The Charitable Act of Giving will Save Us All
When my paternal grandfather was diagnosed then treated for his cancer, he was fortunate. He had the money for treatments, he had trusted friends and family to support him and help him when he needed it — like giving him rides to his treatments and running up and down stairs to replace empty bottles of Ensure with fresh bottles of Ensure. And when he died, we all had each other to mourn collectively and get through the loss together. I think, as far as Poppy’s cancer went, we all had it pretty good.
But there are people out there who don’t have what we had or need more than what just friends and family can offer. There are those in vastly different situations. Those who aren’t in their late 80s facing a bumpy medical road or death sentence. Those who haven’t had decades to save and invest and earn the money required to treat cancer. Those who are afraid of leaving their young children behind. Those young children who are scared about what’s happening to their withering mommy or daddy. That these people are out there breaks my heart.
I’ve been a member of the Gilda’s Club Chicago Associate Board since 2011. Prior to joining, I had been shopping for an organization I could give my time, talent and treasure to. Some place that worked with a cause that I was passionate about. Some place that was in need of those talents and treasures. I considered working with youth. I considered animal care and rescue. I considered doing something for the homeless. I considered diabetes and cancer. I care about all these causes, and more. But there’s only so much one person can do, and one person spread too thin rarely makes an impact.
I settled on cancer. It made sense. Gilda’s Club made sense.
Gilda’s Club offers free cancer support to anyone who has had their life impacted by cancer in any way. The sick, the bereaved, the caretakers; men, women, children, teens, family and friends. It’s not out to cure cancer. Its mission is ensure that all people impacted by cancer are empowered by knowledge, strengthened by action and sustained by community. I liked that. Still do. “Having cancer gave me membership in an elite club I’d rather not belong to,” Gilda Radner said. Out of this, Gilda’s Club was born. No one wants to use any of the 350-plus free programs Gilda’s offers each month, but they’d be far worse off without them.
Cancer sucks. Every bit of it. Having it, seeing your loved one go through it is a hardship only the most vile humans should experience. It can be lonely, terrifying, depressing and more, no matter who you are. That it’s in your life at all, to any degree, is the bummer.
Think about your life. In what ways are you fortunate? Now, think of the ways you’re unfortunate? Think of those times when you needed a leg up, a hand, a new pair of boots with bootstraps to pull. Self-reliance and determination can only get you so far. Even if we’re all islands, an island still needs the sea and the air to sustain itself. At some point in all our lives, we need a little help. A shoulder to lean on; an ear to bend.
And while things can always be worse, they can always be better, too.
Writing this is risky. At some point, it may sound like I’m patting myself on the back while singing my own praises, but that is not my intention at all. My intention is to help you understand why making gifts on Giving Tuesday matters, and more holistically, why becoming involved with an organization that benefits those who have less than us — fortune, good health, opportunities, etc. — is so important. Especially these days.
Our country is split into three factions right now. The Left, the Right and the Middle. If we don’t recognize our collective interest in making things better — for our families and our neighbors — we’re doomed. The chasms will grow. We’ll all be islands in windless, dried up seas; small hills of desolation.
History has shown us that when we all do well, we all do better. That’s been forgotten over the last ten years or so, and certainly deleted from the trash bin over the last three. We need to remember what it’s like to do good, to be good, to help those who are hoping for things to be better. If we don’t, things will only get worse.
While I recommend getting involved with Gilda’s Club Chicago by joining me on the Associate Board or volunteering or making financial commitments, I mostly want you to commit to something. Some cause, some organization, some mission, some goal to better the lives of your neighbors. Even if those neighbors are faceless strangers.
You’re going to be hit with a lot of asks from organizations this season. It’s overwhelming, I know. And I’m sorry I’m one of the perpetrators. Make a choice. Give what you can, do what you can for the organizations and missions that resonate with your heart. For small organizations like Gilda’s Club Chicago, five bucks goes a long way.
This Giving Tuesday, make a commitment to donate what you can. I’d like to see my network of friends and family (and ex-girlfriends trolling me) make a total donation of $300. Five bucks from some of you, 10 from others, 50 from the high rollers. And then, in 2019, please, make a commitment to become part of something that could use your help.
Like it or not, we all have membership to human suffering and we’re card-carrying members of human betterment, too. Let’s act on it.