The headline in the LA Times said it all: "Charities Can't Keep Up with Deepening Poverty."
America is facing a vicious charity Catch-22: the harsher the downturn, the more people in need of help but the fewer stepping up with donations. "As resources vanish," wrote the Times, "the threads of the nation's extensive social safety nets are fraying, leaving single mothers, elderly shut-ins and others ever more vulnerable."
For months we've been inundated with the raw data of the economic meltdown: unemployment figures, foreclosure numbers, massive bailout stats. Here at HuffPost we want to do more to put a human face on the suffering. The recently laid off, the newly homeless, the students unable to afford college.
And who better to tell their stories than the people themselves?
So we want to hear from you. How is the downturn affecting you and your family? Have you lost your job? Your home? Are you seeing For Sale signs on your street? Are more businesses in your town going under? How are you making ends meet? What are you hearing from your friends, your neighbors, your coworkers? Even if you still have your job and your home, and the ability to send your kids to college, how has the deep economic recession affected your outlook, your mood, your spending habits? If you work for a charity or a food bank -- what are you seeing?
Tell us your stories. Blogging about them and your feelings -- including your anger, your fears, your hopes -- is a great way to cope with the many personal, social, and professional dislocations that the hard times are producing.
Losing your job -- or even fearing that you might -- can make you feel powerless. But at the same time you are looking for work - or learning a new skill - you can take up blogging. It doesn't require anyone's permission, there is no application process - you just need blogging software (some of the best is free; more on this in a minute), and the will to express yourself. Or you can blog here on HuffPost.
Blogging is all about connecting to others. The bond between blogger and reader creates an intimacy that is a much-needed corrective to the isolation that hard times bring. I'm always amazed by the things I learn from commenters I've never met but feel that I know. And I'm equally amazed by the things I keep discovering about myself in the course of writing and clarifying what's important to me.
Andrew Sullivan fleshes this experience out in a terrific essay in the Atlantic called "Why I Blog." "Alone in front of a computer, at any moment, are two people: a blogger and a reader," he writes. "The proximity is palpable, the moment human -- whatever authority a blogger has is derived not from the institution he works for but from the humanness he conveys. This is writing with emotion not just under but always breaking through the surface. It renders a writer and a reader not just connected but linked in a visceral, personal way. The only term that really describes this is friendship. And it is a relatively new thing to write for thousands and thousands of friends."
It's not therapy, but it's the same principle -- and a lot cheaper (depending on your co-pay). The blogger/reader connection can have practical consequences as well. You can get suggestions on anything and everything - from a job opening to finding a place to volunteer to help others (and help put your problems in perspective). As Sullivan writes, "a good blog is your own private Wikipedia."
Blogging is clearly not the answer, but it's a wonderful survival tool. A way to connect to others, a way to stay on top of how others are coping, a way to reach out, a way to stay sane.
There has already been a lot written about the similarities between the current downturn and the Great Depression. But one way today's crisis is fundamentally different is the Internet. With its immediacy and transparency, and the instant debate over policy it provides, the Internet will allow citizens to feel more engaged in government than ever before. And blogging will also make a difference on the personal front as well.
So, to share your stories, your tips, your fears, your ideas with us, click here and fill out the simple form. We'll feature many of them on our Living section, our home base for information and stories on navigating the lean days ahead.
This recession will be blogged. Join us.
PS: For those of you intimidated by the idea of starting a blog, or even writing a blog post for HuffPost, we have put together a new book, The Huffington Post Complete Guide to Blogging. It's an A-to-Z guide to blogging, with something for everyone -- from tech-challenged newcomers looking to get a handle on this revolutionary way of communicating (including tips on choosing the right blogging software) to more experienced bloggers looking to take their work to the next level. The book, which is being released tomorrow, features words-of-blogging-wisdom from Nora Ephron, Harry Shearer, Jamie Lee Curtis, Craig Newmark, Erica Jong, Gary Hart, and many other HuffPost bloggers. You can read an excerpt here.
PPS: Psychologist and HuffPost regular Peggy Drexler launches a new series of posts today on the ways the historic changes rattling our country are forcing us to reshape the future and ourselves. Check out The End of Normal.
I will be appearing on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" this Wednesday, December 3rd at 11PM/10PM Central.