Thursday, February 26, 2009

Thank You Nonprofit Worker (and Wise Roomie)

For the last month or so, my morning routine has been the same: I wake up, go upstairs to the common area and find my wonderful (and wise) roommate reading the newspaper. She always makes a statement to the effect of the economy being "in the crapper." Some days her descriptions are more family-friendly, other days they are not. Some days I nod in agreement, other days we engage in a discussion about the economy - a depressing way to start the day!

On a recently cold day, I thought of my morning conversation with Wise Roommate. I started to ponder how in certain seasons (like winter), people are in more need of emergency services; at the same time because of the poor state of the economy, not only are more people than usual in need of social services, more social service agencies than usual have to do more with less.

All indications are that the economy is not getting better anytime soon. This means that nonprofits and their staff will have to continue to stretch themselves thin in order to meet the needs of their ever-growing clientele. Unfortunately, I don't think nonprofits get enough credit for the work they do (and are doing) in these difficult times.

My goal for the next week will be to make a conscious effort to appreciate friends, family and acquaintances who are in the business of helping those who really need it the most. I urge you to do the same. Perhaps the spirit of goodwill can help revitalize our ailing economy (the economic stimulus might help too?)

(Photo copyrightfranco folini)


Jay Brown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jay Brown said...

Jay Brown

Cheers and greetings to the kind folks at the regeneration forum and to all others who may stumble upon the blog. This is my first of what I hope to be many nay-saying type posts on the board.

Thanks, Kehinde. Thanks for giving a shout out to only one of your room-mates. While I'll hold it against you for not giving a similar piece of love to the other, younger, more attractive, more charismatic one, I'll let this be my forum for expressing my discontent instead of doing something far more egregious, like putting bleach in your load of laundry (check, though, just to be sure). And thanks, most importantly for your kind shout out to all of us who rock and roll in the non-profit sector - particularly those of us who work for non-profit social service agencies.

I hear similar comments to the ones you've posted here almost daily. "Wow, thanks for your work." "You must really be having a hard go of things." "I don't know how you continue to do what you do in this economic climate."

Typically, I grin, thank people for their words of support, say something pithy, but affirming, about how times are hard, but that we continue on with faith that our work will touch the lives of some of those who are suffering.

And then I walk away, muttering angry things under my breath.

Not to say that I don't approve of the accolades, or that I'm not truly grateful for people recognizing that there are a lot of folks out there who are really hurting. Yes, the economy is bad. Very bad. So bad, in fact, that hard economic times are being felt by more people than usual.

But that's just it - these times are hard for more people than usual. In times like these, we tend to have a heightened sense of the fact that there are folks out there who don't have enough money to put food on the table, or enough money to make this month's mortgage or rent. What folks seem to forget is that there are always folks who suffer the burden of an economy that tends not to work for everyone.

The point I guess I'd like to make is that "the economy" is always bad. Its just a matter of who it's bad for. Its bad now for a group of people who its not normally bad for - middle class folks just like you and me. Its this new group of people that has our country all up to their ears with concern - and yes, we should all be concerned. But what is going unspoken in this wave of unemployment and foreclosure and trips to the local church's food pantry is that there are literally millions of people who live with these same realities every day, irregardless of how the DOW is doing.

So hey man - thanks for the shout out to folks like me in the non-profit social service agencies that are doing (and will, god willing, continue to do) more with less. But let's not forget about those folks who are looking at this mess our country is in and saying "So, what's new?" Let's not forget that the reason a lot of us non-profit social servicey types got into our work to serve the poorest of the poor. And that while a whole new group of people are hurting as a result of the economy's collapse, its the poorest of the poor that need the biggest shout out of all.

Anonymous said...

It goes with out saying that nonprofits do extremely important work--this current economic crisis only highlights that. But I think an interesting question is how the United States has evolved in such a way that the nonprofit sector comprises such a large portion of our social safety net. In times like this, when donations contract and demand swells, it seems like an extremely volatile structure for delivering crucial social services.