I watched a very inspiring video during our skills class called The 51st State: America's Working Poor. I think the "timing" of the video is actually right on, especially considering the recent tragic events in Haiti. First thing that jumped of my mind is, "A lot of times I could be 'throwing' my money away by buying things that are extravagant and/or overpaying things that are vital to me. However, there are people out there who are struggling to make end's meet. As OTs, our starting annual salary could be several times more than these minimum/sub-minimum wage people are making annually! Of course, if we put our medical coverage into play, it would even be more evident!"
Why do I mention this? It made me think about how fortunate me and each of my classmates really are. Think about this... sometimes we could drink away what a family might have spent on a meal, or go on a retail therapy trip where we could have been spending one monthly paycheck from a person who works at multiple part-time jobs. Not that I am against either a happy hour at a bar or a retail therapy trip with friends... since as OTs, we need to be understandable to everyone's needs and wants and not to judge solely on what the things he/she does.
But, that does make me wonder... how good are OTs at advocating for the poor? After all, in some settings, we might have to work with clients or their families with limited financial means. That means that we sometimes might not be able to choose the best option for a treatment plan if it's deemed too expensive. Then, there are situations where we would have to tell the clients that they need the expensive treatment or else they would risk something worse. Finally, there are situations where we might need our clients or their family members to attend therapy when they are unable to due to the fact that they can't afford to miss time from work. I am sure there are other such tough situations. This is where we need to put our creative minds to work... like looking up for possible grants, legislation, etc. Of course, another good way would be going to "scavenger hunts" through buying seemingly useless things off garage sales, estate sales, rummage sales, etc. (I know I sometimes found a lot of good stuff through this way.)
Personally, I am thinking of doing a little more. That is... setting aside some of my future earnings that I might not need to help the poor. I haven't debate on what in particular yet. But, I am thinking setting aside two bank accounts. One would be for my project that I love a lot- the Red Shirt Project. The goal of this project is to eventually get the Lakota Indians living in Red Shirt village of PineRidge Reservation in South Dakota off poverty. The other possible could be funds to help some other causes that could fit the Millennium Development Goals (you can look this up through the United Nations website) or help some of my clients outside the office (if I think they could use a lift). As OTs... I understand that we need to have a balance in work, rest, and play. But, sometimes doing kind acts with some of the money where we would have spent on the play element would bring you more satisfaction. After all, one aspect of what we OTs do is to rebuild lives. Supporting the poor with our present (or future) income is something we should all do, as this is also one way for us to achieve one aspect of our centennial vision- making OT more widely recognized!
A great thing to think about. My husband's college roommate has told us about something he does to help the poor (and that we want to do once we have paychecks again): in his monthly expenses he budgets a certain percent of his money to be spent on charitable/helpful acts of kindness. This could be applied toward anything from buying a homeless person lunch to helping a family in need pay their electric bill to buying Christmas presents for kids who won't be getting any. It doesn't have to be a lot of money, even $20 a month can go a long way. But it seems like, OT or not, if we all were able to budget a way to help people in need, great things could happen.