It has weighed heavy on my heart during these difficult financial times that I am not able to help members of my family and community. I am thankful (Al-Hamdulilah praise be to God) that He has provided for my family, given us shelter, food, clothing. Just those basic necessities are something to be grateful for in these times of economic crisis. In my own family I have two brothers who have been unemployed for nearly a year. One a father with a toddler and infant twins was nearly evicted and living in a shelter until he was able to find a place to live. But sill they struggle with poor, substandard living conditions because that is all they can afford.
So how can we help each other during these times?
1. Make du’a . (pray) The supplication that gets the quickest answer is the one made by one Muslim for another in his absence.” Reported by Abu Daw’ud and Tirmidhi We should make a practice of praying for each other.
2. Share what we have. Host a “swap party.” Individually we may not have a lot to give. But a swap party is a great way to bring friends together and share. It works like this pick a theme or an item. For winter a great idea would be coats. Get a group together, every one who comes brings a coat that is no longer needed or used and is still in good condition. All of the items are placed on a table and then guests pick what they need. At the end any items left over are donated to a local charity. You can do this for toys, clothes, video games, books, etc.
3. Start a mitten drive. If you have small children then you know how often they lose gloves, scarfs and hats in winter. You can host a Mitten Tea and have friends over for a tea party and ask that each guest bring a pair of new mittens, scarfs or hats to donate. Collect items into a box and donate to a local school or boys and girls club. Then as children leave without winter attire they can select a new pair from the box. Or you can just set a box out at your masjid and ask community members to leave a pair to give to those in need. You can also collect for homeless is your area and donate to a local shelter.
4. Host a fundraiser at your masjid. Pot Lucks dinners are easy and inexpensive to organize. Ask members of your community to donate a dish then charge a small admission price to the dinner. With the money raised you can give Shelter and Utility (Heating) assistance to members of your community.
5. Start a job bank or board at your masjid. Ask business members to actively list open jobs and post them in a designated spot. Even if one is not in the hiring position but knows of a job opening; that information would still be helpful to someone desperately looking for employment. Networking is a huge part of successful job hunting.
6. Produce an Community Assistance Referral guide. Often there is help available in the community in which you live but many times people don’t know where to go to get help they need. Names of assistance programs and contact information can be helpful to a person in need who may not know where to go to get heating assistance for example.
7. Start a food pantry and distribute food to the needy. This is surprisingly easy! As a non-profit organization your local masjid is eligible to participate in the food bank program in your city. Most cities have this program which allows non profits to receive foods given by local grocery stores and given by USDA, some items are given and some are for sale at greatly reduced prices for example a watermelon might sell for ten cents! Bread is usually free!
8. Be Watchful! Remember charity is for those who ask and for those who don’t. Sometimes people in need aren’t sitting around with their hand out. Often they are the family sitting right next to yours and you never know it. So lend a hand even when it is not asked, what you think may be a small gift of food, might actually be the meal that family has that day.
These are just some ideas that can help those in need in this country. But as we watch our brothers and sisters around the world suffer oppression and inhumanities inflicted on them, we can’t help but thank Allah(swt) for the blessing we have of being in this country. So if you are able try to remember those outside of this country as well.
Most importantly remember…EVEN A SMILE IS CHARITY!