You don’t have to look very far to find people in need these days. In today’s troubled economic times, many people have experienced job layoffs, fewer work hours, corporate downsizing, salary reductions and various other situations that have caused financial hardships for them. Add to this the rising costs of necessities like food, rent, utilities and transportation, and you can see how difficult it might be for people who are dealing with higher expenses along with lower income. If they also incur additional unexpected expenses like medical bills, it is easy for them to feel overwhelmed. When they are accustomed to taking care of their financial responsibilities without help, it is difficult for them to admit that they need assistance.
Help Them Keep Their Dignity
When you think about people in need, try to mentally put yourself in their place. Consider how you would feel if you were in their situation and what you would like someone to do to help you in that case. If possible, try to help people while allowing them to maintain their dignity. Do not wait for them to ask for help. If you believe that they could use some assistance, give them what they need if you can. If you have an opportunity to offer a job to someone in need, even if it is only a small task, the needy one will have a chance to earn money instead of receive charity. If they do not feel like they are accepting charity, they will have more self-respect and hopefulness. If the needy people feel better about getting a loan instead of a gift, you can give in that way. When you want to give to people without getting anything in return, ask them to “pay it forward” when they can. Tell them to pay you back by helping others in need when their own situation improves. That way, you will not need to know whether they pay it back or not, and they will not feel obligated to you.
Most large cities have homeless shelters and soup kitchens, and they can always use volunteers to help with various chores. You could bring food, ask grocery stores or other possible sources of food for donations, cook, serve food, give some words of encouragement to those who come to eat and clean up after the meals. If you have time to offer your assistance at these places, you will be helping many people who are less fortunate. If you know some needy people who are able to work, encourage them to volunteer their time at the shelters and kitchens too. When they work to help others, it will not cost them anything but time, and they will see that there are many people in similar situations. Keeping busy in this way will help them to avoid becoming depressed because of their problems. They can feel good about themselves when they have the opportunity to do something positive for others.
Help build a house for Habitat for Humanity, an organization that builds houses for needy people. Donations provide the materials, and volunteers supply the labor for the homes. The program requires the potential homeowners to contribute a certain number of hours of work to construct their new home, but the organization needs many other people to help complete the job.
Volunteer to work at food banks, Salvation Army stores, Good Will stores or for any organization in your area that has a mission to help people in need. If you do not know what opportunities for helping exist in your community, contact the Chamber of Commerce or some of the local churches to inquire about the needy.
Consider donating to food banks. Each time you buy groceries, add a few non-perishable items to your basket, and give them to your local food bank where people can come for assistance in feeding their families. Food banks usually accept additional items like toilet tissue, laundry detergent, bath soap and other non-food items that they distribute to the needy along with the food.
When you have shoes, coats and other clothing that you no longer need, donate them to organizations like Salvation Army, Good Will or other places that sell them at low prices. Most of these institutions will give these items to the needy free of charge and sell them to people who can afford to pay for them. They use the money from sales to help the needy in other ways like assisting with rent or utility payments. Many of these organizations will accept donations of furniture, bedding, dishes and other household items as well. Make sure that the articles you donate are clean, in good repair and ready to use or wear.
When you decide to buy a new vehicle, consider donating your old one to someone needy instead of trading it in if you can afford to do that. Ask pastors of churches if they know someone who needs a vehicle but cannot pay for one. It can be of more value than you might imagine to someone who needs transportation to get to work.
Go to the Internet for Ideas
Look online for suggestions to guide you as you help to ease the suffering of others.
- Charity Navigator offers reviews of many charities.
- Kiva allows you to take part in micro loans to small business owners in emerging markets.
- GoFundMe, Kickstarter & Indiegogo help people raise projects for personal & commercial projects.
- KindSpring is a community site which shares a wide variety of ways to help those in need. The site also gives advice that will be beneficial to you as you share your time and resources with others.
- Just Give helps charities raise funds & will show you some creative ways that you can make a difference to people going through tough times.
You may have a skill that you could use in helping someone less fortunate. Here are a few ideas, and you can probably think of a few others as well:
- Perhaps you could help a job seeker to fill out a resume.
- Some people may need advice about how to apply for jobs.
- Offer to drive people to job interviews.
- Offer to baby sit for people while they search for jobs or if they need a break for a while.
- You may be able to teach someone to read.
- Teach people how to use a computer.
- Mow lawns for people who do not have a lawn mower, or lend them your mower if they are able to do it themselves.
- Give people advice about ways that they can save money.
Many people would be less needy if they knew how to stretch their available dollars. There are simple ways to economize, but if they have never had to be careful about spending money before, they may not be aware of those tricks.
Teach Them How to Economize
- Tell them to shop early in the day for discounted groceries that will be outdated soon. It is usually safe to eat the food for a few days after the expiration date printed on the package.
- Their grocery bills will be lower if they stop buying chips and other snack foods that do not add much nutrition to their diets.
- Teach them that it is cheaper to fix meals at home rather than to eat out, even if they normally eat at fast food restaurants.
- Persuade them to drink water instead of soda, tea, coffee or juice. If they believe they must drink filtered water, they can buy a water pitcher with a filter and spend less money than buying bottled water.
- Encourage them to buy clothes and household items at garage sales or rummage sales for a fraction of the cost of new items.
- If they smoke, show them how much that habit costs for a month or for a year, and encourage them to quit.
- Explain that setting the thermostat higher in the summer and lower in the winter will save cooling and heating expenses.
- If they use hot water sparingly, the hot water tank will not have to heat up as often, and their energy costs will be lower. When they just want to rinse something off, cold water will work just as well.
- Turning lights off when not in use and unplugging electronic equipment like televisions and VCRs when they are not using them will lower electricity bills.
- Tell them to keep curtains or shades closed when the hot sun is shining on the windows in the summer to keep the house cooler.
- They should leave curtains and shades open in the winter to let the sun help warm the house, and close them at night to help keep the cold air out.
Teach Them New Skills
When you want to help people to rise above their situation, teach them some skills that they can use to make a better lifestyle for their families. It is better to give them long-term solutions instead of handouts. Of course, they need to have their immediate needs met, so help with those first if you can. However, you will be doing them a bigger service by helping them to learn how to help themselves.
Pray for Others
Some people do not have the resources, time or ability to help the needy in traditional ways. You may be so busy taking care of your own family that you do not feel that you can spare even a few minutes to help someone else. You may be struggling to pay for rent, utilities, food, medical bills and other necessities and do not have funds to spare for helping others. Even if you do have extra time, you may be physically unable to assist needy people. However, you can still do something for them. Perhaps the greatest gift that you can give to anyone is prayer. You can pray to God and ask Him to intervene in their lives and give them the help that they need. If your church has a prayer chain, add their names to that list. If you know some needy people, let them know that you are praying for them, and that knowledge will be an encouragement to them. If they have phones, call them occasionally and try to cheer them. If they do not have phones, they would appreciate a card or letter to let them know that you are thinking about them. If you are unable to help the needy yourself, you may be able to enlist help from other people who have the abilities that you lack. Ask the Lord to guide you in that endeavor.
Do not be Concerned About Scams
Some people avoid helping others because they are afraid that those people may inappropriately spend money that they give to them. They believe the needy people may buy alcohol instead of food when someone gives them money. They wonder if they are encouraging people to be lazy by helping them. They think that some people do not want to work and would rather let people help them than try to find jobs.
It is impossible to know what effect your giving will have on those you help. You are only in control of your own actions, not theirs. If you give with compassion and an honest heart, don’t worry about what happens to your gift after it is out of your hands. Learn to give cheerfully, and leave the details to the Lord.
Whatever methods you choose to help the needy, you will not regret being a blessing to someone. You will find that the joy and peace of mind that you feel after helping others will be a blessing for you too.