We’ve all heard plenty about the problems, so the following list shouldn’t surprise anyone:
• Baltimore is dirty.
• Kids lack guidance.
• Nobody wants to take charge of neighborhood projects.
• There’s too much crime.
People have plenty of other complaints, but you get the idea. The city has its problems. And now, as the seasons start to change, it’s easy to retreat indoors and hide from those problems.
Of course, you could do something instead.
All over our neighborhoods, we see people who put in their time to make something—anything—better. We see people who volunteer at the libraries, reading stories to preschoolers in an effort to get them engaged in books and ultimately in learning. We see people picking up trash in alleys and in the parks. We even see people walking the neighborhoods at dusk to help keep the streets busy enough that criminals won’t want to hang out there.
The point is this: If there’s something you don’t like, you have two choices: You can do nothing, or you can work to make a change. Can you change everything? No, but you can make some change. Your street will be cleaner. Your neighborhood will be a little safer for one night. And maybe for an hour or so, a kid learns the joy of escaping into a story.
There are a multitude of opportunities out there and a variety of ways to help. Everyone’s community association can use interested volunteers. Many homeless shelters and transitional housing facilities need clothing, soap, shampoo and other personal grooming items. Emergency food pantries need canned foods, boxes of pasta and more. Animal shelters can use blankets and towels as well as toys for the animals and all kinds of office supplies. The Red Cross and hospitals desperately need blood donations. And everyone, everywhere, needs cash donations.
Still think regular Joes can’t make a difference? They can—just by giving what they’re good at. Back in 2003, the American Red Cross was seeking volunteers who knew Polish, German or French to help them comb through records at their Holocaust and War Victims Tracing Center in Baltimore. The Guide ran an article asking if any bilingual readers might be willing to put in some hours to help translate decades-old records so that descendants could gain information on family members who had survived or perished.
Turns out, the Guide’s readers were the right people to ask for help. A few weeks later, we got a call from the Red Cross — they were thrilled to say they had a whole new corps of volunteers happily tracing records and connecting people with the information they needed to help them answer questions about their family tree.
In other words, they were making a difference.
The Guide wants to help you find a way to contribute, and it wants you to know where to find places that would appreciate your time and talents. We’ll be setting up a list of organizations that are looking for volunteers, donations and more.
So what are you waiting for? An engraved invitation? Fine. Here it is: You are cordially invited to make a difference.
by Mary Helen Sprecher