaigns.

When we have compassionate hearts, so many things can strike a nerve: natural disasters, sudden deaths, mass shootings, police brutality, terrorism, hate crimes. Let’s start accompanying our thoughts and prayers with $1 toward an aid organization. Let’s follow that up by raising awareness. Let’s donate an item, if there’s a need and we’re financially able to do so. Let’s organize in our communities to do a little more to help out. And let’s take our consciences with us to the voting booths at every election. Don’t stop thinking or praying, please. We see those beautiful hearts. Let’s put all these beautiful hearts to work to do a little more.

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Author: Crystal Jackson
Image: Twitter/@Donikahhhhh
Editor: Travis May
Copy Editor: Catherine Monkman
Social Editor: Waylon Lewis

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