What’s grinding your gears? Writer Julia Haskins has the answer to that question. In what, according to Haskins, is not at all a shameless rip-off of Family Guy, she will explore the unsettling and downright upsetting issues concerning civil rights, human rights, and political correctness.
Currently Grinding My Gears: Charitable causes competing
I am absolutely terrified of Dance Marathon. The idea of not only dancing for 30 hours straight, but also contending with fatigue, delirium and finals the next day, leaves me in awe of those brave souls taking on this crazy endeavor. I have the utmost respect for my friends who brave the cold at football games and don yellow bibs at basketball games, canning to raise money for a cause they believe in. I’m proud of all of them, and it makes me sick that they have to deal with people who think their money should be going to a “better cause.”
Over the past month I’ve heard from quite a few friends that canning has become frustrating because people berate them for not giving their money to Haitian crisis relief. People were actually upset that Northwestern students were asking for money for homeless teens when there were thousands of people dying in Haiti.
I was appalled. Here were my friends, giving up their own time for a completely selfless task, and they were being reproached by people who honestly thought they were doing wrong by asking for money in the midst of a bigger tragedy at the time. I find that attitude ridiculous. Does our society really have a one-track mind with which we can only focus on one crisis at a time?
The earthquake in Haiti was a tragedy. There is no getting around that fact. It killed over 200,000 people and displaced countless more. It ripped families apart and created emotional havoc across a country in which the rest of the world already seemed to have lost hope. I watched a friend here suffer as her family in the U.S. tried to stay in touch with their loved ones in Haiti. It was more pain than I could ever understand. But I did what I could to help, making frequent trips to CVS for toiletries and giving money at fundraisers for NU Stands with Haiti. It didn’t matter that I didn’t know these people — a crisis was happening, and we as fellow humans were expected help those in need.
But isn’t this the same idea behind Dance Marathon? At the heart of it all, we’re fighting for basic human rights. Everyone deserves a safe home, food, clothing and security. These are essentials that transcend geographic boundaries. The homeless teen in Chicago may feel just as despondent as the Haitian whose home is now in shambles.
But it’s not just small-minded people at sporting events. Our culture pushes the idea that we are only supposed to focus on the worst. When Facebook teamed up with Chase Bank for Chase Community Giving, I felt like I had to choose the “best” charity out of a list of worthy causes. Chase Community Giving had Facebook users vote for their favorite charity, which would receive one million dollars. Although I could pick several, I felt uncomfortable considering one my “favorite.” Did I care more about To Write Love On Her Arms and their dedication to suicide prevention, or Invisible Children Inc. and bringing child soldiers home? For some people the answer might be obvious, but for me it wasn’t so black and white.
I’ve realized Northwestern doesn’t have this picking and choosing problem. Every day that I went into my dorm, I saw more items piling up in our NU Stands with Haiti box. On Monday there was food, by Friday a bunch of clothes, and eventually the box overflowed and we had to move it to another room. Every day was also a new opportunity to donate. I went to several shows in which the proceeds from particular nights went to Haitian relief. There was hot chocolate by the Rock, handmade bracelets and fundraiser parties. I was amazed by the creativity and tenacity of Northwestern students. We were on a mission and we were going to do everything we could to help those who were suffering. We even raised more than twice our goal for NU Stands with Haiti.
But at the same time, everywhere I turned there was still an unyielding dedication to Dance Marathon. I would call friends up on a Friday night who couldn’t hang out with me because they were busy canning. And when they weren’t canning, they were harassing every extended family member they knew for donations. At a Mee-Ow show the other night, I met a Northwestern alum who invited me to a Dance Marathon fundraiser in Chicago. No longer a student, he still wanted to help an important cause. I was touched.
And the kicker was that these causes often worked in conjunction, like when Dance Marathon had a Trivia Night with the proceeds going to Haitian relief. Not once did I see NU Stands with Haiti or Dance Marathon competing with each other for donations.
“What’s most important to us is getting students involved, getting students really excited about a cause,” said Communications senior Rucha Mehta, Dance Marathon public relations co-chair. “I personally would apologize to all those dancers and committee members who have been out canning who had to hear that, because we’re really proud of them for going out there. It’s not an easy thing standing out there with a can asking people for help, but it’s a great thing that they’re doing.”
She added, “No one should be telling them that what you’re doing is wrong…the most important thing for them to understand [is] that they are as dancers doing a really great job for a great cause and obviously every little way we can help other causes is very important to us as well.”
Maybe as Northwestern students we’ve just become so accustomed to multi-tasking that we’re able to handle more than one crisis simultaneously. But I’d like to think that for the most part, Northwestern really is a community of caring and dedicated people.
“It’s not that we don’t care about everything else that’s going on,” Mehta said. “We have over 8,000 students at Northwestern and everyone works toward something that they really care about, and not one person from Dance Marathon will ever say that we don’t care about these other causes because what our main focus is is to get the campus united.”
And they say our generation doesn’t care.