What you can do

The summer heat has forced Derek to a very limited amount of time in our garden so like any enthusiast he has turned to gardening shows on Netflix.  His favorite show at the moment is called Love Your Garden. It is a British show where a crew of professional gardeners surprise a family that is experiencing overwhelming hardships with a complete garden (back yard) makeover.  

The show is hosted by a master gardener named Alan Titchmarsh.  As part of the show he talks with the family members who are living through some pretty rough situations.  In the episode that I watched with Derek he was interviewing a wife who was caring for her husband who had been diagnosed 2 years prior with a condition similar to MS.  In 24 months he had gone from a completely functional person to a wheelchair bound husband who is paralyzed and communicates through a computer.  The wife in the show is a nurse so Alan asked her if she knew his prognosis.  She replied that she couldn’t think about the future, she could only make that day the best day that she could.  Then Alan said something that really struck me.  He said that he didn’t know what to say, but he knew what he could do.  He is a gardener, and he built them a garden. 

The more I get involved with Rotary and our community the more I understand how many people around us are living through difficult times.  I was recently told that per capita, Orlando has the highest number of homeless people of any city in the country.  Many of them have jobs but cannot afford the basic necessities of shelter and food.  I hear stories and I truly don’t know what to say and for a long time I didn’t know what I could do.  Then one day I was talking to a friend of mine from Rotary named Nina and she told me about the organization that she works for called Untied Against Poverty.  

United Against Poverty is an organization that serves those in poverty by providing crisis care, case management, transformative education, food and household subsidy, employment training and placement, personal empowerment training and active referrals to other collaborative social service providers.  They believe that poverty is not permanent, and that people are not defined by their current circumstances.  Best of all they focus on giving individuals and families a hand up, not a hand out.  They understand that no one person or organization can change another person’s difficult experience.  But they can help that person or family get through the day as best as they can and instill the idea that tomorrow will be better.  The magic is that when a person believes that tomorrow will be better, it almost always is. 

Nina has told me stories of individuals that have come off the street to their center on Michigan Avenue and within 12 weeks have completed their programs, been placed in full time employment and are continuing to save money to cover deposits and get a home for themselves and their families. Knowing that I can contribute my time and resources to an organization that’s sole purpose is to inspire and empower people living in poverty to lift themselves and their families to economic sufficiency has allowed me to be confident in what I can do to help our community.  

I am not a gardener, but I know that with a little effort I can help a lot of people have the best day they can, and plant the seeds for an even better day tomorrow. For more information about United Against Poverty you can visit their website at uporlando.org. 

Mark Ramey