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It’s My Birthday and You Have to Listen to Me

The internet has made our world smaller, and that is a good thing. Everyone who has spoken to me about microblogging knows that I’m madly in love with the work that my friends at Epic Change do. I’ve fallen for Africa without ever having visited because of the Twitter Kids.

As a community we’ve watched disasters unfold in New Orleans, Japan, and Haiti. We’ve taken action and raised millions of dollars quickly and efficiently. This is a good thing, this is an incredible use of the connectivity the internet provides.

What we haven’t done is support our own communities.

My childrens’ school supports a local food bank. Every Friday every child is expected to bring in one canned or boxed good. Those hundreds of items are dropped off at the food bank so that individuals and families who aren’t as lucky as we are get proper nutrition (yes I attribute a lot to luck in this economy). Periodically the classrooms have competitions where the class who brings in the most canned goods will win free dress or an extra recess. This is when my son gets competitive. He will beg me to go the 99 cent store and buy lots and lots of tuna fish or peanut butter so they can win the prize.

I’ve explained to my children that feeding the poor means that we’d send them the same food that we’d be willing to eat. I’ve winced as my children pull my favorite cans off our shelves to give them away, but then I remind myself that I have the incredible privilege of going to the grocery store without worrying if I can afford soup. Still, I struggle with this. I’m human, and like everyone else I can be selfish.

While I watch millions of dollars being raised in my community for third world countries, I’ve simultaneously seen our local schools fail, our food pantries empty, and an increase in homelessness.

I can’t change the world. You can’t change the world. We can all change someone’s day, and perhaps offer a glimmer of hope for the future.

Today I’m asking each and every one of you, my readers, to walk into your kitchen, and to find three cans or boxes of high quality food and to donate that to a food bank near you. If you feed your children organic peanut butter with no sugar added, my expectation is that you will donate that same high quality food to a food pantry. If you love to have Amy’s Organic Soup please consider donating that same high quality food to a family near you that might not otherwise have dinner.

If you have $2 or $20 to spare I challenge you to walk to your nearest public school and give that money to their parent association, or just to the school, so that they can buy things like paper and pencils. Los Angeles schools have no money for paper.

If you have time I’m asking you right now to find a way to give some to your community. I don’t care if you answer phones at some sort of hotline or pick up trash on the side of the road. Maybe you’ll make dinner for a family who is on a tight budget.

I’m tired of the internet being all about vague charities that are funded by mega corporations who are looking for a little marketing to toss into their tax exemptions. I’m sick of sending a dollar to a stranger so that 40 cents can be used for administrative costs. I love the idea of non profits finding their roots online, but even more I love the idea of each of us unplugging for a few minutes each week to make a difference in the towns we live in.

All I want for my birthday is for you to give a little something back to your community. The community you see right outside your front door.