A few days ago, I heard about a neighborhood retailer who was struggling financially. It made me sad.

It also surprised me. Every time I go into the shop–a couple of times a month–they’re busy. But theirs is a low-dollar, low-margin product. So a little steady business doesn’t necessarily lead to much profit.

Then I read King Kaufman’s provocative post on Open Salon: “The TV Lottery Ticket.” Kaufman writes about a recent NBC Dateline report on people in Ohio struggling with the sluggish economy. Since the report aired, the people profiled on the show have been flooded with money, offers of jobs, and other support from viewers.

Kaufman made an interesting observation:

“This is absolutely par for the course, it’s what happens every single time there is a sob story on the TV, but here’s the thing: People don’t care. They just respond to what’s on television.”

True. Kaufman says, accurately, that being on TV is like winning the lottery. The good people sending in the money and the job offers from all over America are racing right past lots of other needy people in their own home towns to connect with the story they saw on television.

I’d suggest something more broadly true, however: people respond to stories presented with passion and craft. They respond to causes that are well marketed, and television is one of the most powerfully emotional storytelling media ever invented.

But television’s expensive–and it’s not the only medium out there. One of the best is right here: the blog.

Your blog can reach lots of people–hundreds, thousands, even. You can reach them with powerful emotion. You can include video, or audio, or both. You can illustrate your point with photographs or drawings.

And you can use the power of words to tell amazing, engaging stories.

And sometimes, people just need to know you need help. When I heard, for example, that my friendly neighborhood retailer was wobbling, I went in and bought what I could. If you can help, you do.

So: I’m asking.

My Beautiful Wife started working at the Humane Society of Indianapolis this year. Rebecca is a person with┬ámany causes–but homeless dogs and cats is her nearest and dearest. The Humane Society is pulling itself out of years of financial hardship. The tough economy means people have to surrender their pets–and the Humane Society is trying to care for more animals than ever. If this cause is important to you, I urge you to consider how you can help.

For more than eight years now, I’ve been part of Second Helpings, as a volunteer, board member, advisor, fan, and co-creator of Tonic. This organization rescues food from big-hearted, socially conscious wholesalers, grocers, restaurants, and others and uses it to provide nutritious meals to Indianapolis social service agencies that feed more than 2,500 of our hungriest neighbors every day. (That number includes hundreds of hungry kids, btw.) Second Helpings also runs an amazing job training program where people who are economically disadvantaged learn culinary skills. Feeding people is pretty basic, folks. Teaching people the skills they need to lead productive lives is right up there, too. And doing it all with food that was going to be thrown away? Genius.

Finally, consider Second Story. We created Second Story three years ago to help kids in Indianapolis find joy in writing as they discover their voices, explore their world, and embrace a life of curiosity and self-expression. We want kids who hate writing to discover that they actually love it–and kids who love writing to love it even more. We think exploring their worlds through writing makes them better students. And our results seem to be supporting our ideas.

Second Story has been a part-time program with a part-time director, the astonishing Mr. Jim Walker. Now we’re ready to become a real, grounded organization helping more kids in more schools, with a home of our own in Fountain Square. We think writing is important to the future of art, business, science, culture, education, philosophy–humanity. We’re looking for people who agree–and people who want to support us.

Lots of people–and lots of worthy organizations–are struggling to make it in our tough economy. Please take a look around you. If you can help, help. If you need help, ask. Find something you believe in, someone who’s making a difference in your city, someone who just needs help. We can’t all be on TV. But that doesn’t mean we don’t need your generosity. We may need it even more.

(And here on the web, in your blog, you sort of can be on TV.)