Why A Formerly Unemployed Writer Gives To GBM

mandy-shunnarahI’m probably an atypical GBM donor since I’m an atheist and I live in Columbus, Ohio (though I’m from Birmingham originally). When I think about organizations that do an A+ job of social justice work, GBM is top of my list. GBM embraces and celebrates diversity, actively listens to the people they serve, and does not force people to be something they’re not to get help.

I’ve heard of some organizations forcing people to attend church, convert to Christianity, or jump through other hoops to get help and I think that’s wrong. When Jesus said “love thy neighbor” and “whatever you do to the least of these you also do to me,” there were no asterisks and a list of exceptions in fine print. I’m proud of GBM for standing up for the most vulnerable and least protected among us, fighting injustice, and doing their best to make sure people’s needs are met. GBM doesn’t assume that people’s most visceral need is the only need they have.

Personally, GBM completely changed the way I think about poverty. I’m a writer and when I got laid off 2.5 years ago GBM asked me to interview people in line at their food pantry and help tell those stories. No matter what hateful people say, I can tell you there’s no such thing as “welfare queens.”

I talked to people who had diabetes and low blood sugar and you could tell they might pass out any minute from not having food.

I talked to people who were taking care of their grandchildren because the parents weren’t able to or weren’t in the picture and even through they received food stamps they didn’t get enough to feed them and their grandkids because they didn’t have legal custody of the children.

I talked to people who had been displaced by Hurricane Katrina and had fallen through the cracks. I talked to veterans who had been sick and homeless, despite the fact that the US government promises to take care of them as a reward for their service.

I talked to people who were brought to this country as children and who couldn’t get aid with food and housing because they weren’t legal citizens, even though this country is their home as much as it is mine and yours.

I talked to people who were bankrupted by healthcare costs—hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt because they had cancer and dared to want to live.

I talked to people who had been incarcerated for petty, nonviolent crimes—the same crimes rich, white frat boys at universities get away with every day—and couldn’t get jobs or aid with housing and food even though they’ve done their time and should be free.

There are innumerable instances of people whose life circumstances aren’t recognized by the government’s systems of aid. These people are suffering and they’re often not invited to tell their stories or even asked. Most of the time they’re handed forms and told to fill them out—they’re treated like a number and like their individual stories don’t matter. But GBM isn’t like that. They lead with the heart and genuinely care about people.

I’m fortunate that I’ve recovered from being laid off and have gotten a full-time job, but I know there are many people who aren’t as lucky. So I want to give back by donating to GBM monthly. I have an automatic recurring donation set up, so I don’t even have to think about it.

Mandy Shunnarah // Book Blogger Extraordinaire
mandyshunnarah@gmail.com

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