Friday, September 18, 2015

A World of Worthy Causes...but How to Choose?

Wow, my lovely readers. What an overwhelming response to my last post. Comments, arguments, and most importantly, conversation....the biggest compliment a writer can receive. I'm overwhelmed and excited. I took a risk writing about such a controversial topic and I am honored to say it's been my most-shared post to date.

Hasn't all been wonderful, of course. I've lost a few followers. I had a couple people hide my posts from their Facebook News Feed. I've learned things about my friends and family that surprised me. Made me a little sad. At one of my weakest moments, I sat at my computer and typed and deleted and retyped and got up and came back and deleted and typed again comments toward the more poignant and misplaced responses to my post, most notably the argument that the #blacklivesmattermovement calls for the killing of police. You know. Because in some realities extremists represent the entire group. If we were to follow that logic, then the entire law enforcement profession is racist and violent against unarmed black men. The Muslim religion is to blame for terrorism. Priests are molesters. And women driving crossover vehicles are clueless soccer moms checking Facebook on their phones. 

Needless to say, this type of thinking angers me deeply. And being a writer, I wanted to write about it. Right then. There. Immediately. But these people are friends. So I hesitated. And fixated. Weighed the pros and cons of making a point. Compared perspectives. And my spouse heard about it for days. 

Eventually my obsession reached a point where my spouse felt the need to say, very bluntly, "Jen, just let it go. This isn't your cause."

And that got me thinking. 

I am a deeply passionate person. I feel all the feels, all the time, with all the things. And it seems there is always something calling my attention, always a new inspiration, a new way for me to help and express my passion through both my time and money. As of this blog post, a few of my personal passions include:

Wounded Warriors Foundation
Saving the pollinators
The feminist movement 
Finding a cure for SMA
Backyard farming and food self-sufficiency
Unschooling/learn-through-experiences teaching methods
Permaculture design and landscaping
The #Blacklivesmatter movement
Living off the grid/eco-power
Eliminating homelessness in our veteran population
Feed Our Starving Children
Supporting local businesses
Suicide awareness
Food Bank of Northern Illinois
The gay pride movement
Upcycling and building from garbage
Early intervention in the state of Illinois
Ethical treatment of our nation's farmers and farmland
In-season-only food consumption/canning, freezing, and preserving
Single mother support in moms groups like MOPS
Mental health for Armed Forces
Food Co-Ops
Homeopathic treatments for cancer
Disaster preparedness and basic survival skills for kids
Seed saving
The Salvation Army
Various wildlife charities (National Wildlife Federation, National Parks Conservation Association, National Audubon Society, Greenpeace, Defenders of Wildlife, The Sierra Club, The Arbor Day Federation, and Heifer International)

And folks, those are just the things I could think of in the three minutes it took for me to type all that up.

I care about a whole lotta stuff. Which means I kinda feel like everything is "my cause." 

But there's gotta be some sorta prioritization of passions, right? I ask myself the question: How can you make the most of your limited days on this earth? Is it possible to contribute to the things that make you tick while still getting the laundry done?

And when does the blessing of having access to so many incredible causes turn into something negative?

For me, it happens when I feel like a failure. A failure for writing profound thoughts about racism and then getting pissed two days later because my toenail polish chipped. A failure for being too tired to hit up the farmers' market and shopping at Jewel instead. A failure for wanting to save my money for Christmas presents instead of donating to the food pantry.

And I know I'm not alone. 

I was at my mom's group this past week and a number of ladies referenced a "full plate." My best dear girlfriend has a set group of charities she remains devoted to and that's it, see ya later, no more from her because she has to create that limit or else she'd be broke and crazy. We all feel pulled in a thousand different directions, and nowhere is this more evident than in our yearning to participate in the various causes and deserving efforts of those around us. 

But my heart and my head don't match, you see. I feel like I cannot give my last dollar away and still be a responsible parent. I feel like each of these causes deserve a lifetime of attention and devotion. And I've only got one lifetime, man. And I'm not even living it at 100% most days. Flaws, forgiven, people.

So what can we do? How do we choose?

I start by sharing the things I'm passionate about with anyone who will listen. I try to gather others to help. Here, check this out. Hey, what do you think of this. Wow, you gotta see this new thing I found. Maybe if we all did a little, it would equal a lot. It's hard to not take it personally when my messages aren't received. Sometimes I cry. But then I try again. And remember that like me, each person has his or her own set of causes they are working to support. 

Graceful Declination
I perform a "daily limit" method to try and calm my restless soul. Yes, I want to do all the things for all the people and animals all the time. But I also have a life playing out right before my very eyes that needs attention....attention I want to give. Attention I yearn to give. So I contribute a little bit of myself to a small number of causes each day, be it a quick check-in with the latest news, educating myself on recent events, sharing a post, or simply teaching my kids why a particular cause is important. And then I pray that when I put my head down at night, I will feel like I've done enough. It's no foolproof method, let me tell you. I sometimes forget to check in with the things that matter outside of my little bubble. But when I do remember, and I can focus my attention, I feel accomplished. 

Choose Around Your Adventure
I try to pick causes where I can have the greatest impact. This is selfish, I think, but effective at narrowing down the never-ending options. Do I love fishies and whales? Yes. Do I help with ocean clean-up? No. I do not live near an ocean. Do I think the broken adoption process in America is a cause worthy of ceaseless attention? Absolutely. Do I devote attention to making a difference in that area? I do not. I haven't the slightest clue what those families go through and do not in any way consider myself an expert in the process. Do I support the Koman Cure? No, not only because I think it's corrupted, but because the organization is already receiving millions of dollars in financial support. 

I do, however, support lesser-known charities in dire need of funds, like direct campaigns for babies suffering from spinal muscular atrophy - a disease I knew nothing about until an old college friend shared his daughter's story. I do know how it feels to be broke and tired and sick because you can't justify the cost of healthy food, hence my attempts to make healthy food accessible in our own backyards. I have experienced profiling because of my sexual preferences and witnessed racism in our nation's ranks of military men and women. These are the things I know, the causes where my passion is met by the experience a person can only get by actually going through or witnessing the hardship themselves.

A little bit of "NIMBY" going on here - "not in my backyard" -  right? As in, if it doesn't directly affect you, why should you care? And I'm going to say what I said way back when I wrote my Power Plant're dang right.

It is easier to relate to the homeless when you yourself have experienced homelessness. When I see a single mom struggling to make it out to social events it kills me...because my mom was a single mom. I am more helpful when I've experienced it myself - this is not a negative aspect of life, people, this is a gift to be shared. A light resulting from your own personal darkness. And yes, a tool for whittling down the thousands of directions we're pulled every day. Take my best good girlfriend with her set list of charities, for example. She's worked with struggling children, including those of Mexican immigrants, for years. You talk about immigration reform and it sets her on fire. She is outspoken, and opinionated, and passionate about the rights of Mexican immigrants. She's met these families. She is close to their struggles. And thank gosh for that, because they need more people like her in their corner.

So choose around your adventure. Name some of your worst hardships. I bet at least one of them can be followed to a worthy cause. 

Maybe if we share a little more, allow ourselves to gracefully tap out when we're overcome, and try to dedicate ourselves to issues we've experienced firsthand, we might actually get to the end of our life and think, yes. I made an impact. We may not hit every cause we feel for, but the ones we do will be changed by our contribution. And that is, contrary to my own personal beliefs, enough.

I'd love to hear from you, dear readers. How do you determine which causes you contribute to? Do you ever feel pulled in a thousand directions? What's your favorite way of managing the endless choices? And as always, readers, thank you so, so much for reading.



  1. "Choosing around my adventure" matters a lot in how I spend my time and money--I know the same sorts of themes come up again and again in what I care about and what I do something about. You absolutely do have to choose, and I don't see choosing areas of greatest impact as selfish. We all have different talents--working effectively in those areas of gifting and talent is so much more effective than forcing yourself to serve in areas of non-passion and non-talent.

    1. I definitely thought of you when I was writing that section - you've had some very unique experiences I knew would push you towards specific causes and niches! I mean, thank gosh for your interest in teaching - those girls are so lucky to have you!

  2. That's a great question, I guess I choose things that hit my heart. I get involved with many children's groups and outreaches, and some animal rescues. But you can't do everything for everyone. And I LOVED your post last week and saw it was getting controversial comments so I stayed away. Sorry friend!

    1. :) Thanks Kristen. It was a tough subject but I appreciate you reading!! Glad you liked it :) I love animal rescues too!

  3. I choose things based on level of closeness and effect to those around me. I'm always in a thousand directions. Any given day, week, month I'm in a thousand places at once. My brain does not take breaks. It's exhausting. So I shutdown most weekends because of this Lol Winter is a-coming, with that, comes hibernation. I'll soon be in a wintery slumber until Spring and I am actually looking forward to it. :) Don't let things get to you too much because you'll drive yourself, and others, insane! Take Care lovely Jen! -Iva

    1. Iva I am so, so excited for winter. I mean, I am more than ready for it. I also enter a nice little hibernation period - I refuse plans whenever possible and just enjoy my time alone (if I can get it!) :) I am also one of those 100 things a time people - it's sometimes so hard to choose because I love to help out everywhere, all the time. So glad to know I've got a kindred spirit out there, Iva!! :)