28 December 2013

I'm sensing a trend...

As I was flying back to LA today from Raleigh, I was thinking about all the causes I’ve given to during my year of giving daily and how unintentional patterns started to emerge. 

When I look back at the charities, they’ve been tremendously diverse, but it turns out organizations in five different areas have dominated my giving: 

*Social justice. Certainly it’s the very nature of many non-profits, but I found myself giving again and again to charities that work to level the playing field and give the have-nots a little more. Maybe that’s because of my involvement with Liberty Hill Foundation as a board member, but I also think it’s just a matter of being aware of what’s going on in this country as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.  I guess you can live only concerned with making sure you get yours and screw everyone else, but that sounds soul destroying to me. 

*Ending gun violence. Whether they were groups lobbying for gun control or organizations in the trenches trying to stop street violence in some of the country’s worst neighborhoods, each of the these charities was concerned with one thing: getting guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them. One of the stories that haunted me the most this year was of a mother in Chicago who had lost all four of her children to gang violence over a 15-year period. How does someone bear that kind of loss and go on? 

*Homelessness: Whether it was giving directly to homeless people I  talked to on the street or to organizations looking out for their welfare, the scope of the homeless problem across this country was overwhelming as was the realization that the safety net isn’t just pierced with holes, it simply doesn’t exist for many people any more. 

*The military. Quite frankly, this one surprised me. Although my father was a very proud member of the National Guard for at least 20 years and was in the Royal Air Force during WW2, I don’t really have any affiliation with the military. Yet, I found myself repeatedly drawn to the plight of active and past servicemen and servicewomen who have sacrificed so much for this country and yet come back to a lack of resource and jobs. It’s shameful the way this country treats veterans and the only good news is that there is no shortage of organizations trying to right that very big wrong.

*Gay rights. Whether it was groups carrying the flag for legalizing gay marriage or organizations that rally for LBGTQ teens, they are all working to knock down remaining barriers that make gays feel less than. Despite the wonderful strides made this year, there’s still far to go on what I consider to be a simple civil rights issue. Everyone either has the same rights or they don’t. 

 While I was on the plane, I wondered if there was a cause that I had ignored this year to which I should have paid more attention. I was thinking about this as I got up to go to the restroom, which was smaller than usual on this plane. (yes, this is going somewhere...) I thought how claustrophobic the bathroom felt and how horrible it must be to be a victim of human trafficking and be transported via absolutely inhumane methods only to arrive at a destination where the nightmare has only begun. It’s not a topic I know as much about as I should in part because the whole notion is so heinous that I’ve buried my head in the sand a bit about it, I’m ashamed to admit. 

After I returned to my seat, I was reading a magazine and there was an ad for Unlikely Heroes, an organization I was unfamiliar with, but which fights to end human trafficking and child sex slavery. What are the chances of that? 

According to Unlikely Heroes, a staggering 27 million people are trapped in human trafficking/slavery.  Every minute two children enter sexual slavery, with the average age that a boy is forced into prostitution is 12 and for a girl it is 13. Think it doesn’t happen here? More than 100,000 children in the U.S. are prostituted every year. Unlikely Heroes’ mission, according to its website, it to provide “safe homes and restoration services for child victims of sex slavery worldwide.” 

Dec. 28: Unlikely Heroes

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