The other day, I donated approximately one quarter of my closet to Hurricane Sandy victims. Admirable, right? There I was, acting out of genuine concern for my fellow man, envisioning how absolutely horrific the damage was, doing my part to alleviate just some of the burden on those faced with a situation beyond their control.
And then, about five minutes later, I was daydreaming about bagels.
Unfortunately, I think my anecdote is one being shared by thousands across the country right now: Americans have fallen into a sort of “donate and forget” mentality.
Del Norte does much in the way of global awareness, after all, it’s one-third of our mission statement. Clubs like Eco-Future, KIN Club, Education in Action, Liberty in North Korea, and Key Club do an admirable job of raising money, gathering donations, spreading knowledge, and invoking empathy. Their members put in countless hours of effort, but is it really working?
To some degree, the answer is yes. We Nighthawks have raised thousands of dollars for cancer research, we’ve packaged food for children in need, we’ve recycled batteries and other environmental toxins, we’ve planted flags in remembrance of 9/11, we’ve fed the homeless—we’ve truly made an impact on the world around us.
But to some degree, I think the answer is no. We go from thinking about world hunger to thinking about yesterday’s football game all too quickly. Our memory is short, and we lack dedication.
Remember the Kony 2012 movement? Remember the Facebook posts, the videos in the PAC, the T-shirts? More importantly, remember how fired up everyone was?
It’s not just Del Norte, though: Kony was a national movement, but I haven’t read anything related to Invisible Children in months. The crisis has not been solved, the LRA is still active, and yet apparently, we’ve forgotten completely.
It’s just another example of that “donate and forget” mentality. We—and that’s Americans in general, not just Nighthawks—seem to think that once we give an issue a week or two of attention, it magically disappears.
We can’t solve any of the really important problems with a couple thousand dollars and a bundle of winter wear. We don’t need to change our methods, we need to change our mentality.
There are some of us who have dedicated themselves to a global cause—they’re the future diplomats, the future humanitarians, the future activists. But what about the rest of us, those that feel genuine empathy but can’t afford to spend hours contributing?
I think it comes back to that overused but nevertheless poignant phrase, global awareness. Even if we can’t act on everything, we can still be aware: we can place our achievements, our challenges, and our sacrifices in a global context, and we can remember that there are conflicts bigger than the Nighthawk-Bronco football rivalry.
Call me crazy, but I think that changing our mindset will do more for the world than if I had shipped my entire closet to New York City.