Generosity needed in times of normalcy, too

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 6, 2005

I never cease to be amazed at the generosity of Americans, and Southerners in particular, in a time of crisis. The outpour of support both monetary and in goods and in prayer across the South for the victims of Katrina has been remarkable to watch.

We’ve seen plenty of that spirit in action right here in Demopolis, with our local ministers, city government, businesses, and residents all working together to care for the evacuees from Louisiana. I’ll let councilman Cooley’s Letter to the Editor speak for the gesture made by Mike Marshall and Bryan Whitfield Memorial, but readers should know that’s only one of the many efforts made by the area to help ease the burden of those who have suffered because of the storm.

But as heartening as it is to see our region respond so enthusiastically to this crisis, it can still be disheartening to see how much need isn’t responded to during time BETWEEN crises, when maybe the need isn’t as immediate as hundreds of displaced hurricane refugees but is still undeniably present. I would encourage those can afford to do so to give generously of their time and money towards the relief effort in the wake of Katrina. But I would encourage everyone to make a note, as they do so, to give just as generously six months from now when there will still be single mothers struggling to feed their children, when there will still be seniors who cannot pay their prescription costs, when families will still live in homes they cannot afford to heat in the winter–all of them right here in the Black Belt.

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Now, the problem of lots of giving when disaster strikes and lots less during week-to-week business isn’t nearly as pronounced here as it is elsewhere in the state. Nothing disappoints me quite as much as churches in suburban Birmingham I’ve visited that have decided that God would rather the church have $15,000 worth of stereo equipment than the hungry have $15,000 worth of food. Put simply, there’s a lot more money not being shared outside the Black Belt than there is not being shared in the Black Belt.

But even here more can be done, especially given the spirit of generosity we’ve seen this week. It just needs to be sustained throughout the year, rather than only energized in case of emergency. How? Here’s a few suggestions:

Local organizations: Leaf through any area newspaper for a week (ours included) and you should be able to find a cause worth supporting, whether it’s playground equipment at a school that needs it or a housing project with the Rural Studios or H.E.R.O.’s efforts to educate young pregnant women in Hale.

Your church: Even if your church doesn’t have a local missions fund, they should be able to connect you with either one who does or with an organization that would be happy to help. And it’s my understanding that each of the major denominations has a fund set up for disaster relief and similar programs.

Give blood: By now nearly everyone is familiar with the story that after 9/11, so much blood was donated that it went bad before it could be used, only for the usual shortages to strike the Red Cross again a year later. Regular donations of blood are much more useful than the occasional visit when a catastrophe reminds you you should.

Your job: The runaway success of Relay For Life is a great example of how businesses can work together to make a difference.

As New Orleans seems to slide further into chaos and the Mississippi and Alabama gulf coasts try to begin the rebuilding process again, everyone needs to keep all those affected by the hurricane in their prayers. But prayers for all those who suffer, like our efforts to help them, shouldn’t stop just because the headlines do.