Helping in a time of great need 


Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. (And we’re still more than a month away from the end of hurricane season.)

California wildfires — some of the worst in the history of a state that’s no stranger to fires.

The largest mass shooting in modern American history. (Until the next, that is.)

One report of sexual harassment after another.

The Trump administration.

It’s hard out here for an optimist.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the cover story of the latest New York Times Magazine reports that more teenagers than ever suffer from severe anxiety. How many more? “In its annual survey of students, the American College Health Association found a significant increase — to 62 percent in 2016 from 50 percent in 2011 — of undergraduates reporting ‘overwhelming anxiety’ in the previous year,” according to the article.

Anxiety is not the exclusive territory of teens and college students, it’s an issue for many of us. Beyond the anxiety, in light of seemingly endless natural and man-made disasters, there’s another lingering feeling: helplessness. Thankfully, for me it has yet to cross over to hopelessness, though some days, when I wake up and tune in to the news, I come close to losing hope.

I say I feel helpless because I want to help. Helpless, because in so many of these situations, the way to help is with cash.

We are generous. We give. A lot.

A GoFundMe for the victims and families of the Las Vegas shooting has raised nearly $11 million from 85,000 contributors. Country star Chris Young had pledged $100,000 for victims of Hurricane Harvey and started a GoFundMe that sits at about $385,000. GoFundMe has a page that consolidates the funds for the victims of Hurricane Maria, but to tell you how many have given or how much has been collected requires more math than any journalist is comfortable with.

And so on. And so on...

Yes, I can skip my lattes and give to these funds. But even if I want to give $50 to each new newsworthy disaster or political effort that gives me some sense of hope — heck, at the rate we’re going, if I want to give just $10 — not even my caffeine addiction runs deep enough to support that level of giving.
While I want to help those affected across the country, I always want to help closer to home. Local nonprofits rely on us to help our neighbors. The invitations come in regularly for the fundraising breakfast or lunch.

I sat with hundreds of others under the Colorado Avenue bridge a couple months ago to listen to the impact that Urban Peak has on the homeless teens in our community. I ate a delicious breakfast and I broke out my checkbook. With the thriving nonprofits in our community, it’s not a stretch to think we could get one of these “free meals” at least once a week.

My Facebook feed is littered with more local GoFundMe requests as well. A recent one is ripped from the local news headlines. Do you remember the high-speed crash on Platte Avenue involving a Maserati? Turns out one of the occupants of the pickup truck that was flipped was a high school classmate of mine who set up a GoFundMe to help her struggling family. Though she only suffered minor injuries in the wreck, her husband spent nearly a month in the hospital.

If it sounds like I feel sorry for myself, I don’t. I have power and water flowing freely in my house. I have a job, and I am lucky enough to even have the ability to give. So, when that feeling of helplessness starts to overstay its welcome, I remind myself of what has become a cliché: It takes a village.

I take comfort from knowing that we live in a generous community — even though I can’t attend every one of the “free meal” fundraisers, others can. Our village donated to the tune of $1.39 million in last year’s Indy Give! campaign. (And the daily newspaper’s Empty Stocking Fund accounted for nearly $1.18 million last year.)

We rally when we’re needed. I saw it firsthand when I lived in the Mountain Shadows neighborhood during the Waldo Canyon Fire, and I see it regularly as we work to support those close to home and those farther away.

These are the things that help alleviate that helpless feeling.


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