January's collab for If...:
If you were to dedicate your life to a single cause, what would it be? Which crusade could you feel passionate enough about to want your voice heard, your actions recognized?
An Extended Meditation on Life - Part 1
i'm not sure if there is a single cause, one solitary reason for advocacy, that i could choose. i can't say that any one issue, be it AIDS awareness, affordable housing, raising funds for multiple sclerosis research, or providing support for children with cancer, is more deserving of someone's time and energy. they are all worthy, admirable things, and i would volunteer for any of them. in fact, i have. as a direction, though, all of these fall into the category that i would choose. it would be something that gives back to others. giving time and energy to a food pantry, mentoring a child, or preserving abortion rights would be worth it, because those are places where my efforts would make a positive difference in at least one life.
perhaps this is a cop out. isn't a cause, by definition, that where others benefit? even if it's not a popularly supported idea, a cause is something that comes about because there is a perception of injustice or suffering. or at any rate, some item needs to be redressed. so maybe i need to tackle this one a little more deeply.
::deep breath:: okay. it feels a little selfish saying this, but - i have some skills that i'm proud of. i'm relatively organized and logical, and assessing problems to find solutions is something i'm good at. i've run a small catering company. i've been a house manager for a few theatres. and i've done long range planning for non-profits. all of this lends itself rather neatly to event planning and management. so if what i am able to give is the ability to organize and run, say, a fund-raising event or a small scale office, then i would look for a cause where that kind of service was needed.
that's not getting me very far. that only says what i'd do, not why or for whom. hm. well... if you asked me this week, i'd say i want to get involved in a legal campaign to preserve the right to choose abortion. given the direction the Shrub is taking these days, it scares the bejeezus out of me to think that there's a high probability in the very near future that someone other than me will get to decide what i may or may not do with my body. it's a threat, it's real, and it impacts me directly. and it makes me angry - angry enough to work hard, be loud, agressively lobby for the rights of half the world, a half that is unfortunately sorely under-represented in the higher offices of this country and many others.
but that's just this week. and yes, i'm optimistic enough to think that there is a time when that battle will be over. i find it hard to believe that we, as a society, will always be so catholic in our determination that, yes, in fact, we *do* know what's best for you, and one size does fit all. so this would occupy me for (oh, let's be wildly optimistic) 10 years or so, and then what? i guess that doesn't exactly meet the 'rest of your life' part of the question. and saying 'well, whatever makes me mad this week' isn't much of an answer either. ::sigh:: let's try this again, shall we, from a different angle.
i'm going to confess something to you, and it isn't pretty. it feels very unpretty. i'm lazy. while in theory i can identify several causes to which i'd give my time and energy, i honestly don't get off my ass all that much. i don't even donate all that often. and that takes, what, all of 2 minutes? write a check, put it in an envelope, drop it in the mail. that's a phenomenally small exertion. and yet i don't do it. why? because i'm lazy. it just doesn't occur to me to make the effort. you could say that it also requires not just effort, but an above average generosity of spirit. i'm not buying that. color me idealistic, but i truly think that we all inherently want to do good. how can you not want to help other people? so it's not a question, for me, of how generous one might be. it's a question of choosing to harness your energy to make that difference.
and while we're on the confessional track, i have some blocks about dealing with people. [self: oh, stop sugarcoating it. me: fine.] i am uncomfortable around people with disabilities, elderly people, and those with whom i have a hard time communicating for reasons of language or intelligence. there you have it. it doesn't seem right to say that. but it's true. i feel like i should learn a second language, volunteer to read to people at nursing homes, be a Big Sister, learn how to get over the distress of talking to someone with a physical or mental disability - because they are all human, and to be uncomfortable with them seems to be saying that they are less than that. i feel small and mean when confronted with my dis-ease in this arena. i think i should change, but i'm not sure if i will. i'm not sure if i can stretch myself in that way.
so what do i take from this little bout of confession? some causes are off the list because i don't know if i'm capable of growing in some directions. i will probably never volunteer for a nursing home or work with the disabled. other causes are off the list because they don't make me mad enough to get motivated. interestingly, environmental and animal rights causes also appear to be right off the list; so far, i've only mentioned human rights causes. well, alright, that narrows it down a little, anyway. that gets me a bit closer to an answer.
there's a theme slowly emerging here... my high-minded ideals are in violent opposition to the muddy realities of a life lived. more specifically, in rereading the question, i realized that the 'actions recognized' bit threw me a little. at first, i thought - well, being part of a collective effort is fine, because i wouldn't be in it for the gold stars. idealistically, it seems that doing good should be a selfless act. but really, who am i kidding? we all want to be appreciated. human nature at its finest, my friends. doesn't your day go a little more smoothly when someone thanks you? doesn't matter what motivates them - maybe you held a door open, or finished a huge project at work, or found a thoughtful gift, or just made them laugh. that act of giving back by saying thank you says that someone has been touched by your actions. and that feels good. so, do i want to do it for others, or for myself? if it ends up helping others, does it matter what the motivation is? maybe wanting to be thanked, and see the impact you've made is alright.
maybe, really, i want to do good on a personal level, and raise a happy child.