The 30 Day Project

by heather

30-daysI just finished watching the first episode of a show called 30 Days.

Have any of you ever watched this?

It’s a reality show created by Morgan Spurlock (you know, the guy that did Super Size Me). But 30 Days is a project he started in order to really step into someone else’s shoes, usually someone who’s drastically different than he is.

In the first episode, he spends 30 days living the life of a minimum wage worker in order to see how they’re able to survive.

Spurlock and his fiancee start the project with only one week’s wages in cash, no car, and zero furniture or credit cards. They have to get an apartment they can afford (which ends up being on the bad side of Columbus, OH at $350/mos.), and then have to go find minimum wage jobs.

The experience is incredibly eye opening, and watching it is no different. They’re barely squeaking by when both of them have to go to the emergency room for different reasons. After that, they’re over $1,200 in the hole for the month, with no hope of paying it back anytime soon on their income.

This post isn’t really about this episode (which I wish everyone could watch…if you have Netflix you can look it up and watch it streaming online-the episode is on Season 1, first episode, “Minimum Wage”). The post is really about how this struggle is going on every day and many of us, including myself, don’t even really see it. We read about it, sure, but see it first hand? Mostly not.

These are the waiters and waitresses that bring us our breakfast at the local Coney. These are the people mowing our grass, and taking out our recycling, and sweeping the streets every night. How often do we reach out our hands to help out the people around us?

The show was sobering to watch because it made me realize how very little I was doing to help solve this problem. I give monthly to several charities, and I spend a good deal of time trying to figure out how to live a little lighter on the Earth. But in terms of actually helping people, I don’t do anything at all. Writing a check is not the same thing as helping cook food at a soup kitchen, or volunteering at a furniture bank for those who can’t afford the basic necessities like towels or a kitchen table. It’s not the same at all.

It also brought my spending in complete perspective in a way that it’s never been before. For instance, I bought a ring off Etsy a few weeks ago. The ring was $55.

That’s what a minimum wage worker makes for an entire day’s labor.

It’s Up To Us…

Watching how hard day to day life is for minimum wage workers was difficult and very sobering. But I’m extremely glad I watched it, because it’s made me want to get more involved to help solve the problem.

After thinking about it last night, I realize I could be helping people learn to read so they could get a better job. Andrew could be teaching people computer skills. These are skills that we take for granted…and they could be helping someone else get out of poverty. So, that’s what we’re going to do, probably through the Salvation Army.

Have any of you ever watched this show? If so, what do you think?

I’d also love to hear other ideas for getting involved on a personal level. If you volunteer, what do you do?

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Jade @ Tasting Grace April 25, 2010 at 11:01 am

I haven’t heard of this show but it does sound really interesting. I too donate some to charities, though more of my money goes to microlending (through Kiva). I don’t currently do much volunteering per se (other than fundraising) at the moment, but this fall, my husband and I are moving to Thailand. I’ll be working as Project Director with the SOLD Project, which is dedicated to preventing human trafficking and child prostitution through education and awareness. They try to find donors to give scholarships to kids to help them get an education and pull themselves out of poverty (and out of the path leading to sexual servitude) and they’re building a community resource center to raise awareness of the issue and provide access to information, mentoring, and tutoring. I’m putting together an email penpal exchange program between the kids in Thailand and kids here in the US as well as planning to run weekly seminars on various professional skills. It’s going to be quite a challenge, but I’m really looking forward to having the opportunity to do something hands on. If you’re curious, I’ve blogged about it here: http://jadekeller.com/2010/04/chasing-a-dream/ and here: http://jadekeller.com/2010/04/the-sold-project/

yalennova April 26, 2010 at 9:00 am

Great post! Just wanted to let you know you have a new subscriber – me!

Anonymous April 26, 2010 at 9:14 am

I havent watched the show, but know first hand.
First it is wonderful that you really want to help. Your ideas are great, teaching people computer skills is a wonderful thing, helping cook food for people is also great. Just look around you will see lots of people in need who you will not find in soup kitchens. It can be your neighbor who doesnt have enough food to last her the month, or cant afford good quality food. Most people will not tell you they need help because they are embarassed. Starting community gardens that will have vegetables for people can help a lot. You can also teach people how to start a business online if they make stuff as a hobby you can show they how to sell it, market it, or to start a website. You can help people network, to get jobs, or to get information that might help them do better in life. There is so much you can do to help, the most important thing is that you care enough to want to help. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for life

heather April 26, 2010 at 2:50 pm

@Jade- Thanks so much for writing in! Your job in Thailand sounds so amazing…what a worthy cause to be involved with! I’d love to keep in touch to hear about your experiences. Thanks so much for including a link to your blog!

Allison April 26, 2010 at 9:45 pm

I tutor an adult literacy student and the time we spend together is the most rewarding of my week. It is amazingly gratifying to see him progress and to see positive changes in his life. There is so much that can be done to help people are who less fortunate. I know it can be overwhelming and it’s easy to get frustrated with being able to help “only” one person or a handful of people. But it makes a difference and that one person or handful of people can then make a difference in the lives of their friends and family. Volunteering also reminds me to appreciate how fortunate I am.

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