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Information: The Tool You Have In Your Hands to Help Others in this Economy

One of the reasons that I started this blog is that last year, I started to see that the economy was going into the tank and was very concerned that for a lot of people, certain basic ‘activities of living’ were going to become harder and harder to accomplish.

And that has not changed.

I don’t care what the economics pundits and MSNBC bozos wave around. “It’s over.” “It’s NOT over.” “Green shoots” “Turned a corner.”

I could not care less what some of these know-nothing self-interested gasbags say, actually, because I know that there are a lot of people in a world of hurt right now and a lot of them have been that way, frankly, for years. A lot of them used to be middle class and owned their own homes and had retirement. And then things happened..

Job transfers overseas. Outsourcing. And now the economy is in the crapper. For some people, their emergency happened 3-5 years ago – they lost their homes a long time ago and have been living with relatives, driving around the country looking for jobs that are no longer there, or working in places like WalMart (which is really pretty ironic given that the price pressure that companies such as WalMart put on American manufacturers combined with the changes in the laws during the Reagan Administration were the two engines that moved all those jobs out of the country overseas..but I digress).

To get back to my point: One of the things that makes what is going on right now WORSE than what happened in the Great Depression is this: In 1929, people were a lot closer, in terms of skills and knowledge to being able to provide for themselves and to being able to cope than people are now. People who lived in places such as New York City, or Chicago, or Atlanta or a lot of other places were not only within one generation of growing and raising their own food, but were also still doing things such as making and repairing their own clothing, doing their own carpentry, canning and drying food and so on.

Today? Even people who have a piece of ground that they can grow something on if they want to and need to are at a loss as to what to do and how to do it. Additionally, for the last 30 years, we’ve been encouraged to live in a ‘consume and throw away’ society fed by loose credit. That credit threw gasoline on the economic fire and we all went along for the ride, encouraging companies to produce throw-away goods, which fed the economy and the landfills.

Only now, we aren’t buying so much. The savings rate at the latest report is at 8% – a huge increase for US consumers. Doesn’t do squat for the retail sector, but for people who are concerned where their next paycheck is going to come from, socking away money is the only way they know of to have some feeling of control over what is happening.

Now, there is not a whole lot Aunt Toby can do – the president and the head of the Dept. of the Treasury have not picked up the phone to give me a call and ask MY advice. And the only way I know of to help people is to put some knowledge into people’s hands. The only question is: How to get that information into the hands of people who need it the most. If you are really hurting, how are you going to find out what you need to know?

Let’s put it this way – if you know someone who is hurting, who has lost their home and is in a shelter, who is dealing with this situation please help them to get information. Even if it is not here – there is all sorts of info out there, both at a local, regional and national/international level. And to get to it, they need to find where they can get access to it.

In our area, that is at the local public library. In some places, the state labor department has free access in their offices or in job training areas. In some local school districts, or community colleges, they have free local access for community residents.

If you want to do one thing (and you know Aunt Toby is very big on ‘doing one thing’) that will enable you to help someone who’s having trouble in this economy(and it might even be YOU), pick up the phone or go to the public library and talk to the reference librarians and ask them where free internet access is locally. At the same time, ask them if they do workshops there at the library on how to use the internet, what resources there on locally and regionally in terms of finding information on topics such as:

–Job training and apprenticeship programs
–What to do if your home is in foreclosure – any resources out there to help you stay in your house.
–Food pantries
–Programs where people can grown their own fruits and veggies – do such things exist locally?
— Clothing banks
— If you lose your housing, what programs are available to get you and your family into some sort of shelter as soon as possible.
— Free programs for your kids for the summer
— Home heating assistance (it’s summer now, but winter will be here before you know it)
— Home energy efficiency assistance (as in money and help to get your home more energy efficient, whether it’s to keep the heat out or the heat in).

And if you are finding out the answers to these questions for someone else – if you find that in your community, things are not as effective or efficient in terms of these issues, perhaps it is time for you to make some calls, let other people know what the situation is and organize to get some programs started. Yes, I know the economy is in the dumper – but I’ve got to tell you that no one wants to find out in January that there are people sleeping outdoors because they’ve lost their housing and there is no program or not enough spaces for them.

When times are good, it’s easy to hide the ‘worry gene’ – because we all think that somehow, everyone is taken care of — well, before this is over, a lot more people are NOT going to be taken care of and in order for us all to get through this, we are going to have to be a lot more generous with one another. But like the guy in the photo at the top has on his sign: What people want and need is not charity (though charity will get people through the immediate need). What people need are tool that will help them survive – in his case, it was a job. A lot of people need jobs too, but a lot of people can also make use of information right now — people know that there are things they can do for themselves and others.

But to help take care of the immediate and the long term, they need information. Help to be the conduit for that information; it’s the most charitable thing you might be able to do right now.
(photos courtesy of renny67 and merfam)

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