“Stay Right Except to Pass”

I caught up with some blogs this morning. Shimon Says has an unusual metaphor for measures of success and our involvement in the lives of those who are struggling—highways.

He questions assumptions often made by fellow travelers with What are you thinking?.

I’d like to say I have this figured out; I do not.
—My grandfather was taught to leave the slow lane for those merging onto the freeway or attempting to exit. To him, it would be a courtesy when driving on a multi-lane highway.
—In Oregon and Washington it is illegal to use the fast lane for anything but passing. Signs on the highways read, “Stay right except to pass.” Two-fold, this allows emergency vehicles to reach their destination without risking a fatality themselves, and staying in the right lane allows vehicles to pass on the left as Shimon expressed, which is what we are taught is safe and an assumption for many of right-of-way when on a highway.

Shimon’s observation of societal fast and slow lanes is new to me and apt. I worked in an industry that addressed homelessness and poverty; this topic is dear to my heart. True, I have experienced these for myself while working two jobs and sharing expenses with another individual who also was working.

What if you could help?

Wikimedia Commons: Maryeoriginals

If we are offered a method to assist others that does not require our time—often a rare surplus when we are working a six-figure salary job—many will step up. Consider Ebola and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s and the Bill Gates Foundation’s recent donations that resulted in increased contribution from members of the general public. An avenue, or lane, of involvement opened in people’s minds. Helping became less overwhelming.

To align our actions with our values, consider the following options in case you’re not a multibillionaire:

  • Support a cause by purchasing from its donation solicitation efforts only what you would normally purchase. That is, shop at a themed thrift store. While breast cancer awareness is at a peak, it has become a brand and logo around which corporations sell the pink ribbon logo; I don’t find anything commendable in furthering company sales at the expense of consumers who likely wouldn’t purchase a pink shirt otherwise.
  • Assemble from your own surplus a care package for someone who is moving from a group setting to living on their own. You may think of victims of domestic violence right of; however, there are other worthy recipients. Going back to a life of crime may feel like the only method for a former inmate when they cannot find a job paying more than minimum wage and, when they do find a place to live, the basics of soap, towels, flatware and sheets are more than they can manage. Your donations needn’t be new to be of use.
  • Words of encouragement are inexpensive and carry a value beyond anything money can buy.
    • Thank someone for something they do anyway, even if it is part of their job.
    • Send a postcard to a stranger’s child (postcard so it isn’t creepy) addressed as “the young man in residence, care of the family at [address]”. Alternately, a postcard to an elderly or disabled person would be just as welcome.
  • Drop off unneeded magazines to the office of your local school for use by teachers in collage and other projects.

I hope these ideas spin off into other ways to support community in ways that align your values and actions.

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