Clash of Values…we are all connected

This has been one of those weeks where I have spent entirely too much time in head, which is not always a bad thing though often too much time in my head means I am headed for a crash. The type of crash where it’s easy to get caught up in a spirit of negativity; I suspect the upcoming holiday season is not helping as I am dealing with increased calls for service at the office and of course the means to assist all are simply not there.
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While none of us know where the Occupy movement that is spreading across the globe will take us, as far as actual change, there is no denying that at least it has opened up an honest dialogue about the income inequality that exists. The sad reality is this inequality has been there for years but as a society we are reaching the breaking point. As people who used to be middle class realize the sobering reality that many are no longer middle class, granted they may not be poor as we are currently describe poor, the truth is they are slowly sliding downward and unlike 40-50 years ago, the chances of moving up are dim. You know it’s becoming an issue when articles like this start popping up.
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I find that it seems everyone and his brother has some thoughts on what we can do but as someone whose career has pretty much been focused on working with society’s most vulnerable, too often I find myself scratching my head thinking that we just don’t realize how interconnected we all are on this piece of rock we call planet Earth.
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Consumerism especially in the United States is not only a sport but for some a disease, at various points in my life I have been afflicted and I still struggle with it. Granted a few years of rough financial waters have cured me of consumerism, but she is still a sneaky bitch, so I suspect I will always have to watch out for her. It’s true the winter holiday season brings out the worse in us and on some level the whole idea of saying just don’t shop while it sounds great, can actually end up hurting many. I read this piece that really did a great job of explaining the downside of giving up Black Friday. In the end if all of us with the means to shop stopped shopping, it means many more of our fellow citizens would be in for a world of financial hurt as their employers would simply reduce hours if not out and out fire folks. The larger issue greater than shopping on any day and fueling the consumerism beast is how did we get to the point that we stopped being producers and instead became a culture where survival is based wholly on consuming?
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In recent years, it never fails that as we start to approach the winter holiday season and the Salvation Army starts coming out with their red kettles, that well intentioned folks sound the alarm reminding folks that some of the Salvation Army’s policies are less than pleasant. They have policies that are homophobic, there is no denying that. As they use a strict and literal interpretation of the bible, their policies are reflective of that belief. For many people they rightly do not want to support an organization that discriminates and that’s their right. However outside of large metropolitan hubs, the Salvation Army is the only game when it comes to helping large quantities of people and I say that after almost 10 years in Maine.
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In Maine, the Salvation Army is one of the few agencies with enough capacity to assist hundreds of people in need during the holiday season alone. They also have year round assistance that smaller agencies like mine simply don’t have. Social services has never been a career choice for folks who want a lot of money, but larger agencies like the Salvation Army due to their size can offer a reasonable salary and benefits unlike the agency I head. Name brand recognition goes a long way and even with negativity attached to their name, the fact is outside of urban hubs with a slew of large agencies to assist those in need, Sal’s is the only game in town.
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In states such as mine, the reality is unless folks band together and put their money in smaller places which rarely happens so that we can grow the capacity to assist in larger quantities, when you decide not to give to the Salvation Army, you are hurting someone possibly your neighbors.
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The thing is I can’t imagine that anyone that takes a stand to boycott the Salvation Army because of their homophobic policies wants to hurt anyone, but the reality is if those kettles aren’t getting filled, that’s less help for someone in need. It really is as simple as that.
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We don’t live in a perfect world, instead we live in a world where we are all connected, and where actions have the very real potential to affect someone else negatively even actions committed under a loving guise. I suspect that what we really need is a system overhaul, our very system is corrupt and broken, yet until that time I simply choose to do no harm and weigh my choices, who gets hurt and who gets harmed. I never want to take a stand for injustice only to learn my actions hurt more than they help and are really only about making me feel good.

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