Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Illusion of Help

It is Pinktober, and I am seeing a lot of backlash from those dealing with breast cancer. Pinktober has become an event that permeates everything more for the purpose of an economic bottom line than the purpose of helping human beings who really need the help. 

However, the reason the former works is because there is the illusion of the latter.

There are so many pieces of a cancer experience that relate to the experiences of others. Is it an exact correlation? Often it is not, but that is no reason to disregard it, although we often do juat that.

I saw a TED talk in which the speaker said we should stop trying to measure and compare levels of pain. "Pain is pain." I would agree. So often people will compare themselves to me, and find one of us lacking. Which one will depend on their perspective.  

They might feel badly about how they feel about their circumstances because "it's not cancer." But it is whatever it is for them, and all that relates to that, and that is all that matters, really.

I suspect part of the reason things like Pinktober "work" is because people want to "feel good" about helping another, but in the least inconvenient way.

To find out that much of the prevailing pinkness doesn't help those who need the help would take too much effort. If they say it helps, it must, right?

I think I previously wrote about a commercial I had heard about how walking a lot miles was going to help another. When I heard that I was like, "what?" 

But I deal with cancer.  I deal with the constant idea that others have that there is so much help "out there." I deal with the effects of the illusions painted by many companies and organizations that they actually help.

And, as tough as this is for me to say, this extends somewhat to the whole "prayer" thing. I saw something in relation to the recent Oregon shootings that I immediately related to. One might think how could there be a relationship, or that painting a relationship was inappropriate. But there was a piece that was relateable, in the same way that "pain is pain."

It said something about how this person did not want to hear any more about "thoughts and prayers," they wanted someone to DO something. 

It was a bold statement for anyone to make. It is one I wish I could have boldly said. It is one that I bet many others in many other situations that require actions and some sort of doing that receive the prayer default probably wish they could also say.

This is not to minimize, or put down prayer. But to point out that people have elevated it to a place that often leaves people hanging. If everyone is praying for "someone" to help, and they are not that someone, who is going to be?

If the people who can make a difference default to prayer, and do nothing, then who is going to? The problem, in some part, is that prayer appears to be doing something, because we have allowed that "standard." 

We can get by by using it because we also let others slide, and use it, too. And if it starts to be questioned, we can't use our "go to" any more. We actually have to do something different.

I guess how "doing" something is defined would be something to consider. Is prayer something that is "done?" One might argue the answer is absolutely a yes. So if we go with that answer, my next question is, is it enough?

When you know another is in deep need, is it enough to stand on the sidelines cheering them on? When you know something is not right, and you could do something to directly impact that person's situation/reality, and you don't, why not? Do you argue that what you would do, could do, wouldn't matter? How about letting the person in need be the judge of that?

I think there can, at times, be a collective "shrug" when it comes to the situations of others. If is easy to shrug when the situation does not involve you. It is easy to minimalize, rationalize, ignore all kinds of things that do not directly affect you.

I was in a very different place in regard to life's dilemmas pre-cancer. Tragedies tend to inform. They often serve as wake-up calls for those closest to it. The trickiest part is when those now "awake" try to awaken others who are still asleep, and would prefer to stay that way. No one likes to awaken to a nightmare, and feel helpless.

Feeling helpless is no excuse not to act, but we use it as one. We use it as a way to keep our distance. We pray and leave things up to God, so if things don't work out, I've done my part, and it's not my fault.

To move outside of prayer is to move into a world of repercussions, judgments, realities we'd rather not face. We might find ourselves disappointed, or disappointing others. It means taking a risk. It means going outside the comfort zone. It means extending ourselves, sharing ourselves. 

It means sometimes what others want and need (food and shelter) is more important in that moment than our Starbucks Latte. It means maybe one less night out a month. It means looking at the fact that you have a nice home that stays at 80 all winter, and there is another dealing with cancer who can't pay their heating bill. Could you maybe lower the thermostat and help that person out? Or maybe you even have the means to help them out, any way?

It sucks to see the reality other people face, but that doesn't mean we should ignore it. It also doesn't mean we should help every, single person who asks. 

The biggest problem I see for a situation like this is that those who agree with me are likely to be those who have some kind of need. And those who do not have the kind of understanding a major need creates run the risk of walking away from this thinking about what I said, but then doing nothing different, because there is no pressing need to. As a matter of fact, it would be do much more comfy to go back under the covers, and go back to sleep.

Whether or not that happens, who  knows? Some people have good intentions. I am just not sure where empathy shows up, when it does. And I am not sure why it doesn't.

I think empathy is the bridge between someone like me, and someone who has no clue what it is like to be someone like me. And sometimes the bridge is never built, and other times it is not crossed.

Life is interesting, though. You never know when you might be awakened, and unable to go back to sleep, and desperately wanting and needing others to wake up, too.

Sounds kinda like a bad thing, doesn't it? I am not sure it is. Will have to think on that a bit...

1 comment:

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