Saturday, January 10, 2015

Nothing is Going to Get Better, It's Not.

Chances are, anyone who has come in contact with a Hallmark card has at some point read a version of the Starfish Story.  As a recap, it goes something like this:  Child walks along the beach, sees a zillion starfish washed up on the shore and begins to throw them back into the ocean.  Parent to child: You can't possibly make a difference.  Child throws another.  Child to parent: I made a difference to that one.

Perfect right?  Here's the untold part of that story:

Parent rolls eyes at child and sits down to eat lunch.  Child neurotically throws as many starfish as he can while glancing over his shoulder at said parent.  Child accidentally cuts hand on a piece of glass while trying to chuck a starfish.  Forty starfish later, child becomes exhausted and decides perhaps lunch is a good idea after all.

The moral of the story is:  It can be tough to stand up for what you believe - especially when the odds seem stacked, impact isn't immediately obvious and lunch is so darn delicious.

Taking a "lunch break" from changing the world (or yourself for that matter) doesn't have to mean throwing in the towel.  But once you are rested, don't forget to get back out there and throw more starfish - this time with friends who like to throw starfish too.  And never, never doubt the impact you can make by simply choosing to stand up.  **Note:  This post may or may not be a pep talk to myself.

Because making a difference is possible.  And it's easier than you'd think.

Don't be Duped

It's no secret I am not a fan of organizations who take advantage of well-meaning givers (Watch my Tedx talk here.) It turns out, just because a non-profit organization "looks good" doesn't necessarily mean they "do good".  And the amount of money funneled into unnecessary fluff and CEO salaries is enough to make a girl think twice before chipping in to any cause.  But as easy as it is to rage against the philanthropic machine, it's important to remember we each have an obligation to do a little research before we send our dollars and time.

Of course, that can be easier said than done.

Luckily, there are resources out there that make it easy to sort through the bad apples and find organizations whose values align with your own.  This helps ensure your dollars are doing the most good and packing the biggest punch.  Because - let's face it - we have enough proverbial pink coffee mugs to go around.

Charity Navigator 

This uber inclusive website displays the good, the bad and the ugly about every non-profit organization who files for 501-3 tax exempt status - including health, education and animal related causes among others.  Want to see how your fav stacks up or curious about the annual salary of the Komen Foundation CEO? (Hint:  It's more than the president)  It's all here.

Give a Little

As a nurse in a busy ICU, there was a time when I could hang blood tubing in my sleep.  But although those precious red bags were just "part of the job", I never thought for a moment I would one day find myself staring into the business end of a blood transfusion. (Read why here.)  Two years later, it's a gift I am incredibly thankful to have received - and one I will never take for granted.

Blood products helped put the pink back into my cheeks and saves countless lives every year.  But not everyone can donate due to exclusions ranging from international travel to tattoos.  This makes receiving donations from those who can all the more imperative - especially during this time of year when stockpiles often run dangerously low.

According to the American Red Cross, a single donation can help up to three people and it's an easy way to - quite literally - give of yourself.  So if you can donate, please do.  If altruism isn't enough to  get you off the couch - they also serve cookies.  And I'm fairly certain altruistic cookies don't have calories.

Find a donation center here.

Choose to be More Involved

In a few short weeks, I will be embarking on yet another sweaty palm inducing endeavor.  This time as a volunteer lobbyist for the American Cancer Society - something I know absolutely nothing about.

(Want to throw some starfish with me? Read more about American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network here.)

Frankly, I don't know that I will be successful in this endeavor as the odds seem impossibly stacked against meaningful change.  The state of Idaho boasts some alarmingly poor health statistics. Its citizens have some of the highest rates of skin cancer and lowest rates of insurance coverage or access to health screenings in the entire country. And when I look at the sheer magnitude of what needs to be done and how small my tiny (blue in a very red state) voice truly is - it can be overwhelming to say the least.    

But if not me - then who?

We cannot possibly save them all, but we must each choose to throw those dang starfish back into the ocean.  We must sign petitions, discuss issues bigger than the size of Kim Kardashian's bum and most importantly - we must vote.  Because action - great or small - is the only way to bring about change.

In the immortal words of the great Dr. Seuss - Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better - it's not.  

Now get out there and chuck some starfish.