Thank you for calling Cause Celebre, how can we help you?

There's a telethon tonight called "Hope for Hati Now". Once again the celebrities of our nation are banding together for the current cause celbre. They are going to tug at heart strings and there will most likely be full color pictures of children amid horrible devistation. People will open their wallets and give generously, and feel good about themselves for doing so.

My big problem with this is that there are no telethons planned to help people who are at risk of losing their homes because they can't find work. Or the people who have a hard time buying food and clothing for their families because what they make just doesn't strech like they need it to. Where is the moral outcry about the children in out country who don't see doctors and dentists when they need to because there is no insurance available and the parents don't qualify for "state aid".

I understand the desire to reach out and help others who are so obviously suffering, but I have to question the motives of the people involved. Before this earthquake hit, Hati was a country in trouble. Poverty was overwhelming and children were starving. No one was launching telethons then. People weren't calling aid agencies offering to adopt the thousands of orphans that were there before disaster struck. Our country has a long history of putting on a good show in a time of crisis, but unless the media and the world are watching, we don't seem to be motivated to do much of anything.

I have talked with people about this before and often their response is, "Well, people in this country can get jobs to pay the bills, or get help from the government (IE: welfare) if they really have to." The problem there is that jobs don't often pay what they should and in a household with only one parent, daycare costs alone can eat up any second paycheck that might be available. As to help from the state....well, you can't really count on that either. In order to qualify for most welfare programs you have to be making under $1900 a month (that's based on a family of four) if you make even .50 over that, you will be denied, or have benefits taken away. ( You think I'm exaggerating, but I'm not. My own family tried to get insurance for our son last year after my husband was laid off. We were denied because our family made $1.50 over the allowable limit.)

As a nation we seem to be oblivious to the suffering of our own. We tend to assume that someone else is taking care of that problem and look to other countries as an example of "those less fortunate". The problem is, in many areas of our nation, there are families living in homes that should be condemed, without heat or water. There are children whose only real meal of the day comes from school programs and whose clothing is threadbare and ill-fitting because it is donated. These children are often at risk for illnesses that should not be a problem in a nation as advanced as ours. And the risks to them don't stop there. Extreme poverty in many areas has deteriorated the education system making it much less likely that children raised in those areas will ever be able to break the cycle of poverty they were born into.

The next time your heart cries out to help those less fortunate than yourself, look a little closer to home. Call local aid agencies and ask what you can do to help. Go to www.donorschose.org and make a donation to help an impoverished school system provide educational supplies to the children in your area. Or go to www.mercycorps.org and find ways to help here at home.