Monday, January 23, 2012
Neighbors Helping Neighbors
Prompted by an e-mail from a friend, today I discovered an amazing website that really demonstrates the power of harnessing the generosity and compassion that neighbors have for each other. I'm really excited to participate and to tell others about the site. Let me share the story here.
Last Thursday, a local woman was tragically killed in one of those bizarre, freak accidents that can sometimes happen on the roads. Though I didn't know her personally, I've come to learn that she was a truly remarkable woman. The mother of 2 teenage sons with autism, she was apparently a tireless advocate for the cause, and in fact, was to be honored by the local chapter of the national fundraising organization in the next 2 weeks.
The e-mail that I received directed me to a website where I could sign up to bring a meal to the family to help ease their burden in this difficult time. I'm familiar with the basic idea of having neighbors help out with food as we were once the recipient of this type of generosity when my wife had foot surgery many years ago. My wife has also provided meals like these to others many, many times over the years.
What struck me so strongly about this website was both the concept and the participation. The site was apparently created back in 2007 by someone who found that the task of coordinating meals through dozens of phone calls could become overwhelming. So she created a site where people could go online, see all the details of what was needed, and then sign up to provide a meal. The site, TakeThemAMeal.com, is free and is available to anyone coordinating meals for somemone in need. Be sure to check it out. It's a brilliant idea and beautifully designed in its simplicity.
When I logged in to the page for the particular family I've been describing, I saw the name and phone number of the coordinator, the address for the family, specific dietary restrictions, and then the schedule of nights where a meal was needed. Incredibly, in just a few short days, there were already more than 35 different people who had signed up to bring them meals! The earliest date that I could even sign up to help was some 6 weeks away! I picked a date in March and entered the details of the food that I would bring, and then I also made a financial contribution to the website developers to help them defray their cost of develpment and support.
While it's tragic to think of what the family must be going through, it's nonetheless heartwarming to see how quickly friends and neighbors can mobilize to help those in need. Sometimes it just takes a mechanism like this website to facilitate the process and allow people's natural generosity to shine through.