Do you ever wonder why soup kitchens need people to volunteer to cook and serve the meals? If the real issue were just providing food to people who were just down on their luck, you could just drop the food off and provide a kitchen. Those patronizing soup kitchens rarely have anything pressing to do, so they could take it from there: prepare the meals, dish everything out, and then clean up the kitchen when they were done.
Yet soup kitchen usually use volunteers for all of the food preparation, serving, and cleaning. And the volunteers are often people with a lot of things going on in their lives, including their work, family commitments, home maintenance, and volunteer activities. As they say in any volunteer organization, if you want to get something done, find the people who are busy.
The reason volunteers are needed is that there are normally reasons why those patronizing the shelters don’t have food, and it goes way beyond food not being available or being priced too high. Many people have addiction issues. Others may have mental conditions or personality disorders. A few may have physical conditions that severely limit them. In any case, it is normally the behaviors of those using the shelters that both causes them to be short of food and the necessity for volunteers to get the meals cooked and served. If you were to just leave a pile of food and the keys to the kitchen, it is unlikely that the results would be desirable.
While many of us regularly do what is necessary to provide food and shelter for our families, we don’t do what is necessary to protect ourselves beyond the basics. We get the unlimited data plan on our phones instead of putting away money for an emergency fund. We buy meals out several times per week but put away nothing for retirement. We buy our kids the latest fashions but don’t buy life insurance to protect their future should something happen to us. We have cable but no disability insurance.
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As a result, we have no financial security should anything disrupts our lives. If we get into a car accident and have medical bills, we need to go into debt and possibly start on the road to bankruptcy. If we are disabled or die early, our family’s financial future is irrevocably changed and they may struggle for the rest of their lives. When we get to retirement age, we don’t have the resources needed to pay for basic expenses and need to rely on others.
Suze Orman said it best in an interview in Money Magazine this month:
“Money is about security. It’s there to make you feel safe when everything is going well and to protect you if the worst happens.”
Hopefully, you protect yourself against homelessness by doing things like getting and keeping a good job and staying off of drugs. But sometimes things that are bigger than the normal day-to-day expenses come along like a hurricane, medical crisis, or an earthquake. Sometimes the heater breaks in the middle of winter or a sinkhole opens up under our home. Sometimes we get laid off or are forced to retire earlier than expected. And retirement will come at some point and then you’ll need to have enough stored up to last you 20-30 years, even if Social Security and Medicare disappear.
If we have an addiction to shopping, or hobbies, or games, or stuff to the point where we are not preparing for if the worst happens while we have the opportunity, we are similar to the drug addict stopping in at the soup kitchen for a meal because he can’t hold a job. In both cases while we may feel that we are unfortunate by circumstance, it is what we do and what we fail to do that makes us vulnerable. Our choices stack firewood, just waiting for a spark to start the blaze.
Suze Orman also said something else that is true when you have saved and invested, such that you have money:
“I can use my money now to try to help as many people as I possibly can. I love that,” she says. “When you have money, you should never live a life where you isolate yourself from others and just use it for yourself. Money is there to make the world a better place and to help those who really can’t help themselves.”
While we can plan and do our best to be ready for disasters, there are times when we need help no matter how prepared we are. We need to put ourselves into the position where we can help others when disaster strikes.
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Disclaimer: This blog is not meant to give financial planning or tax advice. It gives general information on investment strategy, picking stocks, and generally managing money to build wealth. It is not a solicitation to buy or sell stocks or any security. Financial planning advice should be sought from a certified financial planner, which the author is not. Tax advice should be sought from a CPA. All investments involve risk and the reader as urged to consider risks carefully and seek the advice of experts if needed before investing.