The things we do because we care

I’m losing my faith in humanity.  I, like many of the stories I’ve read here, have some form of forward thinking where I see our destructive nature, our denial at our own hand in it, and the outright narcissism and hatred towards those of us who bear the weight of this knowledge and try to educate others, or battle injustice, disease, disaster capitalism, and social injustice daily.

My current dilemma?  I’m taking part in the American cancer society’s annual bike-a-thon in Philadelphia this year.  I participated last year also.  To do this, I “donate” a pretty sizeable fee to ride, and also try to get donations for my team.  The ACS doesn’t just throw money at junk medicine and science as many people seem to take pride in trumpeting about, but provide critical services to those who have cancer and need support, rides, and medical assistance.

I struggled last year with raising donations, and finally succumbed to asking people very directly and being pushy in a salesman-type way, which is not my way. It was an internal struggle, but I felt as if I had to be pushy and hated it.  This year, I’ve only posted on FB and asked people more generally for donations, and with only a 6 weeks before the ride, I’ve gained exactly $0 in donations.  One facebook post asking for donations resulted in someone ridiculing the ACS and discouraging others from donating.  These are supposed to be my friends?

I feel depressed that had any of them asked me for a donation to their cause, with very few exceptions, I would happily have supported their efforts.  I only give pause to the most known corrupt charities and always do my homework on who helps, and most really do help to great degrees.

So yeah, every attempt to raise donations has only resulted in my increased sense of loss- loss of people I thought were friends, loss of my feelings towards humanity, and loss of some self.  I often wonder how well I could do in this world had I only sheer ignorance, denial, and a fair amount of narcissism in me.  At times I wish I was a jerk like everyone else, but I’m not.  I can’t change who I am, but I’m terribly discouraged right now.

Caring can sometimes feel like a burden, or a losing battle, especially when the time comes to take action.  Those who feel genuine concern are the ones who are left to shoulder the less glamorous tasks of organizing, corresponding, following up, and raising funds, whilst the “trumpeters” are nowhere to be seen or heard.  I empathize strongly with your feelings of frustration and discouragement, and I would even go so far as to say that if my Spark capabilities allowed it, I would feel frustrated and discouraged myself.  In fact, you may find it a comfort to know that you are by no means alone in the world of despair and frustration when it comes to caring and wanting to make the world a better place. You can be sure that anyone who has ever made an impact on social justice or environmental issues has experienced a healthy dose of discouragement, depression and loss of self-worth through their many fruitless attempts to be heard or taken seriously. It takes a lot of courage, determination and perseverance to break through the seemingly impenetrable wall of complacency that surrounds you, in the form of “friends” and family, colleagues, acquaintances and strangers in the crowd. Knock-backs and indifference hurt, particularly when it’s directed towards a cause that you feel passionate about.

The important thing to remember is that the wall is not impenetrable, it is possible to have an impact, and every attempt to chip away helps. For every hundred people who don’t seem to care, there will be a precious few who will applaud you and value your efforts. This is what makes it feel worthwhile. But even if nobody recognizes or appreciates your commitment, pressing on and doing everything you can do, just to know that you did your best, is still important, because it matters to you and the things you feel strongly about are worth fighting for.

There are two parts to my advice, and depending on how the first part goes you might not need the second.

The first thing is to keep trying to raise donations, which will involve asking for them, but doesn’t mean you have to become a salesman. Use personal appeals to those who you think might be most receptive and spread the net wider to find people who are genuine and willing to support your cause. Maybe there are people and places you haven’t yet thought of approaching? You could ask others who are participating in the ACS ride how they are going with fund raising and see if they can offer you advice, or even just moral support.  It really does help. You could give your “friends” both in and out of Facebook a reminder. There may be some people who did like the idea, but just forgot.

The content of your appeals and reminders is where you can concentrate on not being too pushy, but bear in mind that some people might need you to explain why you think the charity is worthwhile. Others might be compelled if they knew how much it would mean to you if they helped you, or  they might need to know that even a very small donation is appreciated – that they don’t have to give more than they can spare. If you choose your words carefully it should be possible to make a respectable effort to raise donations without feeling you have been too pushy. Don’t feel you have to be someone you aren’t, but remember that you will more likely come across as passionate than pushy.

If your efforts to raise donations still leave you feeling depressed because certain people disappoint you, then the second part of my advice is to use your empathy to help you feel better.

Pick one of the people who disappointed you, assume that deep down they are a decent person and imagine being them. Try to work out why they behaved the way they did. For example, did the person who ridiculed ACS on Facebook think they were helping you by warning you? Or were they feeling envious because they don’t manage to do charity rides (but would like to)? Maybe they aren’t fit enough or can’t afford to make the donation required? Others might be going through some kind of crisis and haven’t got the energy to pay attention to you. It doesn’t really matter what the reason is, but if you put yourself in their shoes it will not only make you feel better but help you to work out how to be more successful in future campaigns.

The Spark

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