The Consequences of Having Too Little
By Monty Laskin/Caledon Community Services
Is there such a thing as having too little? And if there is, are there consequences that can help us better understand the challenges of many Caledon residents with the goal of doing something about them?
To determine if you can have too little, let’s acknowledge that we all set the bar at a different height in determining what’s enough. It’s like Goldilocks and the Three Bears: There’s too little, too much and just enough. Everyone has different standards and what’s good for the goose isn’t necessarily good for the gander.
The community services sector in Caledon frequently work with individuals and families who have too little. By anyone’s standards. There’s too little food for seniors who choose to pay rent rather than grocery shop; there’s too little leisure time for parents who work three jobs to keep their home heated; there’s too few opportunities for sustainable employment for high-school graduates who were unable to continue with their education; and there’s too little support for single parents who live on a meagre income and have no extended family to help.
The behaviour of low income seniors, hard-working parents, unemployed young adults and single parents have similarities. They are apparent when they come to one or more community services. There are behaviour patterns oftentimes shared by people with too little. The candour with which they share these behaviours is instructive for those of us working alongside them to address the challenges.
I am told that the behaviour patterns are mostly about survival. This is to say, an important instinct kicks in. When people have too little, it changes the way they look at problems and make decisions about how to solve them. And while those of us with enough (or too much) might not fully understand this survival instinct, if we hope to make a difference it’s probably a good idea to appreciate it. And appreciate how critical it is to build upon it rather than try to alter it.
Consider the way you manage money. When you have enough of it, basic expenses are addressed as they emerge. They come and go, you purchase something, incur a debt and over time you pay it off. Sure, the debt needs to be paid; but you have enough so it doesn’t require your rapt attention. In fact, most of the time it rarely stays on your mind.
Things are much different when you don’t have enough. When money is scarce, or altogether absent, debt is with you all the time. Your expenses are not mundane at all, they are on your mind constantly. Precisely because you can’t eliminate your expense, it becomes more pressing. And no surprise, that can lead to a neglect of other pressing problems. Imagine if you had to focus on the groceries every single day. By this I mean really focus on them to the exclusion of other things. It stands to reason that you are going to neglect other concerns, like searching for work or paying the rent.
I think that those of us in Caledon who aren’t struggling with having too little can have an enormously positive impact upon those with too little. We can support them in making the right decisions at the right time on important challenges but only if we provide them with some tangible resources that alleviate their most pressing concern. Talk is cheap, right? What’s really required is to put some skin in the game.
There are ten organizations in Caledon now working closely with one another in the Exchange and all are putting some skin in the game. We’re contributing our individual resources to a shared effort. We are pursuing what is called “Collective Impact”. It’s hard work because we’re coming to the table with different resources. We are sharing what we each have to strengthen one another and to strengthen the Exchange. To that end, the Exchange is being shared. Its resources are made available to all ten agencies and new services are emerging that help us all make a bigger difference together in the lives of those with too little.
Sharing is sometimes hard to do, especially when you are the leader of a community organization and you’ve got a tall mountain to climb just to maintain your own services. Along comes the Exchange with an offer that says, “Here’s a beautiful facility that is a magnet for many Caledon residents, not just for people with too little. Use it to your heart’s content but please help develop it for the entire community, even while you’re working tirelessly to support your own organization.”
It’s a challenge. At times we flounder. Anything worthwhile usually is a challenge, right? But we are moving forward and good things are emerging.
Please drop in on the Exchange, located on Healy Road in Bolton. Reach out to any of the ten organizations to receive the Exchange’s monthly calendar of activities. Each can send you a timetable of fabulous events for children, families, seniors and everyone else in Caledon. There is so much happening and it’s beckoning you to get involved!
Having too little can be exhausting. When a community responds by putting skin in the game, by coming together and addressing problems with tangible resources, good things happen. Everyone moves towards having enough. That’ exactly what the Exchange is, a community hub that provides enough for everyone. Enough to enrich lives with nutritious food, stimulating activities and enjoyable programs.
If you want to help the Exchange and/or any of the ten agencies tackle the challenge of having too little, please reach us. We’re eager to have more helping hands in our effort to strengthen the Exchange and our own community organizations.
Bethell House 905-838-3534; Bolton Alliance Church 905-951-1051; Brampton Caledon Community Living 905-857-9691; Caledon Community Services 905-584-2300; Caledon Meals on Wheels 905-584-2992; Caledon Parent Child Centre 905-857-0090; Caledon Public Libraries 905-857-1400; Family Transition Place 905-584-4357; Peace Ranch 905-584-9156; Rapport Youth Services 905-455-4100.