Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Do You Choose Your Causes Or Do They Choose You?

Everywhere I turn these days, it seems I am surrounded by a sea of pink somehow linking back to Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Soon, holiday season promotions will begin and we’ll be seeing all kinds of charitable messaging around the "season of giving." Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not complaining. The more dollars given to charity, the better! However, I do stop and wonder whether our charitable actions are motivated more by personal preferences or just really good marketing. In other words, do we choose our causes or do they choose us?

Seems like a silly question, but let’s give this some serious thought.

Answer this question honestly: Do you care more about breast cancer than other life-threatening diseases like lung cancer, heart disease or AIDS? If your answer is yes, then that’s wonderful news because your cause is getting lots of attention and funding right now. However, if you answered “no,” then you might be wondering why in the world all of America is looking so pink these days.

On a related note, here’s a quick little quiz for you.

Did you know that in addition to being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, October is also…

a) Domestic Violence Awareness Month

b) LGBT History Month

c) National Down Syndrome Awareness Month

d) World Blindness Awareness Month

e) Healthy Lung Month

This quiz is worth a total of 5 points. Give yourself 1 point for every time you answered, “yes.” How many points did you get? Not surprisingly, I got a whopping zero, a.k.a. a big fat F. So, either I’m really ignorant or we’re all doing a lot more to promote breast cancer awareness this month than any other cause that happens to “share” October with breast cancer awareness.

Here’s another question: Are you more inclined to volunteer at a soup kitchen, raid your closet for gently used shoes and clothes, or donate cash to a homeless shelter towards the end of the year, during the height of the holiday season, than at any other time? For me, the answer is most definitely, “yes.”

Last year, money was tight in my household. So, I had a choice to make. Either I could make my ritual end-of-year donation to charity or I could buy holiday gifts for the various members of my rather large family. While I was tempted to go on a holiday shopping spree, I decided to make an online donation to a homeless shelter in Chicago, where much of my family happens to live. I, then, sent holiday cards to my family members, informing them that I’ve made a donation in their name to this particular homeless shelter. It felt so good to do that, but honestly, I have no idea why I chose a homeless shelter over any other charity. There’s just something about the holidays that makes me think of helping out the homeless even though I’m so much more passionate about women’s and girls' empowerment issues (hence why I launched Glamour Gone Good this year).

Am I alone here? Or do you often find yourself getting involved with the “cause of the moment” even if it’s not really the cause you’re most passionate about?

In my humble opinion, huge advertising and marketing firms, as well as the Fortune 100 companies that hire them, have somehow penetrated my mind and taught me to believe that during the month of October, I need to think pink, talk pink, and wear pink. Then, during the holidays, I need to empty my closet and my pocketbook for the homeless people in my community. And, any time a natural disaster hits any part of the world and involves substantial human devastation, I need to shell out as much cash as I can to support the cause…and if I don’t, there’s something seriously wrong with me.

What’s your opinion? Am I over-thinking the influence of corporate America and American media on my personal decisions regarding charitable giving? Or would you agree that, generally speaking, Americans tend to spend less time and money on issues that speak to us than to causes of the moment?

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