"The ingredients of happiness come pretty cheap."
What makes us happy? I mean, truly, genuinely blissful. A three part video series by PhilosophicalMedia explores the philosophy of Epicurus, a Greek philosopher who spent his life's work trying to find out what humans need to be happy. Surprise: It's not money.
Sit back and enjoy this well-produced three-part series on happiness, humanness and Epicurus:
She feels lucky to be alive after she was in a roll-over accident, but that doesn't mean the wreck hasn't put her behind on bills. The Applicant of the Day is recovering from her traumatic accident, all while her husband is sick. This has put them behind on a single doctor bill, and outstanding one for their daughter.
Just in browsing through the application at Modest Needs, so many of which are requests to help fix cars that are crucial for their livelihoods, but so in disrepair that they are risking their lives by continuing to drive, that providing transportation services to those in car-dependent areas will help the working poor by directly impacting their access to basic necessities: education, jobs, medical services, social services and more.
Here are an assortment of stats on public transit and the working poor:
every dollar spent on this [public] transit, rural communities reap about 3.1 dollars in
The poorest fifth of Americans spend 42% of their annual household budget on the purchase, operation, and maintenance of automobiles, more than twice as much as the national average. [source]
According to the Federal Transit Administration, two-thirds of all new jobs are in the suburbs while three-quarters of welfare recipients live in central cities or rural areas. [source]
Low income people typically have older cars and unexpected repair costs.Because of credit problems, they are often subjected to sub-prime loans with higher interest rates.These predatory lending schemes could result in car repossession, worsening credit, and a lack of transportation to work. [source]
Over 90% of former welfare recipients do not have access to a car. [source]
While cities like New York and Washington, DC have extensive rail and bus systems that provide late night and weekend service, most metropolitan areas typically do not offer adequate services during second and third shift hours. [source]
But more compelling than numbers, are the shared stories from commenters about how car dependency affects their lives:
I lived without a car for over fifteen years while paying off loans from college, and supporting myself. I have no family that I'm in contact with (abuse history), and have supported myself the whole way. The only way I was able to survive the carless years was that I was single and childless, and at that point not disabled. It was horrendous. Most mass transit companies have cut back service to the point where no buses run after 7:00 PM, so if you work late and miss the last bus, you're out of luck. Service for the disabled is frequently horrible, i.e. in Sacramento, people who require seats or who are in wheelchairs can be denied service at any time if the bus or train is "too crowded"...
The answer isn't simple. Nashville put in the Music City Star, a rail system that transported workers, primarily, from the suburbs to the downtown area. Despite density in population in that area, the train never really took off. It's often only filled to 10 or 15% capacity, even at busy times of the day. Perhaps that transit system isn't broad enough to motivate people to go completely car free, because well, the area is too spread out. People *must* have a car, so they might as well drive it for the convenience, even if a train is available.
Are you happy with your transit situation? Do you wish you had better access to public transit? Would you support the building of mass transit in your area with an increase in taxes? Or could you never give up your car?
A single mom Texas, her three children and her mother, are all living together in a home with no working air conditioner. The cost to fix the A/C unit is beyond their means at this time, so the Applicant of the Day is asking Modest Needs donors to aid her and her family.
She writes: "I feel bad when I go to work and have to leave everyone here at home because there is air conditioning at work, but none at home."
What do you like to do? What are you good at? Where do you really excel? Pinpoint your passion, then volunteer to do that very thing.
Do you have a green thumb, love to garden and grow spectacular produce? Call up your local food bank and offer fresh fruits or greens to those picking up non-perishables.
Do you craft a lively and effect email every time you put your fingers to the keyboard? Why not offer your services as a correspondent for the charity of your choice?
Like to hula hoop? Know how to juggle? Why not sign up to teach local foster kids one day a week in the park?
If knitting is your thing, why not get those needles to moving and make enough scarves for a homeless shelter before Christmas.
Volunteering doesn't have to be a chore. Figure out your talent, your passion, then volunteer those things within your community. Volunteering gives individuals a sense of peace and accomplishment, and your time is often worth way, way more than money.
So, what do you like to do? What are you good at? Figure it out and share your excellence with those around you.
The Application of the Day comes from a mother to a daughter who suffers from Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder and Autism. She wants to send her little girl to camp:
[S]he needs to always be occupied and active because she claims to get easily bored and becomes very symptomatic. I want her to be able to socialize with other children in camp and enhance her verbal skills.
When I lived in Nashville, I had a job as a server at a bistro a mere two miles from my house. Despite the relatively short distance to my place of employment, I never once walked to work. Not once.
I couldn't have even if I wanted to. Even if it was the weather was perfect, I'd have had to amble down a four lane highway with no sidewalk, dodging oncoming traffic and loose gravel spit in my face.
Then I'd have to walk on the freeway overpass.
After that lovely stretch of road, I'd have to navigate a 3-lane exit ramp with no pedestrian pathway to speak of. No, thank you. Especially not in the dead of summer. Or winter. Or in the rain.
Unfortunately, without a car, this is the option for most people. The sad fact is that most areas in the United States are not friendly to people who wish to walk. Sidewalks are scarce, especially the more rural the area. Most towns in this country are car-dependent communities that all but require a vehicle. Often more than one per family.
Cars, often times, are not optional, and they certainly aren't cheap. The cost of gas, insurance, repairs, maintenance, tolls and more add up fast, especially for low-income families, who now more than ever live in increasingly rural regions that require a car.
A large number of Modest Needs applications come from people who are driving cars in dangerous disrepair or who can't get to work due to a break down or who can't afford a new truck after an accident, but they have no choice. They have to get to and from work, and without a car, that can be nearly impossible. Taking the bus can take hours, if it comes at all. Even in big cities like Los Angeles, citizens must sit in grueling traffic due to a lack of public transit options.
We are going to talk more about transportion, poverty, and car-dependency in future post, but first I'd like to take a poll to get an idea of how the Modest Needs community gets around:
The Applicant of the Day recently moves back in with her aging mother after her mother suffered a stroke. They both have limited incomes, and without a car to get around, caring for her mother is not only more difficult, but it is dangerous. Mechanics say it's too risky to drive the automobile.
This application has 0% funding as of today. Let's change that.
According to the NYT piece, lots of high profile charities are reaching out to "everyday donors," something Modest Needs has been doing since Day One.
At Modest Needs, we not only want to help those hard-working folks who need a simply boost to keep them off of the slippery slope of poverty, we also want to change the face of who so selflessly give to them. Through the Modest Needs model, you can donate as little as one dollar to an application that speaks directly to you--and with the help of a handful of generous donors across the country, lives can be changed with just a little but of money.
It's one of the things I love about Modest Needs the most. You don't have to be pulling in six digits a year to directly reach out to a family in need and fundamentally change their plight, as well as their philosophy on giving. Many, many Modest Needs recipients turn right around and become Modest Needs donors--like Cindy, who now pledges $2 a month.
And that $2 a month goes places. It helps children stay fed, rents stay paid and parents stay sane. Lots of little contributions can add up to a huge, huge difference. A $500 pledge is no different than fifty $10 pledges.
Even Wall Street is recognizing the power of small. Fidelity Investments, which manages one of the largest pools of the charitable-giving accounts known as donor-advised funds, used to require that any donation from these funds be at least $100. In October 2008, it dropped the minimum to $50.“We wanted to help donors use their account balances to give to as many causes as they had been accustomed to in the fat years, and if that meant reducing the minimum grant requirement, we were happy to do it,” said Sarah C. Libbey, president of the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund. “Small gifts do matter, especially when they are channeled and consolidated.”
So, don't spend a minute thinking that a small monetary contribution won't matter. Browse the applications at Modest Needs today to see how far even five dollars can go toward improving the life of a person with modest needs.
The Application of the Day comes from a mother of three who has two children with special needs. Both have Cerebral Axatia and Mitochondrial disease, which affects their ability to walk. This mom wants to install railings in her home that will allow her children more independence, since now they need another person to assist them. The railing will also allow this busy mother more time for child care.