I normally wouldn't do this bc it could be perceived self-righteous or preachy & that can be very unappealing. However, one of my best friends, Chris, suggested I write/blog or vlog about some of the ways I've tried helping others and how it’s impacted me (especially during this time) because he thinks it will inspire & potentially even create action for positive change. Naturally, I don’t like publicly broadcasting how and when I go out into the community to give back, because I feel like it takes away from the spirit of giving. Giving should be free without the expectation of getting something in return. It should be given like love, not for you, but for others. It should often be done selflessly and anonymously in my opinion, but the action of helping is more important than the reason for doing it, even if it's done selfishly. Because he sold me on the idea that opening up and sharing how I've tried to help could continue to benefits others in new and unexpected ways (maybe by inspiring some), and because I feel strongly about this topic, here we go…
Let me quickly share my backstory and insight into my blessings. Some may see me and my life circumstances and call it privilege. Some may call it luck. Those who know my life story best would say my work ethic led me to my position & I've had support all along the way that started with two very loving parents. I call it a combination of factors… opportunity, luck, hard work, teamwork, help from family & many others + sacrifice. I have so much gratitude for the infinite gifts I've received throughout my life, but just know that I've had my challenges, suffering, heartbreak, loss, the feeling of being kicked to the curb, and many, many failures too. I am lucky, but I did not just arrive at my circumstances through happenstance or fluke. If I hadn't worked for them, I would never be where I am - without a miracle.
Realizing how fortunate I’ve been, I wanted to go out and help those who are less fortunate. One of the ways I tried giving back was on a day last year in December. I gave my time, energy, and some money to a nonprofit called, 'God's Love We Deliver.' The experience did something for others & it did something for me. I chose 'God's Love' for a few reasons; I like the name, but more importantly, I figured if the organization lives up to its name, it's what I want to do, serve and be part of. I've gotten involved with helping (different types of community service) in a variety of ways over the years, but I've always wanted to do more. I've helped prep meals & serve them to the homeless, I've gone around & handed out food to the homeless after working with others to prep them, I've given money to different organizations and to people. Nothing has ever seemed enough, & that's because it's never enough. I don’t have enough resources to help everybody in every way that they need it, but I still want to effectively and efficiently reach the widest group of people with as much quality as possible… handing out one sandwich at a time is nice, but it's not the most effective & efficient way to give. 'God's Love We Deliver' is one of many organizations with a mission to help. It's a program that has already been established to help provide specific dietary foods for those struggling financially and for people with health issues (i.e. cancer patients, aids patients, people suffering from chronic or terminal illness) on a mass scale throughout the 5 boroughs of NYC. They rely on financial donations to prep customized meals based on dietary needs for clients that qualify. God's Love has a staff, but the organization relies heavily on the labor of volunteers and financial donations. Any of us can help prep meals at the God's love building here in SoHo, NYC (founded by Michael Kors & friends). You can donate financially, or you can go out in the trenches with a driver to one of the 5 boroughs & deliver food on a charted route… I decided to deliver food & donate money. I got up early one morning to cover an 8-hour shift in the cold, starting at like 6 or 7 am, I can’t remember, I just knew it was not fun getting out of bed & traveling to the God's Love building. I chose a day that nobody else wanted to volunteer for because that seemed to be when help was needed most. The lady in charge gave me a hat & some directions/instruction. I wish they sold jackets or hoodies, bc I want one, lol.
Anyway, I was assigned a route in the heart of the Bronx. My driver was a guy, nice guy, doing what he needed to do to provide for his own family, an FTE for God's love. We started our shift & I was quickly enlightened to how some people live in poverty. It was depressing, but I was glad to help. Depressing for me just shows that I needed to get out of my comfort zone. It's not the first time I've been exposed. By no means have I lived a sheltered life, but for the most part, I've been fortunate enough to become more and more financially successful as I've gotten older. That said, it took me back to a reality that many live with everyday & it isn’t always at the forefront of my mind. In some ways, it reminded me of going to visit my grandma when she lived in Berkeley, California. My grandma and my mom were both immigrants from the Philippines. My mom is a hero and success story. She is somebody that came here with no guarantee of anything and figured out a way to make a life for herself and her family through handwork and sacrifice for decades. She's a hero. Back to my grandma, the same smells in the hallways reminded me of her building when I was a kid. Many of the buildings I delivered to last December had dilapidated facilities, and non-working intercoms (sometimes they worked and sometimes they didn’t). Maybe it would work on the 4th or 5th try. Maybe you'd have to call the client's cell and hope they were awake. The people coming in and out of the building just seemed like they had much bigger problems than I've had to face anytime recently. I would ring the buzzer; they'd say, “Who is it?” I'd say "God's Love" & they would buzz me in. I'll be honest, I felt pretty cool calling myself God's Love and answering to it. Sometimes I'd have to go up several story walk-ups, sometimes not. Some people seemed very thankful, and some people just took the bags of prepared food & closed the door. Very few of them looked healthy or in the greatest of circumstances. One lady's door was open when I arrived & there were cops in in her apartment asking her questions. I just set the food by the door & left. Who knows what was going on? Some people I delivered to didn’t even bother making eye contact with me. Most said thanks and that was it. A few of the women's eyes lit up when they decided to look at me & those were some of the more gratifying moments. I always tried to give them a genuine smile. I wanted them to know that anybody could show-up at their door, even a hilarious non-famous comedian! I remember one lady looking at me, smiling big, then speaking Spanish to me. I just said “Gracias” & it turned up the dial on her smile a few more notches. Looking back on it, it's just one day where I put in real labor, with the only intention of helping others. There is so much more one can do & should do to give, but it was definitely a day of work that mattered. I think the biggest thing it did for me was re-calibrate my perspective on the wide financial disparity that exists in the world and how some people are literally scraping by while others literally have no idea of the hardships of others. Some of the people I served food to may not even be alive anymore. In fact, if everybody I met that day is still alive, I think it would be a miracle (not to overuse the word), & it was just in December when I gave. I found myself asking, "What else can I do, because one shift of handing out foods is a drop in the bucket of the grand scheme" One thing I can do is create awareness to those listening to me.
I haven't traveled to the Bronx lately, but I know it is one of the worst places, if not the worst place in the world for the spreading of the COVID-19 virus right now. After being there, I can understand why… It's very sad and alarming. People there need help more than ever. The difficulties many face in the area have been bigger than their ability to overcome them for a long time & now the odds are stacked even further against them. I can only imagine it feels like drowning. I donated financially to God's love & I donated to Robin Hood Foundation, just two programs of many designed to help feed those in need of food right now. I also recently sent money to a healthcare professional who’s been on the front lines, working multiple jobs to get by & unable to collect unemployment because the government system is overloaded. I mention this not to puff my chest, but because if I say I've done it, one person reading this might go "Awesome, I'm doing that too now!" If I haven’t done it, who am I to tell somebody else to go do it? If I inspire one person to take action, it's worth this writeup. I have a friend that sets aside a certain amount of money for when he comes across homeless people to give or buy them food. How cool is that?! He builds a portion of his budget for helping others. That's inspiring! It's easy to become desensitized to the less fortunate in NYC more than other places, because there are so many homeless people here. It can seem normal if you don’t stop and actually think about it. You see it every day, and sadly, people rarely stop to see the humans suffering right in front of them, asking for help. Why not learn a few of the locations for shelters where you can point them (of course only if they are willing to hear you out on it), or donate time or buy a meal, or get a backpack full of a few sandwiches and hand them out (don't hand out sandwiches or go out while we are social distancing of course, but a thought for when things get better). Start by helping one person. See how it feels. I bet your heart starts to grow like the Grinch’s did when he started giving.
In addition to what I’ve shared with you above, there are a few other lessons that I’ve learned along the way. While giving, you also have to be careful and smart. I bought a sandwich for a person that was homeless once and then got swarmed by several others. It made me feel famous like they were the paparazzi, but it was a little bit scary and dangerous.
I tried helping somebody else another time and he told me I'm ignorant, so the lesson I learned there is not everybody wants help. Not everybody wants help and not everybody wants the help you're able or are willing to give.
Sometimes when homeless people ask for money, even if I don't want to give money, I still acknowledge them because it's important they don’t feel less than human by us citizens that seem to have everything going well in our lives. We are all created equal. We all are born into diff circumstances, but we are all brothers & sisters and need to act like it. Even if I can't or feel uncomfortable giving money when somebody asks, I acknowledge them & say "I can’t right now, but God Bless you." More often than not, it puts a genuine smile on their face, and that's the very least you can do. That tiny decision to do something rather than ignore your conscience can make all the difference.
If I haven’t sold you on helping, here’s a power move: Science proves how volunteering can help individuals be more resilient (especially during times like Pandemics) and how helping others boosts our own wellbeing. Check out this NY Times article that sheds some light on it. If you don’t have the financial wherewithal to give right now, but you want to help without putting yourself physically in harm’s way, there are a ton of remote volunteering opportunities. Hit me up & I will share with joy and enthusiasm!
Last point, this all goes after you’ve given your time and focus to those you love. Don’t forget to call your friends and stay connected. Outreach is beneficial for you, me & everybody bc we are social creatures & we all need each other. Amen (praying hands emoji + heart emoji)
A few other organizations to help with the hunger problem during this time are listed below. There are many more organizations out there as well!