Every little bit

By Erica Fatland

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, a whopping 1,353,506 people in Illinois lived in poverty in 1997. That was out of a good 11,896,000 in the entire state.


Now that the Illinois population is at about 12,419,293, that means even more people are living a very low quality of life.

“Why are you writing a column about this? Not only is it a little depressing, but there’s nothing I can do about it” & the “average reader” might care to say.

But there is a whole lot everyone can do.

No, I’m not going to say that the NIU population can save the entire world or even the Land of Lincoln’s every single person who is poverty-stricken or homeless.

BUT, there are certainly many ways, yes, even the average college student, can help out.

1. Keep your “junk”

You know how the old saying goes “One person’s junk is another person’s treasure?” Well, I am not one to tell people to keep every single thing in their apartment. No, don’t stockpile your ancient Pogo Stick or make a rubber band ball &nothing to that extent. I’m saying that if you don’t want that pink sweater anymore or really aren’t into the lima beans and okra (gross) your grandmother insists on sending you in the express mail-& keep it, and THEN give it away. Seriously, there are so many people who need a sweater, any sweater & they don’t have the luxury of opening a closet and filing through the various Abercrombie & Fitch clothing for the most super outfit.

Take this example as a “for instance” & I went to a small school in a minute town. I think it just recently got on the map in about 1990, really. I was in first grade with a girl — to this day I still remember her name, Monica. She was quiet, small and kept to herself in the front of the room (oh, I didn’t mention that she was a little on the short side, and we all know that in grade school we either sit in alphabetical order or by height). So there you have it.

Anyway, I’ll continue with the story. It was a cold winter day and of course, we all had to go outside for recess. Inside recess is only limited to tornadoes and Arctic weather, I guess. So I was doing my thing, playing on the see-saw, swinging on the tire swing on the school’s infamous “Big Toy” and I looked over and saw Monica sitting under a tree & with a short-sleeved shirt on. No kidding. My mother recalls it being about 20 degrees on any given day in 1982. Now that I look back on it, I can’t believe my teacher let the poor child out of the door with a get-up like that on.

So I walked over to her and all she said was that she was very, VERY cold. Then I took off the jacket (brand new, no less) and gave it to her. She said she didn’t have one at all. No questions asked. Hey, I didn’t like pink anyway, I thought, it’s my mom’s fault. Besides, I had a sweater on. My mother was a little peeved, to say the least, but what could she do, right?

I am not trying to say that I am the epitome of a wonderful person by relaying this story. Exactly the opposite, I think. This example just goes to show that poor people are not exclusive to big cities. They are in your own backyard. In fact, Monica was almost in mine.

2. Donate some time

Even though in the past I have not supported a lot of what the Greeks at NIU have done, I do have to say that they show some support for the DeKalb community. Just a couple of weeks ago, a fraternity was going door-to-door for food for our local Hope Haven organization. They hold fundraisers and donate all of the “party” money to charities. Good for them. I, personally, think everyone should do the same. If it’s not by giving a few bucks every month to Sacred Heart or a homeless charity, how about just visiting the shelter or charity and seeing what you can do to help? Hey, it can’t hurt right? Every little bit counts.

3. Just be human once in awhile

A lot of the people sleeping on the streets or using food stamps don’t fall under the definition of “wino,” “crack addict” or “lazy.” Many of them may be just like we are. Maybe they lost their family, their house, their job or just plain ran out of luck and money. It happens. I have had to ask my parents for money in a couple instances & I think many of us have. College is expensive. But what if we didn’t all have a lot of money to begin with or got into a situation where our bank account drained? Then what?

These people are just that: people. They get hungry and thirsty. But they don’t always get what they need.

Think again next time you walk by someone sleeping in the subway station. They may be more like you than you think.

So this wasn’t such a long list; but an important one nonetheless. The poverty-stricken and homeless may always be around. Then again, maybe someday a president will come along and try to change that. Time will only tell. Until then, I am going to give a little. The reward of feeling like I have made some sort of a difference is enough for me.