After praying about how I could be best used to help with Sandy relief, I connected with some people on the ground this week and I was not surprised to find that some of her best-kept secrets are the most heart-breaking.
After doing some searching and learning, I found out from the organization Covenant House that over 200,000 homeless youth are now displaced in New York City alone and that there are currently displaced students in Seaside, New Jersey who are being told that they won't be able to return home for six more months.
Surviving New Jersey locals have told me that they've been overwhelmed with donations of food and clothes, but they still need much, much more. I was in tears as one woman told me how high school students, my own peers, are now developing PTSD as a result of this horrible experience. One student in New Jersey is currently housing 15 people and 11 dogs who have nowhere else to go. But already, the tragedy is losing media coverage and attention from those who aren't affected.
Victims are so thankful for all of the generous donations of supplies, money, housing, ect., and I am prouder than ever to be an American as I watch fellow citizens come together and work to rebuild broken lives. But I'm writing this post to challenge you. We're so quick to give money, clothes, and other materials, but what about the intangibles that we as humans need to survive? What about giving time, love, and hope to our neighbors who need it most right now? My friend Rav Hey put it best:
"The voluntary sector in Africa is full of white people from western societies taking pictures holding black children and sharing them using their iPhones with smiles on their faces announcing how the money they are donating is making them the next business person of the year. It's all about stages and conferences, degrees and status."
We are so quick to take trips to third-world countries or make donations to our alma maters, not that it's in any way a negative thing, but there are so many people here in our own back yards suffering every day. Not just from Sandy, but from medical conditions, homelessness, and abuse; the list goes on and on. Why are we so reluctant to help our own neighbors? I'm not talking about food or clothes, I'm talking about stepping up to the plate, taking time out of our super busy lives and actually directly impacting a person's future.
As people of faith, believers (not to be mistaken for Beliebers), Christians, Jews, or whatever you call yourself, God tells us that it is our job to be fishers of men, that we must "Love thy neighbor," so this holiday season I'm challenging you to get back to the basics with your life and faith. Remember what's really important and embrace the true essence of Christmas. You could give someone a gift that will change their life forever. You could bring someone to God. You can show them that they aren't alone.
This blog post was originally published on myutoria.com.