Why serve our USA?

We were at Fort Ticonderoga on the 4th of July a few years ago.  There's a special patriotism that comes from walking where battles were fought for our freedom.

We were at Fort Ticonderoga on the 4th of July a few years ago.  There's a special patriotism that comes from walking where battles were fought for our freedom.

In honor of the 4th of July, let’s talk about helping out in our grand old USA.  We live in a pretty awesome country.  We live fairly safe lives going about our chosen professions.  Possibilities are endless and hope abounds in our childrens’ minds.  Many of us can take a quick drive to beautiful forests, beaches, or deserts.  There is so much goodness going on in our nation.  But, we can all do a little more to help our country thrive.  

Just by looking at some New York Times infographics from the last few years gives a broader view of how the US is doing in several areas and gives us ideas of how we can help out.  The three topics, drought, migration, and poverty, were randomly chosen and are not meant to represent the most important issues facing America.

This drought is getting worse and worse.  Click to see the progression from Nov 2014 - April 2015.  Source NY Times.

This drought is getting worse and worse.  Click to see the progression from Nov 2014 - April 2015.  Source NY Times.

Drought.

Yowzers it’s hot here!  And we don’t have it as bad as some.  See the worst areas in the map and article at the New York Times.  Most of the western United States is experiencing droughts.  Cyclical droughts are normal but many areas have been in drought conditions for years now, much longer and more intense than the usual cycles of the past.  Some predict that it will just get worse in the coming decades.  

What can we do?  Conserve water.  Plant drought-resistant plants.  Choose foods that take less water to grow and package.  Have contests to see who can take the shortest shower (within reason).  Be extra aware of those around you for signs of dehydration and heat stroke; carry water bottles to give out as needed.  Remember those popsicles?  

Migration by State.  Source NY Times.

Migration by State.  Source NY Times.

Migration.

All those light gray splotches within each state on the map above are the people who were born in the state in which they reside currently.  What I find interesting, however, are all the other colors.  We Americans move around a lot.  In some states, large populations weren’t even born in the US.

What can we do?  Celebrate diversity.  Introduce yourself to new neighbors and help them feel at home in their new community (a plate of cookies and some recommendations for groceries, library, and gas can be very helpful).  Be a friend to new kids in class.  Help someone learn English.

Poverty in America.  Click for an interactive map and details by county.  Source NY Times.

Poverty in America.  Click for an interactive map and details by county.  Source NY Times.

Poverty.

Many people are just scraping by.  That includes many families with many children.  It’s estimated that 1 in 5 kids is living below the poverty line.  Our recent recession hit hard in many homes.  It may not be apparent in your town how big of an issue poverty is but click through to the interactive map to see how the rates in your county compare with other counties nationwide.  Also check out this map showing the hardest places in America to live based on education, median household income, unemployment rate, disability rate, life expectancy, and obesity.  While all those factors do not automatically point to poverty, the map is telling what parts of the US are struggling the most.  Government programs help but so can we.

What can we do?  Look at that map and realize that there are people in need.  Connect with national organizations making a difference in the poorest areas.  Volunteer and/or donate at your local food banks, shelters, and community programs.  Check out our Simple Service idea of donating a special present to our local shelter.

 

America really is a land of opportunity.  All around us are opportunities to serve. We’ve only mentioned a few here.  Look around; do what you can; make this country a little better today.

Whether it's attending a local parade, watching fireworks, or having a family BBQ, have fun and be safe!

Whether it's attending a local parade, watching fireworks, or having a family BBQ, have fun and be safe!

Happy 4th of July!