It seems we all know someone struggling these days. It's the middle aged man with three kids who just lost his job, a single mom picking up a second shift to make ends meet, a grandfather trying to figure out how he will cover prescription costs, or a kid that has eaten more than his fair share of Ramen noodles.
After awhile, there are so many stories that you start to forget about the actual people living them. Sometimes we even forget there is anything we can do to help or take care of each other. Rain Burroughs, a 49-year-old single mother in Richmond, Virginia, was about to lose her home. But this time there were friends who refused to allow her to be become one more lost face in the collection of too many.
Rain is a giving soul and has provided meals and transportation to many a friend. Over the years, she has been an advocate for peace, her neighborhood, the environment, and a champion of social justice. She devoted time to a number of organizations and it seemed her mode of operation was always to give, and give all she had. With her own struggles of depression and her 12-year-old daughter recently diagnosed with Juvenile Arthritis, the stress and the bills stacked up around her. On July 30th, Rain owed $13,000 and a foreclosure auction to sell her home was scheduled on August 2nd.
There were just four days left to save her home. It was a long shot but her friends got organized, just like they have so many times before for the causes and people they believe in. In the span of 18 hours they launched a full-scale media blitz that included a video, an online petition, and a fundraising site.
The story was picked up by Gloria Steinem and the hacker-collective Anonymous. Facebook statuses and Twitter posts picked up in Richmond, traveled through the US and eventually help came from all over the world.
In 38 hours the community had gathered the $13,000 Rain needed to save her home for her family. By 48 hours, the full $15,000 requested (to include taxes and legal fees) had been given. Any additional funds donated will secure Rain's home for the next six months and monies collected above that will be donated to the RePhrame Project, an organization in Richmond that seeks to stop mass evictions.
When I asked one of the organizers, Josh Kadrich, why he thought this effort was so successful so quickly, he said, "...besides the power of social media... I think it's that reciprocal empathy, we are ready for it in our world."
Maybe people gave because Rain could be any one of us: a neighbor, a sister, a friend. Perhaps people just want to make sure a new type of story can be told. Or maybe, as Josh alluded to, 2012 will emerge as the year we shifted our collective consciousness to a new, more empathetic, way of being. With any luck, this new activism will go further than Occupying Wall Street and begin to Occupy Kindness.