How My Tears Spurred My Activism
I cried three times to @mattplitch tonight. And surprisingly, only one of those was cries was about the desecration happening in Ukraine right now, spurring forced separation of men from their families, massive displacement, and senseless death of innumerable innocent lives. Let me tell you about these tears.
When given the choice to play Big, Medium, Small or Not At All, it’s no surprise to those closest to me that I always Play Big. Which is why when a friend reached out for help to send help to Ukraine two nights ago, I rolled up my sleeves, rubbed the sleepies out of my eyes, dried myself from the bath I was taking, and got to work. Within an hour, we were collecting donations for an earnest, honest, genuine local Ukrainian friend to send money that could positively impact MANY in Ukraine. Within a day, we had our GoFundMe approved to collect donations.
So imagine my duality of thought tonight as I’m tucking into bed. I’m simultaneously ecstatic, grateful and humbled that a group of less than 15 individuals raised $1725 to feed, clothe and diaper refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine, and also simultaneously deeply disappointed that it was only less than 15 people, and $48k short of where I’d like to see us. Yes, $48k. Is that a lot? I dunno. Like I said, I like to Play ‘Big’.
In despair, I cried to Matt — how come I know so many people who don’t give a shit?
“Wait a minute. Calm down. Think of it this way…” (This is why I married this tall drink of water). There are people who have already donated in their own ways. You’re not seeing that. There are those who don’t have funds to donate. There are those who are overwhelmed and can’t take action. And there are those that don’t believe in this form of assistance.
And because in life, as in marriage - for every point there is a counter point, I would say the following to each of those groups of people. (Thanks for helping me shape the narrative, Honey).
- If you’ve already donated your time resources and network, Thank You. Could you consider re-sharing this post (and most importantly, the GoFundMe link at the end of this post) to spread the word? It will take you 15 seconds, and the impact will be bigger than your single contribution. If every person is one node in this massive global humanity network, think about if just 10% of your friends donated $50. I roughly know 1000 people I could comfortably ask for money from to support a worthwhile cause. Do the math. If my 10% of Givers and Helpers, each gave $50, we’d be at $5000. This is why I think we should easily get to $50k. It only takes 10 of you, to do this. By the way, the average donation thus far is $100/person. Each node in the network is a massive contribution.
- If you’re overwhelmed by it all and need a break, great (I get it) but suck it up and donate, and then turn it all off to protect your mental health. And before you do share it with 20 friends. Pretty please!
- If you don’t have much money to give, know that it’s not at all about the amount. It’s about the solidarity. Do what you can. Again, share broadly. That’s probably the most important thing you could do.
- If you don’t believe in aid on a singular vs systemic basis (ie donating to the Polish or Ukrainian Red Cross), let me assure you that I understand. As someone who worked in international health and development for nearly ten years, I used to be the preacher leading the choir in not singing the praises of individual giving. And let me also share a story with you. In 2008, I was living in Bugolobi Uganda, with my then boss @MaggieTidwell. Over leisurely laps in a small pool at her condo (life was simple for me back then), I was sort of distraught and sharing with Maggie how I was being chased by kids and adults when we I walked down the street with their shouts of “mzungu mzungu!” (white person, white person) trailing me. Everyone wanted a piece of me. Or, they wanted a piece of my money, rather. It was exhausting and I remember being so agitated because it felt like giving on a person by person basis was ineffective aid and contrary to development. Maggie put it so simply — think about the best that happens and the worst that happens. Worst thing is you give them your Ugandan Shillings and they blow it on beer, prostitutes and meaningless tchotchkes for their kids. Best that that happens is you absolutely change someone’s life. So given the red or blue pill (Matrix reference) which one would you choose?
To bring this point closer to home (domestically), think of your local houseless population. In Portland the population is very in your face. Houseless people are very unfortunately a dime a dozen. I empathize with the houseless because I deeply believe that any of us could be houseless at any moment given a couple unlucky breaks. Whenever we see a houseless person, @mattplitch and I give them whatever we have available. My husband has been known to give them the coat off his back. He’s also driven home after seeing a houseless person, run to the basement to get our warm sleeping bags, and driven back out to search for said houseless person on cold wintry nights. I don’t share this to receive accolades. Rather because I think most people would say — what if the houseless person blows your $10 on beer? What if the houseless person doesn’t take care of your $180 sleeping bag because they didn’t have to pay for it, and also don’t have a dry place to sleep so it gets ruined.
And my response is always — what if they deserve that beer? What if that houseless person got to sleep in warmth and comfort for one night? Shouldn’t that be enough?
I’m hardwired to take action. My family (who are all mostly like me) is lucky I haven’t given away / sold all of our worldly possessions so that we can donate to whatever meaningful cause of the moment.
It takes every and all restraint I have not to try to acquiesce to my own abhorrent will and complete lunacy to want to save the world.
We don’t have enough wealth or money to want to be this poor. Sometimes it can drive those around me absolutely nuts, or be completely exhausting to everyone including me- but I cannot idly stand by when there are injustices happening all around us.
The Bystander Effect is powerful. Research has shown that, even in an emergency, a bystander is less likely to extend help when he or she is in the real or imagined presence of others than when he or she is alone. So if you’re waiting for people who are richer than you, more connected than you, more wise than you, more (insert any characteristic) more than you to do something, guess what? You’ve only got yourself.
If that wasn’t convincing, how about this. If you personally were in a 40-mile line to flee your own country, do you think you would appreciate a handout of hot tea/coffee, some food to nourish your hungry belly, and maybe a clean cot to lay your weary body? If the answer is yes, for God’s sake, Do Something Now.
All this said, I much prefer taking a positive approach to inspiring others to take action. I loved learning about Dr. Erez Yoeli’s pioneering work in Behavioral Economics. Check him out HERE if you’re not familiar with his work. Then, Be The Light. Have so much joy, conviction, belief, and downright doggedness that others simply cannot ignore it. Spread it as best as possible. We need all of it to catch fire.
Point here is — Don’t be a Bystander. Be an Actor.
I’ve always loved Margaret Mead’s quote — “Never doubt that a small group for thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
I invite you to join me in changing the world. And making it a more just and equitable place across the board. (I promise, it’s a lot of fun.) Pick a cause, any that you care about (Lord knows we have enough to pick from), and just GO. And if anyone reading this wants to share with me why people should NOT be taking action to stand up against Putin’s brutality, I’m all ears. But until then, I’d ask that you join me in donating and / or simply SHARING the donation link. Share the link to this Medium post too while you’re at it. Together, we can Play Big, Do More, and frankly, because-we-absolutely-GD-need-it-now-more-than-ever — save this fiery flaming world.
And finally, and most importantly — May God Bless Ukraine. 🙏🏽🇺🇦❤️
Link to Donate to Wonderful Human Sending Funds to Help Ukrainians Flee the War Safely: https://gofund.me/c9d1a5d2