Thursday, June 2, 2011

I Want To Help Joplin—But How?

One of my friends works at the Humane Society of Missouri, a group “[c]ommitted to the prevention of cruelty, abuse and neglect of animals through its adoption centers, veterinary medical centers, and rehabilitation centers.” After the tornado hit the town of Joplin, Missouri a few weeks ago, volunteers from all over the country have been swarming Joplin. I thought this was nothing but a good thing, until I looked at my Facebook newsfeed and saw this message from my friend:

Tuesday’s edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has a similar sentiment:

“The Joplin area is now overwhelmed with spontaneous supply donations and volunteers. Therefore, everyone who wants to volunteer or contribute supplies for people or pets is advised to dial the United Way's 2-1-1 line or visit This resource has information on current volunteer and supply needs for the Joplin area. People are advised not to travel to the area unless they have received official authorization” (full article here).

When a crisis like this happens, everyone feels pretty helpless. A good way to assuage these feelings is to be helpFUL, and what better way to be helpful than to take a roadtrip down to Joplin? Right? RIGHT?

Emergencies like these just underscore how important communication really is. Joplin might need help—it might need bulldozers to clear debris, and medical doctors or therapists to treat the injured. But does Joplin really needs my flabby arms and weak legs? How much debris can I haul before getting tired? Pretty soon, I’d be collapsed, exhausted, and drinking water intended for those actually in need. If you want to help, donate money to support those with the appropriate skills. It would certainly be a smarter use of everyone’s time and resources if I just sent money to the Humane Society, verses just show up. Then someone would have to waste time training me to do tasks that she could do in half the time.

Perhaps in a few months, when most of the volunteers have left, I’ll think differently about the whole mess. But for now, I say, “Send money or supplies!” This won’t make you feel as good as actually, physically going down there. But it will do so much more for the people of Joplin.

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