Aftermath of Sandy – business as usual?

Photo from Atlantic Wire

No doubt about it. Sandy was no lady.

She barreled her way into our area with her high winds toppling trees, tearing away shingles and siding and breaking down power lines in order to achieve her self-proclaimed agenda. Strategically partnering with low pressure systems, other storm fronts and a full moon, she churned the depths of the ocean to ravage the eastern seaboard bringing flood waters and devastation to all in her path. Everyone and everything unprotected remained powerless in her wake. Thousands in our area are still without power. Schools remain closed and the buzz of chain saws and generators continue through the day and into the night. Much like Katrina, Sandy will linger in the minds of those hit hardest, but for some, perhaps even most everyone else, it’s a return to business as usual.

Today only clouds remain and the sun has made its way to peak through (at least at this writing). Some people are back to work and their daily routines, rightfully thankful that they were not more severely impacted by this less than genteel lady. Yet others continue to struggle in the throes of the aftermath.

If you’re wondering how the rest of us want could pitch in to help, there are agencies already at work besides the Red Cross. According to the Atlantic Wire, here are a few to check out.

“Other organizations working to help Sandy’s victims to whom you can donate: the Salvation Army, Feeding America, AmeriCares, World Vision, Save the Children, and Samaritan’s Purse, writes Abbey. The Food Bank for New York and the Food Bank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties in New Jersey are also accepting donations and possibly volunteers, according to Thriive.”

If you are looking for additional means to help, FEMA offers other national options for donations. Just one word of caution:  Check out these resource providers for yourself and donate responsibly.

One thing each of us can do, and that is to pray for those struggling in the aftermath of this storm. It is the most powerful resource we can offer. (The prayers of a righteous man avail much.)

We have lessons to learn in the aftermath of Sandy’s assault, and it is important that we gain a measure of wisdom rather than immediately returning to business as usual. More storms will come, and we never know how the next ones will touch us.

Debatable results

Last night we viewed the last of the election debates between President Obama and Governor Romney, and the winner was – one more time – the candidate of your choice before you turned on the TV or watched online. Did either of the candidates change anyone’s mind? I think that one’s debatable.

One thing I observed this time is that Mr. Obama may have gained a measure of respect for the debate process as he curbed his tendency toward interruptions. How can interested citizens possibly hear through the name calling and comments sufficiently to discern which plan makes sense when one candidate can’t control his tongue long enough for his opponent to explain his version? Maybe that’s the plan. Because time is short, grab all the minutes you can. That way, no one will be able to hear anything but your side. Hmmm, didn’t we get bad marks for this in elementary school?

Evidently Rachel Martin of NPR did her homework and found out that indeed there are rules for these debates – lots of them. In her article, Turns Out There are Rules for the Debates. Lots, she tells us there are 21 pages of rules. Maybe that’s the problem. There are just too many regulations and not enough time to read and understand all of them let alone follow them. I guess it’s just easier to ignore them.  Does that go along with the line elementary school students use? You know the one, “the dog ate my homework.”

It seems to me, the Presidential debates, rather than being an opportunity to hear a clear, concise presentation of each side’s viewpoints and perspectives, have become an extension of the negative ad campaigns that have been frequenting the airwaves, tweets and other social media.  It appears it’s much easier to point your finger at someone else instead of intelligently explaining your position. Didn’t we learn that in elementary school, too? I think it was in detention not history class.

I’m beginning to think that perhaps Presidential debates have outlived their usefulness. They are more of an embarrassment than enlightenment. Maybe they should go the way of the cassette, typewriter and other outdated technology. I guess that’s debatable, too.

What will you celebrate on Memorial Day?

We can count the hours until the long awaited Memorial Day weekend will begin. For most people you talk to, you’ll find them looking forward to three days jam packed with activities analogous to summer – picnics, swimming, camping, relaxing on the deck and doing just about anything in the outdoors. Some, of course, will remember the intent of the commemoration, a day dedicated to the men and women who have died in service to our country. These may display the flag or attend a parade. But is that enough?

A litmus test to determine if you and your family have the right perspective of Memorial Day is to ask your kids what the day is all about. If they can’t tell you, some remedial work is in order. Why not turn back the clock and see what you and your family can do to honor the brave men and women of our military who risk their lives so that we can remain free? You may know the family of someone who is deployed and can make your tribute more personal, but whether it’s flying the flag, attending a parade or Memorial Day ceremony, or donating to an organization that provides assistance to our service men and women, we do not want to lose sight of their contributions. It is important we remember and that we pass it on to the generations to come.

If interested in donating to an organization that supports the military, Charity Navigator has dedicated a special web page with ratings and additional information to help you decide where best to designate your funds.

Are your eyes open?

“Hello …” you might respond. “I’m reading this post aren’t I?”

Yes, yet I might ask, “What do you see? Just how much of what goes on in the world are you and I truly aware of? We might be cognizant of the world news, though this may also be a stretch. Do we really know much more than Internet headlines? And while we’re talking about world issues, how detailed are we in understanding the impact of these global situations on individuals?

Most of us see what is right in front of us screaming for our attention, and yet while we share breakfast with our family, discuss business over lunch with colleagues, entertain friends over dinner, work and sleep, 16,000 children under the age of 5 will die of malnutrition. Though some of these children are bereft of family, many others live in impoverished countries with caring parents, grandparents and siblings unable to provide for them. In Haiti for example, many children make mud pies – not as child’s play, but to help alleviate the pain of hunger. Do we see them? Do we empathize with their circumstances? What if they were our children or grandchildren?

Some will say, “I didn’t know,” and likely that’s correct, but now we are aware. Opening our eyes is a beginning. Once we see a problem, we can begin to address it.

If you’re ready to do more, click here and watch the video.

Happy 131st birthday

Today marks the 131st anniversary of the American Red Cross founded by Clarissa Harlowe Barton, more commonly referred to as Clara Barton.

This outstanding humanitarian pioneered in positions traditionally held by men. Beginning as a teacher, she later moved into a position in the Patent office of the federal government. During the Civil War, she risked her own life moving through battle fields to provide necessary supplies to soldiers. In addition, Clara recognized these military men as individuals and supported them by writing letters, reading books to the wounded, listening to their struggles, and praying with them. She opened her eyes to their needs and jumped in to help.

After the war, she journeyed to Switzerland to observe the workings of the International Red Cross and returned to the US where she championed for a similar organization here. On May 21, 1881, this became a reality, and the American Red Cross was born. She led the organization for 23 years.

Clara would likely not recognize the organization today, but would be most pleased at its growth. The American Red Cross continues to be one of the foremost philanthropic associations meeting immediate needs during times of crisis. In addition, the group now takes a proactive approach through blood drives and preparedness efforts. They provide information on numerous topics ranging from flu to floods with everything in between. These are easily downloadable in pdf format. Additionally, they have an online store where you can purchase items you might need in case disaster of any magnitude should strike. Are you and your family or business ready? You can take their assessment to see and fill in any necessary gaps with their resources.

Interested to know how they rate among charities? You can use Charity Navigator to do your homework.

Sometimes we get caught up in the busyness of our daily lives, yet all around us there are people with needs – some small, some great.  Like Clara Barton, you and I can take a proactive approach to make a difference. It begins with awareness and continues as  we actively participate to find the resources to fill the gaps. Stay tuned for more.

Charity Begins at Home

You’ve heard the phrase, “Charity begins at home,” but what does it mean? 

People most often use it to convey the idea that you need to take care of the needs at home before you go outside to help others. I think of it in a different light and would begin with this question. How do you know you are getting the most for your donation dollar? You don’t even need to cheat to get the answer. You need to do your homework. In other words, begin at home to check out the charities before you give. 

Those who know me understand I have an altruistic bent. I want to use my time, talent and treasure to impact the world and make a real difference. Not-for-profit organizations are of great interest to me, especially if I feel drawn to their cause and know they handle the donations they receive wisely. It goes without saying they must also accomplish their mission responsibly and efficiently. In other words, I want to make sure that if I donate a dollar (or more), I want to know that the majority of it is spent on the core objective rather than on administration and fundraising, although I do realize these costs are valid. 

I found a wonderful tool called Charity Navigator to help me test the organizational waters of the largest philanthropic groups here in America.  This independent charity evaluator not only shares the results of their investigations in a user friendly, easy-to-read format but they also provide their methodology for checking out the financial health and accountability and transparency of these groups. In addition, they provide other data about the charity including a synopsis of its mission, history, reviews and news. Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine rated Charity Navigator “The Best List 2011.” 

In today’s economy when money is tight both for you and the numerous charities vying for funding, it makes good sense to check their report cards first.