Which Cause Is More Important To You?
Recently I wrote a blog about the importance of using your social influence for good. To actually advocate for change and make the world a better place. Apparently it was interesting to some and today I did an interview for a radio show about the blog. However, I was a little thrown by the direction the interview went.
After I talked a little about how social influence is obtained, how it is gauged and valued, I talked about why people need to use that influence for good. I talked about how some people use their influence to highlight brands, hair products, foods to eat, clubs to go to — but few actually use it to talk about a cause, or to encourage people to volunteer at a soup kitchen or adopt a rescue dog. The interviewer asked me what my cause is — it was still a good interview to this point, so I answered.
I don’t have just one, I have several things that are important to me. It’s like my mom tells people there’s never been a pair of shoes I didn’t love, I don’t know that there’s a cause I don’t support. However, my biggest passions — you know, where I spend the most time, energy and money- those are animal rescue, women’s equality in the wage war, veteran’s support for medical care and mental illness, the fight for stricter rape laws, human trafficking awareness and the war to stop female genital mutilation. The interviewer then asked the million dollar question… “If you had to choose one, which is the most important?”
So I said, “But I don’t have to choose.”
So he said, “But if you did…” and I replied “But I don’t.”
He asked me a couple more times, getting frustrated with my response when I finally just addressed it — and this is what I said…
“Isn’t it great to live in a world where you don’t have to choose just one cause? Where you can support so many people in need, so many charities, so many organizations. You can support breast cancer and better education for low income families, you can support the Humane Society and Veterans of America. You don’t have to pick one and frankly, who would I be to say one was more important than another?”
But he didn’t stop there. He probed further and he asked “OK, then why the five or six you listed, why are those causes important to you?”
That was actually the NEW million dollar question. I had to think a minute, because normally, people don’t ask you why you support a cause or a charity. They’re just happy you do or they just want to help make things better. So I paused, and I stumbled for a moment and then I gave him an answer exactly as it came to mind. I’m not sure it’s what interviewers hope to hear, I think they like a buttoned up answer that doesn’t go all over the place, but that’s not what he got.
Instead, he got my random stream of consciousness about how I currently have four rescue dogs and work with two animal rescues. Because if you’ve ever seen an animal come out of a country where they were raised as meat and had no attention, only abuse, or a dog that comes to you from a puppy mill where they were raised only to make puppies and they can’t walk because they were bred, then littered, then bred, then littered — all in a little cage barely bigger than themselves, you’d know why drawing attention to animal cruelty and providing help to animal rescues is so important.
I told him about how as a woman who has worked in male dominated industries for most of my career, I’ve had to work harder and longer than many of my male peers while I watched them move up the chain faster and get higher bonuses. I even saw one become my boss when I had more education, more experience, better wins under my belt for the company, but I didn’t golf, I didn’t party and I didn’t hang out in the locker room after work snapping towels. I’ve seen it, I’ve lived it and I speak the truth when I say, if you ask ten of my female friends if they’ve experienced it first hand in the corporate world, ten of them will tell you they have. I wonder why, they wonder why and their daughters wonder why.
I told him my Goddaughter is African and when I see her sweet four year old face, I can’t imagine how anyone could willingly perform genital mutilation on her or any other child. Especially knowing the pain is unbearable and the long-lasting effects to her psyche and her body are things she could never, ever forget or recover from. Knowing that in most cultures where this ritual is performed, it takes place before the age of five and that if she endured that and she asked me why it happened or if she deserved it, I wouldn’t be able to answer with anything other than that it’s an attempt to show the inferiority of women, an attempt to control women’s sexuality. So that’s why that cause matters to me.
I told him that I have friends who have come back from wars (and some who haven’t come home) and they suffer PTSD or have lost a leg, an arm (or both), their hearing, their sight, their sanity…. They suffer every day. They can’t get up and go to work, because when they hear a loud noise they are driven in their mind right back to the trenches, sweating and fearing for their lives. Yet I know they were only ever in those trenches to provide freedom and safety for others — so, I guess that’s why that one is important to me.
I shared with him a story of a man I know who lost his 11 year old daughter to human traffickers overseas. She was waiting for him to pick her up and was lured into a car and he didn’t find her until she was 16, had been a sex slave, had birthed two children and was completely lost to drugs. I wish the story had gotten better — especially since most people NEVER find their loved ones who are lost to human trafficking — but even after he spent years and copious amounts of money to find her and bring her home, he never really got her back. She was locked into the memories of the tragedies she had suffered and a drug addiction that seemed to be her only way out of those horrific memories. After being home only eight months, and realizing she couldn’t fit back into the society she once knew, she took her own life — maybe that’s why that cause is important to me.
I also shared with him that I’m a rape survivor. I don’t need to give anyone the details, the only thing you need to know to understand why I fight this battle is that a slap on the wrist won’t stop someone from doing it again — and yes, I know it won’t make the rape go away or the nightmares, but knowing that you might save another woman from going through what you did because someone did go to jail, that matters. But most victims, knowing they will be eaten alive in a courtroom and have their clothes, their hair, their makeup, their previous sexual partners, their plans for that evening, the way they danced, how loudly they laughed, whether they played with their hair and flirted — having all of that debated in a courtroom in hopes that their attacker MIGHT be found guilty, but might not, that’s why so many victims don’t even bother to try to “get justice.” That a rapist might get time in jail but might not — that’s why we need stricter rape laws.
After I finished my rambling diatribe, I realized I’d gone over my time allotment, I said some things he’d need to cut before he can actually air it and I’d probably never be asked back. But I won’t apologize for my passions, and I won’t stop trying to make the world a better place. I don’t have a huge social following, but I do have a following of good and caring people that I know have passions and causes that are important to them. They’ve helped me with my various causes over the years — whether donating to a walkathon, rescuing or fostering an animal, or going with me to serve meals to the homeless, they’ve helped make a difference.
All I can say is that I hope everyone has a cause, I hope everyone has a passion and I hope people will use their time, energy and assets to help make a change. It’s great if you can donate money, every cause seems to need that, but it doesn’t have to be your cash. Use your time — volunteer to read to a kid who needs extra help, walk dogs at the local shelter, deliver food to the elderly who can’t get out, get signatures on a petition to make a political change, sit down and talk to a homeless veteran and hear their story — tell them thank you, tell them you appreciate them, and tell them you’re willing to help.
I guess my newest cause is to make sure everyone has a cause they believe in and support…
If that interview ever sees the light of day, I’ll be sure to share it with everyone.
Here’s my original post if you’re interested: