The 99% Solution

We can be the angels walking among us.

I watched back-to-back episodes of “Cops”, and extended news coverage of Occupy Wall Street late into the night, so it’s hardly surprising I was in the middle of some weird dreams when my brain decided to get me up at 4am this morning.  (For an explanation of why my brain would do something like that to me, check out Looking for Mr. Morpheus.) 

I couldn’t get the theme song from “Cops” out of my head.  You know,

Bad boyz, bad boyz, whatcha gonna do?  Whatcha gonna do when they come for you?

It wasn’t the police I was thinking about, though.  I don’t expect them to show up at my door anytime soon, unless it’s to collect for the Policemen’s Benevolent Society (sorry, I gave at the office).  No, I’m thinking about a different “they”.  An immortal “they”.  Cosmic cops.  Angels of death. 

What am I gonna have to show for it when it’s time to shuffle off this mortal coil?  What am I gonna do about it?   Whatcha gonna do, boyz?  

That message got mixed up in my sleepy mind with the 99% vs 1% metric that the Occupy Wall Street folks have been tossing around.   I admit to having little sympathy for them, as most strike me as rather self-indulgent, vague and whiny.  But I couldn’t shake that statistic.  It resonated with me like this:

Just 1% of the population is doing something about the “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” rule.  The rest of us 99%, are sitting around on our asses, waiting for somebody to do something unto us.  

(I have no idea if this statistic has any validity but I don’t have to prove it.  It’s catchy.) 

Sometimes life can be pretty lousy.  The good news is, there’s usually somebody nearby who has it even worse than we do.  (That’s also the bad news, by the way.)  Don’t you think it’s time for us, the 99%, to do something about this?  Just a little something.  Almost anything, really.  Something to help. 

Here are some things I’ve been thinking of.  When I say “you”, I really mean “us”:

Got Money?  If you’ve got some to spare, why not put your money where your heart is?  Find a cause that’s dear to you.  Do a little research, pick a charity that will use your hard earned $$ right, and send some of it to them.

The Salvation Army kettle guys are already out, shivering and shaking their bells.  How about this Christmas season, we don’t pass one by without emptying our pockets?  Every single time.  With no cheating like skipping a store you were headed to just because you heard the bells outside it.  Let’s get weighted down with lots of jingly, jangly coins, just to remind ourselves to be generous.

Only the lonely.  Spend some time with somebody who is alone.  Especially the elderly.  Visit a shut-in you know, or ask a local church for a referral. Go to a nursing home and just talk and listen.   Call your grandma.

It’s raining cats and dogs.  Animal shelters need help.  Drop off kibble and litter.  Offer to walk the dogs and pet the cats.  Invest in a heavy-duty clothespin for your nose, and clean out the cages.

We are family.  Help a kid.  Sign up for Big Brothers Big Sisters.  Volunteer with a Girl Scout or Boy Scout troop.  If you are able, make the ultimate contribution and foster or adopt a child.

Give us this day.  Collect for the local food pantry.  Offer to pick up, or distribute food.  When you go grocery shopping, buy two of the stock-up specials: one for you, and one for the food pantry.  Work at a soup kitchen more often than just on Thanksgiving Day.

Home is where the heart is.  Volunteer for a shift at a homeless shelter.  Drop off food, clothes and bedding.  Get a group together and offer to bring dinner; just one night per month is all you need to do.  Ask what’s on their wish list, and try to make it come true.

Go clubbing.  Kiwanis, Rotary, Lions, Jaycees.  We’ve all heard the jokes about middle-aged white men in funny hats.  But these are real people, doing real good to improve their communities, and often the wider world community.  Get to know them and see what you can do.

Read the handwriting on the wall.  Become an Adult Literacy tutor, and help other adults learn to read or get their GED.  Mentor a determined immigrant struggling to master English As a Second Language.  Reading really IS fundamental to succeed in life.

Chain, chain, chain.  Make it personal.  Start a Helping Hands, Neighborhood Angels or whatever you want to call it at your school/church/community.  Establish a phone chain of people who can be called to provide one night’s meal for families going through a rough patch due to illness, death or a new baby.

Pedal to the metal.  Are you the local Mario Andretti? Use your car to bring Meals on Wheels to the elderly.  Take those who are homebound, alone or sick to doctor appointments.  Check with your local hospitals and churches for those in need.

Bust in the double doors… and hit your knees.  Get to know God.  Make a commitment and join a church, synagogue, or mosque.  Meet up with people of faith.  Pray.

Play nice.  Be more patient, softer, kinder to people you deal with every day.  Even the annoying people.  Even your family.  Especially your family.  Let’s be aware that, even if we curb our words, our anger, frustration and impatience often come through in our voices, especially to children (and pets.  Sorry, Beeby Cat.)

This is probably the hardest thing on this list.  We often treat those nearest and dearest to us with the least care, and save our smiling politeness for strangers. 

There you have it – the 99% Solution.  Most of these suggestions pertain to the USA, but there are sure to be equivalents in other countries.   I know you have lots of better ideas up your sleeves. 

Maybe if 99% of us decided to take a little time, and do a little something to help somebody else, we could make the world a little better. 

And that wouldn’t be too bad, boyz and girlz.

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About pegoleg

R-A-M-B-L-I-N-G-S, Ram...Blin!
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50 Responses to The 99% Solution

  1. bigsheepcommunications says:

    Does this mean I’d have to put compassion ahead of sarcasm or can I be compassionate and sarcastic simultaneously?

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  2. All outstanding suggestions. I call that “focusing out.” When we get past ourselves, it’s amazing how we can then see the world, really see it. That’s when we can tart to make a difference. Re the protesters: It’s a shame that much of the media has highlighted the people who have drifted into this movement without understanding it or even caring. It isn’t about handouts or whining. It’s about legislation like the Glass-Steagall Act (aka The Banking Act of 1933) that separated investment banking from commercial banking and worked for decades and was obliterated. And because of that, we are suffering the consequences big time.

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    • pegoleg says:

      It is hard to see the original intent, as it seemed to become buried under an avalanche of self-indulgence. I don’t know that we need tighter regulation of banking, so much as tighter regulation of the relationship between government and banking. We need to Occupy Congress. I suppose the best way to make our feelings known there, though, is to vote.

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  3. This is a great list. I sincerely hope this post gets lots of views. I find that http://www.kiva.org inspires me: investing, investing in women, empowering women.

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  4. Tori Nelson says:

    I’d like you to know that I’ve had “Smooth Criminal” stuck in my head all morning. Your post has now helped to make a pretty rockin’ mix circulating in my brain 🙂 On a serious note, I love your catchy statistics because I feel like throughout this Occupy movement few people have acknowledged the entitlement issue. When I see the protesters, I’m not moved so much as annoyed. All I hear is “I don’t like where I am in life and it’s somebody else’s fault”. I love your solution, to stop thinking we have the “hardest row to hoe” and be grateful that we have a row or a hoe to begin with. My parents both wound up working in assisted living facilities. I took the Man Child to one of the communities the other day. I sat and talked to a lady as Thomas tried to steal her walker for a joy ride. She used to be a writer. She loves the color purple. She collects vintage stamps. She is terribly lonely since her husband passed. I didn’t feel like I DID anything, just sat and chatted and let my kid destroy her mode of transportation. But she cried when I hugged her goodbye and kept saying “Thank you. Thank you”. For that one person, a little conversation and caring made a world of difference.

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    • pegoleg says:

      That is so moving, Tori. And sad. Because a little kindness goes a long way.

      There was an old lady who used to take money at the door at a club we belonged to. She was always kind to my kids (they were little then), but wasn’t somebody I spent any time with. She wasn’t particularly interesting, or bright, or funny. I know that sounds harsh, but I’m trying to be honest.

      When I heard she went to a nursing home, I took the girls to visit and brought a paper flower one of them had made, telling her this one she wouldn’t have to water. We stayed 10 minutes, tops, and it was the only time we went. 6 mo-1 yr later she died. I didn’t want to go to the wake, but I did because I knew she didn’t have any kids. I was grumbling the whole way. As I neared the coffin, I saw that little, paper flower was in there with her. Her niece was overjoyed to meet me, because she said her aunt always talked so fondly about the little girls who came to visit her in the nursing home.

      I’m crying while I type this, like a big doofus, but I have got to, GOT to remember how grateful she was, and how paltry my effort was. That there are so many lonely people out there.

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    • Lenore Diane says:

      Peg and Tori – you gals shared two awesome stories.THESE are the kinds of things people need to do more. Thank you for caring and doing.

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      • pegoleg says:

        Thanks, but I don’t deserve praise. My point was that I did one, little thing, very grudgingly, and felt ashamed when I discovered how much it meant to the other person. I use this as a reminded, really. It is great that Tori brings her little guy to the nursing home; so many of the people there don’t get to see kids.

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  5. Janet says:

    Thank you for a wonderful list – I really think it’s important to ‘live outside your life’, as I think of it. (Of course, my parents led by example, taking me to Africa to live as a child while they served an impoverished world outside the U.S.) I have been an active member of Kiwanis, and they really do such good work, as do all the other similar organizations with which I have contact. I’m also glad you mentioned adult literacy, as I have been active with one of these groups – I’ve never had enough time to be a tutor, but I organize a mean silent auction fundraiser!

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    • pegoleg says:

      Good for you, Janet! Being a missionary to Africa is about as high up on the helping others ladder as you can get. I’ve also just gotten to know the adult literacy program, and it’s very worthwhile. I prefer hands-on, one-on-one volunteering, but I’m in awe of those of you who can do the moving and shaking to bring the $$ in – it’s such vital work.

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    • Great article, Peg!
      I met an elderly gentleman a few years back that was befriended by a couple of people that (forgive me for my harshness) I consider scum. They offered to take him grocery shopping, robbed him, emptied his bank account, and dumped him off on a rainy, winter’s day in a city far from home. When the police found him, they called the local homeless shelter, which sent a volunteer to get him. Later that night the frail, old fellow found himself in the hospital. He was terribly ill, miles away from home, with no way to get back, and the thieves had taken every cent he had to live on.
      People of the area around the homeless shelter had no idea who this man was, but hearing of his plight, about twenty of them dug deeply into their pockets and pulled out the money needed hold him over until his Social Security check came in.
      His letter of thanks was enough to bring tears to my eyes. I don’t even recall how much we gave, or how it effected us financially. All I remember is what a sweet blessing he was.
      Often giving blesses the giver as much as it does the recipient.

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  6. I think these are ALL wonderful ideas. But I’m also very grateful to the Occupy protestors. In my mind, they’re out there fighting for fairness, not entitlements. When I see companies that lay off thousands of workers giving their top one or two executives a few million dollars in bonuses in the same year, I can’t help but wonder how we, as a society, can possibly find that acceptable. And by ignoring the will of the people, as shown by their 12% approval rating, congress has just added fuel to the fire. Everyone is entitled to be treated fairly, and you hit the nail on the head, charity starts at home.

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    • pegoleg says:

      You’re so right that everyone deserves to be treated fairly. I understand the frustration of the protestors. I just don’t think they are accomplishing anything. It’s dramatic and exciting to be part of something like that, and I’m sure the participants will be telling their children and grandchildren about it forever.

      But whose lives are they improving? Certainly not the families who usually use those parks. Or the people who can’t get to work. Or the neighbors who have to deal with the noise and stench. Or the taxpayers who are paying for the clean-up of filth and extra protection services. Or the police officers who have been disrespected and endangered over and over again.

      There has to be a better way.

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      • They are accomplishing something–people are taking about the disparity in wealth in our nation and the horrible inequities that exist. Social movements don’t all start out organized and pretty. But these people are getting our attention and that’s a big part of the battle.

        I agree 100% with you that we all can do more to make the world a better place by being kind and generous. If that 1% who owns 40% of the wealth would do the same, just think how much better the world would be…

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        • pegoleg says:

          Why do you think that the wealthy 1% isn’t kind and generous? People don’t get usually get rich by stealing money from others (of course there are exceptions). There isn’t a finite pot of money out there so that if you have more, I get less.

          There are people who work harder, are smarter, or build a better mousetrap and I believe they should enjoy the fruits of their labors. I also think we all have an obligation to make sure those who cannot provide for themselves have a safety net. But I don’t think that disparity in wealth is a horrible thing.

          Very thought provoking – thanks, Lorna!

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  7. Margie says:

    All excellent suggestions, pegoleg!
    I found this stat the other day: “World Income Inequality: The poorest 5% of Americans are among the richest people in the world (richer than nearly 70% of other people in the world).” Perhaps Americans (and Canadians) are financially better off than many countries, but I don’t think it necessarily makes them any happier, caring, understanding, appreciative, etc than people in countries that have less wealth. Wealth often brings out the worst in people…

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    • pegoleg says:

      I’ve often thought that. How poor can we be in a nation(s) where almost everyone has a color tv?

      Who was it who said “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor, and rich is better.” I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with wealth – it depends on what we do with it.

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  8. Big Al says:

    What a wonderful blog and I endorse it 100%. I volunteer an average of 15-20 hours a week (yes, I am retired). Legal Aid, Literacy for Adults, Veterans Hospital, Computers for Kids, and webmaster for the church are just some of my activities. In addition, I take a frail 99-year old man who lives in our neighborhood out to lunch every other Friday. And who benefits the most from this? Me. The good feeling I get from helping my fellow man is more valuable than any currency. I have long been a believer that it is not the government’s jog to “take care of us” but up to us to help each other. In order to say that, I have to “walk the walk.”

    As for the poor, misguided “occupiers” who seem to fail to grasp that their success and happiness will come only through their own hard work, imagination and diligence, I suggest they ponder this quote from Winston Churchill: “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings, the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.”

    Great post, Peg.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      Great quote. Seems the equal sharing of miseries should be an inherent vice, not a virtue.

      You have an excellent point about walking the walk. Who said, basically “to whom much is given, much will be expected”?

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  9. k8edid says:

    A lot of people would be a whole lot happier if they stopped thinking about their happiness and just doing something for others…

    When I was a nursing home inspector I would always seek out a resident who did not get visitors and spend my lunch breaks visiting (sometimes eating) with them. It brought me far more joy than it did them, I assure you.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      That’s a great idea! I volunteered at a nursing home when I was in high school and it was difficult to see. I always thought I’d take that up again when my kids were out of the house and I had more time, but I’ve decided to go in other directions with helping. Maybe the nursing home is just too close now that I’m over 50! 🙂

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  10. Lenore Diane says:

    Amen amen and amen. Oh, did I say ‘Amen’? Well done, Peg. Thank you for sharing this and reminding all of us how ‘easy’ it is to make the world a better place for everyone.

    Like

  11. pattisj says:

    Excellent post, and the perfect time of year to start considering ways to help this year, and maybe make some resolutions for the new year to make someone else’s life a bit better.

    Like

  12. Snoring Dog Studio says:

    It’s a big assumption to make that the OWS people aren’t engaged in any of the volunteering or charitable activities you mention above. While businesses and other institutions are turning the homeless away, OWS camps are actually feeding them. It’s just a broad, broad brush to use to paint them as not giving back to their communities in other ways.

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  13. Sandy Sue says:

    Great post, Peg, and a great launch into the above discussion. We need more of this, too. Talking about the issues and coming up with our own, simple ways to “be the change we want to make.”

    Several of these stories carry the same instruction. Be open to the possibility of connecting with another. So many times, these opportunities are presented, but we’re looking in the wrong direction or too preoccupied with our own lives. Simply looking up and out will bring us lots of ways to serve.

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    • pegoleg says:

      I had this happen just yesterday, where I missed an opportunity. I was rushing into church, running late, and a man was leaving. His hat fell off and somebody else pointed it out. He stooped to pick it up and I passed him just on the top step, opening the church door to go in. I heard him mumble “I’m leaving…” something else, and a split second after the door closed, leaving me scurrying to a seat inside and him outside walking away, it dawned on me that he might have been crying.

      It happened so fast, but after I sat down, I kept thinking – I should have spoken to him. I should have seen if I could help. I shoulda , shoulda, shoulda…sigh.

      Like

  14. gojulesgo says:

    So many thoughtful ideas here, Peg! I’m really glad you included spending time with someone who’s alone.

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    • pegoleg says:

      I naturally think of the old, but they aren’t the only people show are lonely, are they?

      Like

      • Tar-Buns says:

        No, there is no monopoly on lonely by age. It is everywhere, as we scurry about, tending to the ‘stuff’ we do day in and day out. I try to trust my gut and not be stupid about those choices when I do stop and ask if everything is OK.

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  15. I was pretty concerned about where this post was going to to when I read that you’d watched two episodes of “Cops.” I’m so glad it went where it did. It’s a lovely way to start Thanksgiving week (if you’re behind in your blog reading, like me) and a good reminder of how to be a nice person. A little does go a long way and we’d all be grateful to be on the receiving end if we found ourselves in the shoes of those who we could help. Thanks for the post. And stop watching “Cops.” Seriously.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      Cops is like a train wreck to me. I know I shouldn’t watch, but I can’t look away. In a way it makes me feel better when I think life is rough – so many of those poor devils are so self-destructive. Is that bad?

      Like

  16. I LOVE your list!! Regardless of our economic status, we can all help the world and our communities by giving time and personal energy to help others. It also helps me to get out of my own head, especially when I am wallowing in the “poor me” phases.

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  17. I think one of the best things my mom did to build her children’s empathy was visit nursing homes.

    At first, it was awkward and discomfiting. And yet, after my mom explained why we were being sought for hugs or a simple touch, it was hard to feel scared so much as very, very sad.

    And that is a little bit of non-fiction that made it into my first fiction book.

    Love this post. Love it.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      That is really tough on children, generally. Old people aren’t cuddly, sweet and often don’t smell so great. Good for your mom, and for you for going and working through that discomfort to bring someone else some joy.

      Like

  18. Tar-Buns says:

    Glad I came back for the continuing discussion. I remember going to see Mrs. Bradley when she was in a home. I was a teenager then, hadn’t seen her in years. I can’t place the date. But, after a bit, she saw me in profile and recognized me. And I was glad I went.

    Sadly, I never went again before she died. I’ve thought about that before, just like not getting home to see Grandma Corrigan before she passed. The teenage years – if we only had the hindsight of 30 years to tell us to go again, to see that person again, to send that card, to give them yourself.

    And the truth is that the joy of our visit is all they want anyway. To be loved. To matter.

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