Monday, September 6, 2010

Project: Open Eyes

Here we find ourselves, a year and a half after we started this organization. It has been an incredible, and life changing, journey. We have had our ups and downs. We have had our highs and lows. Many things have changed. What hasn’t changed is our commitment and desire to reach out and help those who are in need.

Over the last many years, the news has not been good. Every month we are told about new unemployment numbers. We are told how many homes are in foreclosure. We are told about how many people in America are hurting. We are told how many people are going hungry. About how many people are losing hope, or told that they have no hope at all. It is another Great Depression.

We are also told that the homeless shelters are full. The food banks are empty. People, everywhere, are hurting and there aren’t enough resources to help everyone. There just isn’t enough help to go around. We tend to think otherwise. We think that if we were to band together, as a community, and pool our collective resources, we could literally change the world.

We think we have stumbled upon something so powerful and so awesome, yet it’s almost always overlooked. It’s something that we needed to teach ourselves to do before we could ask anyone else to do it. It’s simple and highly effective and it can change lives forever. Are you ready to hear it? Open your eyes. Take a look around you, your home, your community. Too often, especially when times are so tough or our lives are in upheaval, we tend to put our heads down, put our blinders on and do our best to ride out the coming storm. It’s a normal, human reaction. It’s a survival instinct. But it doesn’t have to be this way. We don’t have to stop being human or humane to each other just because we are weathering a storm. Even though we are struggling, we can still reach out to those who are in need. No matter how bad times are, we can still offer a little bit of ourselves to save someone else.

Because times are so tough, there are more people than ever that have needs that aren’t being met. The government is stretched too thin and big business doesn’t seem to care. There are so many people out there that just need a little help, a little hope. Maybe you’re one of those people. Here’s a beautiful thing: you still have skills or knowledge that could help another. No matter your situation, there is someone you can reach out to.

Our organization started out being mainly for unemployed people. There were so many “skilled” people out of work that we said “let’s gather up all the unemployed carpenters, plumbers, electricians, etc. etc. and get them volunteering in their communities”. And so it began. But, as time went on, we started to see that everyone, no matter their background or experience level, had their own set of unique and invaluable skills. We heard from so many people that said “I would love to help, but I don’t have any skills that would be useful” or “I don’t think I have anything to offer”. This just isn’t true. Every, single person in this country has something to offer someone else.

We have had disabled people offer to help with phone work. We have had young people offer strong legs and backs. We have had elderly people offer their homes for meeting spaces. We have had stay-at-home moms and dads offer to drive volunteers to and from projects. No matter you age, skill level, experience, background, education, ethnicity or gender, you have something to offer. Something that will help a neighbor in need. Something that could change someone’s life. Something that could save someone’s life.

This is not just an idea or an assumption. It truly works. We have seen it work time and time again. We have gathered together complete strangers and, standing as one, pooled our resources and changed people’s lives. It’s amazing and wonderful and you can be a part of it. The one thing that they all had in common? Their eyes were open. You, dear reader, sitting there right now have the power and the opportunity to change someone’s life tomorrow. No matter where you live or what your circumstances are, you can find a way to offer someone a little hope. You have the power to say “enough is enough. Tomorrow my eyes will be open and I will keep them open for all the days to come”.

With open eyes, you can see your world around you. With open eyes, you can see that elderly neighbor that could use a hand with the yard work. With open eyes, you can see that person sitting on the bus that needs someone to talk to. With open eyes, you can see that homeless person that could use a blanket or a hot meal. With open eyes, you can change the way you see this world. With open eyes, you can change someone’s life forever. With open eyes, you can change the world.

Go out into your community and lend a hand. Give an hour or two of your time for a cause you believe in. Donate those old clothes in your closet or that extra food in your cupboard to a homeless or women’s shelter. Drive around on a hot day and hand out cold water to pedestrians. Gather your neighbors and start a community garden. Start an organization just like this one or simply offer a smile to a stranger. No act is too grand or too insignificant. There is no such thing as “too small” a kind act. Do what you can. If every person in the country donated 2 hours a month to help someone in need, how much do you think we could accomplish?

That’s a lot of open eyes.

Seth and Michelle

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