Monday, January 2, 2012

Be a part of the change you want to see in the world

I have a challenge for you.  I want you to change the world.

It's a big job.  But I believe that you can do it.  The precedent is there.  It's been done before.

In January of 1938, US President Theodore Roosevelt formed an organization called The National Foundation for Infant Paralysis.  (Infantile paralysis was another term for polio.)  The goal of the foundation was to support a rehabilitative center in Warm Springs, Georgia, to help people with polio, and to fund research into medical treatment.

A radio entertainer named Eddie Cantor made a play on a popular news reel at the time called The March of Time.  Nicknaming the fundraising project "The March of Dimes," he and other entertainers called on people across the country to contribute dimes to the new foundation.  The results were beyond anyone's belief.

     The first appeal for the "March of Dimes" was aired during the last week of January 1938, to coincide with some Birthday Balls that were still being held.   Besides Eddie Cantor, the Lone Ranger also appealed to the nation's children to contribute dimes to help fight the disease that had crippled and killed so many other children.
     Two days after the broadcast, the workings of the United States government were brought to a screeching halt.  The White House usually received 5,000 pieces of mail a day, but on that day, 30,000 letters were received.  The next day, 50,000 letters showed up.  Then 150,000 letters arrived.  The mail clerks couldn't find the President's business letters.  The White House chief of mail complained, "We got fifty extra postal clerks, but we still couldn't find anything but scrawled and finger-marked envelopes from every kid who could get his hands on a dime."  When all of the letters were opened, O'Connor discovered that his new foundation had raised $1.8 million dollars, $268,000 of which had been mailed to the White House a dime at a time.

By the time the Salk polio trials were underway in 1954, the NFIP spent ten times as much on polio research as the National Institute of Health.  Today, renamed The March of Dimes, this organization has refocused on preventing birth defects.  It remains the only medical charity to have fulfilled its original charter.

If a dime can save 50,000 children a year, what can $10 do?

So here is my challenge.  Each week, donate $10.  $10 isn't much for most people.  It's the price of two cups of premium coffee at a place like Starbucks or Tim Horton's.  It's less than the price of a movie.  It's a bit more than a paperback and about 40% of a hardback.  If you can't do $10, then you can't, so do $5, or $1.  Every year, Jen and John of CakeWrecks challenge their viewers to donate $1 to each of ten charities.  They've got a lot more readers than I do, and even at $1 per donation, they do a lot.

First, pick a favorite charity.  I'm a huge supporter of the military, so mine is going to be Soldiers' Angels, an organization dedicated to supporting our military and veterans, and their families.  Every four weeks, my charity will be Soldiers' Angels.  The other three weeks I'll select from a variety of charities that support things I believe in, including health, education, and promoting social justice.

In addition, I'll be urging you to take action in your community in other ways.  For example, I knit and crochet lap blankets that I donate to the VA.  There are many ways to craft for charity: chemo caps, caps for newborns, scarves and hats and blankets for the homeless, and so forth.  You can also volunteer to tutor, to work a crisis hotline, to help out at a food bank or soup kitchen, to take part in a neighborhood cleanup.  You can also donate blood.  I'm big on blood.

So, sign on.  See what one person can do.
As a single drop of water fills a bucket so do small deeds of evil; as a single drop of water fills a bucket so do small deeds of good.

—The Buddha

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