I have recorded 4 takes of a video and worked on this entry for hours and cannot seem to find an adequate way to express my thoughts on this subject, so I’ve included both a video and this here written blog entry to cover all of my bases. Feel free to partake in both to grasp the full scope of my plea, which is this:
A small body of determined spirits, fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission, can alter the course of history.
How bad-ass is that? Alright I can’t take credit. I have to cite Ghandi for that one. He said all the smart things before the rest of us got the chance. Pretty cool guy. The point is, he was absolutely right and this quote pretty much sums up a major epiphany I’ve had since beginning this fund raising endeavor for The Unusual Suspects. This mini-essay is not about soliciting you for more money (breathe easy), but mostly I want to share some thoughts I’ve had on the fundamental nature of giving.
I used to be like most people (especially most un-wealthy people), whenever someone or some organization would solicit me for a donation, I would respectfully decline or delete the email, out of sight out of mind, figuring they can’t possibly really want a donation from me seeing as I have so little to give, or figuring that other people are going to donate so I’m off the hook. How many times have I changed the radio station during a pledge drive for NPR even though I know they really do need money? Having sat on the other side of the table, I deeply regret the missed opportunity. The truth is, most of the time I could spare at least $5-$10 for a worthy cause, but I would often talk myself out of giving because I felt like it was an insignificant amount of money or it wouldn’t make a difference or I was actually a bit embarrassed by giving so little. Since I can’t go back in time and tell 6-month ago Rebecca what present-day Rebecca now knows, I will do the next best thing, impart my new found wisdom to all of you.
Your 5, 10, 20 dollars makes a huge difference. Not on its own, it’s true, but if you have faith that others share in your giving spirit (which I can testify that they do!) then your $5 paired with thousands of peoples’ $5 could suddenly be a huge contribution. Suddenly you are a part of this incredible network of goodness! A community of people who believe in the ability to make a profound difference through small efforts. It sounds so obvious right? But I don’t think it is because I certainly failed to understand it this way until now. You see, the rub is that you must believe that your $5 does not stand alone. I used to work at the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles Foundation. I processed a lot of individual donations that came in and I remember whenever I would receive a donation for just $1, it would often be accompanied by a note saying something like “I’m so sorry I can’t give more” or “This is all I have, I hope it helps the children.” These donations would always bring tears to my eyes because it was obvious that these people truly had nothing. All they could spare was $1. But they spared it, and because of their faith in giving and in kindness, those 1 dollar bills added up to usually 100 dollars a day. And that is certainly enough to make a difference.
I can be quite the pessimist. I may seem all sunny and cheery most of the time but I constantly battle a very cynical outlook on the world. I always assume that others are as lazy and cynical as I am and won’t donate either so what’s the point? What a sour-puss. Witnessing the outpouring of support in my direction for this 1/2 Marathon has truly renewed some of my faith in the human spirit. Thank you for that. From the deep deep deep down bottom of my heart, thank you. The Unusual Suspects Theatre Company thanks you. The young men and women whose lives have been changed by arts education thank you. Your contribution, some small, some large, have added up to something that has made a huge impact. You are all a part of that. 6 months ago I had a very narrow outlook. I didn’t realize I could be a part of something bigger than my measly $5 and because I was such a negative Nancy, now the polar bears are going to die. No no, I kid I kid.
I’m not saying these things for myself or even for The Unusual Suspects or the polar bears. I’m saying this because we are living in a time when rejection letters from grants and foundations are aplenty and I don’t want to see that discourage anyone from trying to make a difference. Remember that we also live in a time abundant with creativity and opportunity. I have so many wonderful friends and family taking on incredible projects, starting arts organizations, raising money for important causes, basically spitting in the face of this recession by putting stock in what people really consider valuable and important. I want to see all of them succeed. I’m thinking about my friend Connor who has started New Helvetia Theatre in Sacramento, a professional theatre company bringing lesser-known gems of the musical theatre canon to Sacramento. Or my friend Kate Gibbens who is running a full marathon to raise money for AIDS Project Los Angeles. That’s 26.2 miles! Jackie Vanderbeck, another Sacramento theatre alum has founded a wonderful non-profit called Sing For Your Seniors. Brendan O’Connor, also a longtime friend, is training for a triathlon to raise money for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Or my own theatre company, Theatre of NOTE. Right now my friend Nick is raising money for the world premiere of Skeleton Stories at NOTE. This play is going to be so beautiful but he needs moolah. We all need support. This is not to say I want to guilt you all into running out and throwing money at these causes right now (gently tossing would be nicer). I mention them to merely highlight how many people I know who are doing awesome things. You probably know just as many people and you have the unique opportunity to be the change you wish to see in the world. Another Ghandi original. Thought if I slipped it in there you might think it was all me but I’d feel guilty for plagiarizing Ghandi.
This all reminds me of A Bug’s Life. Have you seen that movie? It’s lovely. In this movie, Hopper the mean ol’ grasshopper discloses his sinister plan that by keeping the ants under his control, he prohibits them from realizing their power:
“You let one ant stand up to us, then they all might stand up! Those puny little ants outnumber us a hundred to one and if they ever figure that out there goes our way of life! It’s not about food, it’s about keeping those ants in line.”
We are all the ants. And Hopper is our own ignorance and cynicism keeping us from discovering our communal strength. Do you like how I brought this back to Disney? Disneyland 1/2 Marathon. 6 days.
In a time when huge corporations are taking our consumer dollars and giving them to hate-mongering politicians (ahem, Target, that means you), it’s time to fight fire with fire. Save your money and put it towards a cause you feel passionate about. It’s time to redirect our pocketbooks and define what is really important. Give of your time. Give of your spare change. There are a million little “Hoppers” in our heads that convince us not to and I cannot encourage you enough to silence all those voices. Don’t hold back. I’m making a pledge to abstain from my Starbucks and Coffee Bean addiction once a week, and donate that money instead. Such a small sacrifice that I now know will have a huge impact, but only if I’m not alone. Help a cynical girl maintain her faith in the world. Will you take this pledge with me?
So close to reaching my goal! Follow this link and click DONATE to make a change.
Here is a video for you visual types: