Monday, May 7, 2012

Raising Awareness about Raising Awareness

I'm tired of the concept of "raising awareness." When did that become a goal in itself? Name one good thing that "awareness" does.

It seems that a growing number of people think that if they "raise awareness" about                , they are helping to solve a problem. I recently heard about a group of (I hope) well-meaning people who want to form a committee to discuss problems facing certain "at risk" segments of the population. They'll initiate and encourage dialogue and innovative collaboration on a number of issues.  There was a sign-up sheet for those interested in being part of this group. Nowhere did the printout list any concrete goals of good accomplished. It was all about raising money and talking.

Unless the problem is too much silence, talking as a goal will not solve the problem.

Awareness does not treat a problem. Being aware of breast cancer does not treat it. Being aware of hunger does not feed anyone. Being aware of AIDS will not prevent infection. Being aware of abuse or neglect does not improve conditions for those in pain.

I realize that raising awareness is a way to feel better about oneself. How warm and fuzzy it is to care about the less fortunate, whether they be people or animals. But it is a false validation.

Unless the talk is accompanied by action it is useless. That makes it meaningless. If I am sleeping on a park bench it does not help me one whit if you tell your friend how bad you feel for me or if you really-think-something-needs-to-be-done to help me. If all you do is talk, you've done nothing.

If there is a problem that you feel passionate about, DO something.

If you feel bad for the cancer victim, give money to research. Or better yet, find someone and help directly. If you know a woman suffering from breast cancer, bring her a meal so she doesn't have to use her precious energy to cook. Take her out to a movie to provide some distraction. Watch her kids or do her dishes so she can take a nap. Sit with her one evening so her husband can go out bowling and have a break from his burden of watching his loved one battle something that he can't fight for her. Offer to just listen to whatever she wants to talk about. Anonymously slip an envelope with $100 in it under their door to help pay some of the expenses in a way that they can't refuse and can't "owe" you.

If your call is to help mistreated animals, volunteer at an animal shelter to help care for the animals. Find a place that rescues animals and give your time and money to help. Become a vet and offer your services at a discount. Set up a fund for people who have animals who need medical treatment but can't afford it. Or pay for a treatment yourself.

There are many ways you can make a positive impact in this world.  But rarely will that be by joining a group of like-minded people who are prepared to do nothing more than "really care."

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