By Jason Menard
Who is more deserving? When it’s a matter of life and death, how do we choose whose life and death matters more?
There are only so many charities and so few dollars to go around. While I know I should be thankful for the situation I’m in, the fact of the matter is we all struggle to make ends meet. We can’t give as much as we like to everyone, so how do we choose?
The question comes up due to my recent purchase of Aldo’s Empowerment tags in support of YouthAIDS program. But why did I choose to spend my money there, as opposed to other no-less worthy causes? There’s no good answer, other than I felt it was right.
Immediately, when we donate to any cause, we feel the need to justify our decision. As if our own personal preferences weren’t enough, we feel pressure to make sure our choice stands up to external scrutiny. Why AIDS over cancer? How about heart disease, diabetes, or the Special Olympics? Why one over the other?
And the simple answer is that we have to do something. Otherwise, we run the risk of suffering paralysis by analysis. There are four causes that my family supports as much as possible: AIDS, heart research, cancer, and world/child poverty. But why are my visible signs of support limited to the white band around my wrist and a necklace around my neck?
I’ve got no good answer. At least nothing more than it feels right.
When it comes to my wife and I, our family has been touched by a number of issues, which have shaped our charitable intentions: we’ve had family members suffer from and even die of heart conditions; we’ve lost family members to cancer; we currently have a friend who is slowly losing the battle against AIDS; and we are strong supporters of debt forgiveness and sustainable growth in developing nations.
However, we’ve also been touched by other diseases. From friends with Multiple Sclerosis to family members suffering from paralysis and even personal experiences with nerve damage, asthma, ADD, and pulmo-resperatory issues, we’ve got ample targets to which our support can be directed. But somehow, somewhere, you have to make a choice. For better or for worse, there’s only so much we can do. Yet, if we become paralyzed with the inability to justify our decisions, then we run the risk of doing even more damage by doing nothing at all.
As 30-something youth, AIDS is rightfully our generation’s disease and, as such, we have an obligation to fight the battle. It’s emergence in the 1980s coincided with our growth into social consciousness. Our circle of friends includes many in the gay community who have felt the destructive power of the disease first-hand. Add to that the devastation this disease is wreaking over Africa, when so much can be done to help prevent it.
And maybe we support anti-poverty efforts because there’s a clear solution to the problem. This is a situation that can be resolved in the not-so-distant future as long as we have the social and political will behind us to make the right decisions. Perhaps the idea of supporting a cause that can be cured is more appealing than continuing to throw money at telethons for diseases where we’re only being fed hope, not solutions. Is that right? No. Is that realistic? Maybe.
Maybe we’re selfish with our choices? The facts that my father had a quadruple-bypass and my grandfather passed from a heart attack are significant components of my support for that cause. As well, with grandparents and friends being both victims and survivors of cancer, we feel more of an affinity for those charities? Are they any more valuable than the others? Probably not – but, again, we had to make a choice.
The reality is, for every 10 reasons I can support one cause, there is a corresponding number of equally valid reasons to support another. We can’t justify our choice, but nor should we feel guilty – at least not as long as we make a choice and do something. There is so much for us to give – not only of money, but of time and support – that there’s no excuse for us not to participate in solving the world’s problems, one step at a time. There is no magic bullet, there will be no quick fix for anything, but through our mutual efforts we can affect change.
They may seem like small steps, it may seem like an insignificant number, but making a small difference is far better than making no difference at all. My Empowerment tag reads “Speak” and now I have spoken. For better or for worse, I’ve made a choice. It’s one small step, but at least it’s a step forward.
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