A Handful of Change

Phyl CampbellStarred Page By Phyl Campbell, 9th Dec 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/cqiv33_s/
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Columns & Opinions

Giving someone a turkey dinner at Thanksgiving and Christmas, but ignoring them the rest of the time, is borderline insulting.While I do believe people mean well, what about the other 363 days of the year? A handful of change is only a handful of change. Matching people who have a talent with people who need that talent would be a much better gift that keeps on giving.

Charity, Reform, and Fish to Fry

I hate bell-ringers. People that stand outside in the cold clanging their obnoxious bells in the hopes that I will stuck some money in their (usually red) kettles make me recite Poe under my breath and curse the holidays. My loose change is not going to provide a meal for a family -- especially when many charities have CEOs who take their cut(s) off the top. Churches also claim to help the poor but do so little in the grand scheme of things. I'm not here to criticize anyone who means well. I'm just wondering what good it does to give things for charity – because I do not feel it addresses the real problem, or creates real change. I'd prefer creating little ripples to make big waves.

One can be taught to fish or swim -- why education for the right purpose is important

"Give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish…"

We all know this proverb. Sure, if someone doesn't know how to read or write, s/he should be taught these things. However, there are hundreds of FREE programs out there. These programs, however, still do little to solve unemployment problems.

When my husband, who holds a PhD in hydro-geochemistry and environmental dynamics, was out of work several years ago, the only job he could get for a time was delivering newspapers. We had to learn to fish in different ways. College is not the answer to every problem. Helping people find ways to get paid doing what they already love is much better for them than educating them to fight everyone else for the same drudgery they will hate. If someone is struggling to feed their family NOW, they need jobs they can be paid to do NOW – not in a year after they've learned some questionable new skill. Everyone is good at something; the trick is matching that person's talents to someone who needs those talents.

Case in point: I write children's books. Even in an art-rich community such as mine, it took me over three years, several hundred dollars, and many wrong people before I found the right artist. I can't draw a stick figure with a stencil – I don't even write legibly because I'm so dysgraphic. At any rate, I could not sell my children's book without original art.

Enter Chestina Owens. Owens is 21 years old, computer-illiterate, unemployed, living with her parents, the first person in her family to graduate high school – and an amazing artist. She completed the artwork for Martha's Chickens and the Pirates in less than two weeks – and she was fighting a cold during 3-4 days of it. I would never have found her online no matter how many Facebook and Craigslist ads I posted. I had to get out there selling my other books and talking to people and putting up signs to find this person. Her grandmother saw my sign at one of my events and helped make the connection. I got an amazing artist; she can help me sell my children's book because of her amazing talent. In return, I can help her by paying for her services, getting her name out there, and hopefully getting her more work using her art if that's what she wants. I set up a Facebook page for her so people would have a way to contact her while permitting her to maintain the private life that suits her. At this time, she doesn't need computer classes, a college degree, or art lessons. She needed to know how to be paid for doing something she loves doing – and is very good at doing. Teaching her the other stuff (to fish) first would have been pointless. Teaching me to draw would have been just as pointless (many have tried; it's just not pretty). But by putting our talents together – we produced a children's book whose Amazon sales have already beat my last two years of adult fiction sales – in less than a week. Amazing. (Still not enough to feed my family of three at a nice restaurant, but it's early days. I still need more bountiful booksellers to help me navigate the waters I've been treading. It's tough out there!!)

Sometimes education points to rehab or counseling

Some people can't work because they are sick – drugs, alcohol, or medical issues keep them sick. In this case, a different kind of education, in the form of rehabilitation services, counseling, or medical help is needed. I don't have any good advice or connections to teach anyone how to tread these waters, much less become a bountiful fisherman. I would recommend contacting Marilyn Davis or at least reading her articles and figuring out what kind(s) of help is(are) needed, then helping that someone get that help. So few charities address these important factors, and without getting to the root of the problem, the situation will never change. Someone could put all the bandages s/he wants on someone having a heart attack – it won't stop the AMI. Frankly, it's insulting to the patient and the caregiver. What would happen if big name charities faced the same kinds of malpractice suits as doctors? Would we see more charity – or less?

Sometimes legal issues muddy the waters

Some people can't work because they must deal with legal issues. They could relate to any of the above problems or be dealing with divorce, custody, or some other problem. While many states offer free legal advice for defense against criminal charges, and many states offer free legal aid, I've seen both programs in action and it just isn't the same – due to sheer volume CAN'T be the same – as qualified – paid -- time and legal advice. Competent legal advice is also necessary when starting a business. And if someone can't afford the right legal services, that business will fail before it ever has a chance to succeed. However -- if more business owners would diversify and take new business under their wings, they would teach people to fish in waters they could wade in. New businesses may offer services which would help business growth or diversification. More people could go from welfare to work with proper support. Instead, they are being shoved into the deep end to sink or swim. Without a net, they will go back to welfare – they weren't taught to swim.

The Failure of Welfare to Work programs (and how to fix them)

Once the person has been taught how to fish and given the supplies or the wherewithal to acquire his or her own supplies, other services are still necessary to ensure success. Some of the supplies I would mention would benefit more than welfare to work candidates:

    *Onsite childcare
    *Sick childcare (on site)
    *true part-time work, job sharing, trial jobs, temp jobs, learn to earn jobs

I believe the childcare points are self-explanatory.

When I say true part time work, I mean jobs less than 20 hours a week with flex- schedules to accommodate mornings, afternoons, or days on/days off. More jobs should accommodate working parents of school-attending children. Job sharing fits into this idea. Take teaching, for example. Instead of burning out one teacher teaching 30 students per class hour seven class hours per day with only 30 minutes for planning and lunch, hire two teachers – one for the morning and one for the afternoon. This would be an especially good plan for teachers trying to transition back into work after graduation, maternity leave, or sick leave. A big reason for our teacher shortage is burn out. Burn out most likely has an impact on student learning and test scores. Why isn't this obvious to those in charge? There are teachers who can swing these types of plans once they have already built a rapport with a school district, but it's just as important to allow new teachers this type of flexibility. If a new teacher weren't working out, it would be easier to find someone new for that shorter period.

Trial jobs and temp jobs could be different descriptors for basically the same thing. In a trial position, employer and employee would set a trial period for work. At the end of that period, both could decide if they wanted to make the job permanent, have another trial, or walk away – with no loss of unemployment benefits if the job did not become permanent. Filing for unemployment takes so long (see legal assistance needs, above) that once that funding is obtained, people are unwilling to take chances on jobs that might not work out, incurring a new waiting period and a loss of hard-earned benefits. Filing for unemployment, I've come to understand, is like its own job. Being able to suspend benefits after a paycheck arrives and to reinstate them if a paycheck won't be coming would be very helpful. A transitional safety net would help more people get back to work – and to work doing work they can appreciate and be passionate about.

Learn to Earn jobs would include any apprenticeships, jobs that pay for higher education and college, or provide on-the-job training. I don't agree that every secretarial job requires an MBA. Most don't require a college degree, or even a high school diploma. My ten year old can answer the phone, take someone's name and number, and have me call them back (Not that, in the days of voice-mail and answering machines, this is necessary very often). So many businesses want more education in an attempt to weed out candidates they think will not be successful. However, as I hope to have shown above with my artist, there are many paths to success. I don't have an MBA; I have an English degree. I have above average communication skills and can file folders with the best of them. If I have a manual (or can find it online), I can work most software packages. I do not need a college degree (and certainly not an MBA) to sit behind a desk, answer phones, send e-mails, accept packages, or show visitors where the bathrooms are. I might need to know how a particular phone service works, how to access secure files, or other tricks of a certain industry standard. Basic college degrees, up to and including that MBA, will not tell me those company secrets.

An advanced degree in many fields is pointless; a teacher's license not make me better at helping children learn, as I've already been helping young people for over 20 years with statement after statement of verifiable success stories. However, without the appropriate license, I cannot obtain permanent work in the public sectors of this field. Additionally, there is no opportunity to wade in gradually so that my own school-age child is not neglected while I navigate the waters.

I can't fish and swim. Luckily, my husband's job pays well enough that I can work at writing. I can work hard and hope that someday it will pay off. When my son is older, I can think about working outside the home again. Hopefully, if writing does start paying off, I won't have to. What a fine kettle of fish that would be!

The End of this Fish Tale:

Charity begins at home -- in our communities and neighborhoods. It's so much more than giving a man a fish – or a turkey dinner with all the fixings. It's helping our fellow men and women tread the waters we've navigated so that everyone can find his or her own way to adventure, success, and home.

Tags

Charity, Childcare, Children, Counseling, Education, Fishing, Legal Aid, Legal Service, Money, Poor, Proverb, Reform, Rehabilitation

Meet the author

author avatar Phyl Campbell
I am "Author, Mother, Dreamer." I am also teacher, friend, Dr. Pepper addict, night-owl. Visit my website -- phylcampbell.com -- or the "Phyl Campbell Author Page" on Facebook.

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Comments

author avatar Jerry Walch
9th Dec 2013 (#)

So you hate bell ringers who brave the cold to collect handfuls of change? It'd obvious you have little first hand knowledge of where that money goes or of what goods and services it provides. It provides a great deal more than a Turkey dinner on Thanksgiving and Christmas. The Bell Ringers that you hate so much collect donations for the Salvation Army who use it to provide food, shelter and medical care for homeless men, women, and children. They use it to operate transitional housing programs. They use it to operate job training centers. They use it to support free medical and psyc clinics. As for overpaid CEO's--there aren't any in the Salvation Army. Instead of knocking organizations that are actually doing something to help the needy, why don't you actually do something to help those less fortunate than you? A lot of us are.

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author avatar cnwriter..carolina
9th Dec 2013 (#)

lots of wisdom heein Phyl...and lots of love to you too..sharing..

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
9th Dec 2013 (#)

Jerry, if you don't bother to read my whole article, than for pity's sake don't comment. I think I more than stated my case, provided examples, and talked about real change. You are free to.your opinion and me to mine, and mine is that if all those bell ringers did half the good the best of them intended, there would be a reduction in the poor and needy. Yet the need is greater than ever. This points to a broken system. Expecting different results from doing the same thing is the definition of ..
?

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author avatar Jerry Walch
10th Dec 2013 (#)

I did read your whole article! If you want to find fault with the system, then target the system, not the bell ringers. The Salvation Army for whom the bells toll do more good than any of the other organizations and agencies that you mentioned. I know this to be a fact because I have a close association with them. As for the bell ringers that you lambast in your opening paragraph, what you apparently don't know is that most of them are emotionally or physically challenges themselves and they earn a minimum wage for their bell ringing. My problem with your article rests solely on your opening statement because it was purely personal opinion and not fact and you played it as if it was factual.

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
10th Dec 2013 (#)

Jerry, other than mentioning red kettles, I mentioned no charitable organization by name in the article, only the comments. Where I live, bell ringers are not paid, as far as I know. I believe Connie mentioned doing this work as a volunteer in New York as well. Yes,I mentioned red kettles, and SA is probably the most well known institution for them, but that isn't the same as naming them or calling them out. I don't hate any bell ringers as people, but the action of their bell ringing and only seeing them in that context. That much should have been obvious. That I hate them is a fact; that fact is my opinion. The article could not have been more clear. I even went further -- before I needed to -- and made a point to say "I'm not here to criticize anyone who means well." Certainly that covers your objection-- and it's right there in that first paragraph. The rest of the article spoke much more to ways corporations and individuals could do more, just as you suggested I should do, before you ever made such a suggestion. I'm not sure what else you want other than for me to share YOUR opinion, which I clearly don't in this situation.

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
9th Dec 2013 (#)

Love you, too, Carolina. Thanks, dear.

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
9th Dec 2013 (#)

Good afternoon, Phyl. Thank you for the mention. Now, I'm goint to try to bridge between you and Jerry - I'll put on my Counselor 101 hat :) At one point, I believed the bell ringers were doing something that made us aware of charity, but was not sure about the whole of the Salvation Army. My attitude changed when our local SA opened a shelter, a thrift store, computer learning center, provides substance abuse education, as well as a safe place for non-violent felons to do their community service, along with some education. Do we have an exceptional Salvation Army? I am not qualified to say, however, I do see it benefitting many, year round. However, I strongly agree with you that charity begins at home - that is our community. I volunteer to read to children so their mothers and fathers can attend adult ed. I will start as a learning mentor in the spring for some high school students that have various needs. I would like it if everyone read my entire article as well, but alas that may not happen. You have made many compelling arguements for charity and education and if people read the entire article, they will see what you mean. ~Marilyn

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
9th Dec 2013 (#)

TY, Marilyn. I have more specific reasons for not appreciating SA that I was hoping not to get into -- namely that it IS a church which uses its 501c3 status to engage in politics -- and not all for helping those in need. But as I wrote repeatedly -- I don't mind those whose hearts are in the right place, though I think we need more than just a little change to effect big change.

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
9th Dec 2013 (#)

Good afternoon, Phyl; not meant in any way to step on toes. I respect your sentiments and hope that you continue to write about the things that you are passionate about. Perhaps enlightening some of us to the political affiliations would be eye-opening. I do not claim to know the SA nationally as I said, however, in a small way there is more than just the turkey dinner once a year at ours. Sorry for stirring if that is what happened. I do hope you realize that was not my intent. ~Marilyn

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author avatar Connie McKinney
9th Dec 2013 (#)

Hi, Phyl. I will respectfully disagree with your take on the Salvation Army. I've seen what they do for people, and they do good work.
However, you did raise some great ideas here which I can agree with. I like your point about job sharing and providing free child care. This is a huge problem in our society.
You are correct in saying that we need to make changes in the way things are done.
Finally, isn't it great to be fellow Americans? We can disagree with each other yet still remain friends. This couldn't happen in places like China.

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
9th Dec 2013 (#)

Great to agree to disgree, for sure. And MD -- I won't write such an article, but there is much to be found about the politics of 501c3 orgs online, and SA is one that has recently come under fire. But anyway -- criticizing an org was less of my point in writing the article than getting more people to reach out in more productive ways -- more active, rather than passive, involvement. Which I'll bet made Connie's article today well put. ;) We part ways friends, tomorrow is another day. Never be sorry for speaking your mind to me. As long as your thoughts show respect for our differences, I will always support them in kind -- or do my best to try to understand where you are coming from.

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author avatar Fern Mc Costigan
10th Dec 2013 (#)

I agree with you phyl on teh welfare to work programs that dont work due to the red tape that many put, I had the experience in these programs for refugees. Also the SA is a great organization that at least gives as you say free meals, but in teh SF and San Diego they have shelters ands really seen teh way they help people as well San Vincent De Pual 365 days.
Instead of spending billions in useless projects like Irak and Afghanistan, that get destroyed. Those monies should be spent in project here at home we can make changes a lot of therm for every 10 homeless maybe 4 to 5 can be saved. Still I applaud these type of posts that really get all the forum involved.

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
10th Dec 2013 (#)

Thanks, Fern.

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author avatar Carol
11th Dec 2013 (#)

A very interesting write, I don't know enough about these organisations to comment, but we all need to be charitable at Christmas to the less fortunate.

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author avatar Michelle Stanley
12th Dec 2013 (#)

The comments are as interesting as the article itself, but I ditto Carol on this. Phyl, the article was really nice with good points worth thinking on, mainly "teach a man to fish" - I like what you did for the young artist.

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
12th Dec 2013 (#)

Carol -- thanks for commenting.

Michelle -- I like what the young artist has done -- for me, for art, for herself!! Thanks for your comments.

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author avatar cnwriter..carolina
20th Dec 2013 (#)

I missed this so sorry...great that you did this for all...sharing...

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
20th Dec 2013 (#)

Thanks!

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
25th Dec 2013 (#)

Thanks Phyl for your strong views so clearly expressed. I get your drift and agree that we need transformational leadership at various levels. Many are unemployed but could be on their own feet if they are guided to jobs which they are good at and have a passion for. I also see some aggressively promoting charity but I find that they make a good living out them as they get a hefty cut from their collection. Though I try to help them out I do feel what they do is not real charity as they come "in your face" aggression. I will leave it at that! siva

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
25th Dec 2013 (#)

If you will, then so will I, siva! Thanks!

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