Within the last week, the UR community had the opportunity to participate in three events in support of three fantastic causes: the YellowJackets’ Concert for a Cure benefitting the Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance, Colleges Against Cancer’s Relay for Life, and the Rochester walk for the American Heart Association (AHA) at Blue Cross Arena.
Each charity supports a worthy cause, and each event reflects a valiant effort to do something meaningful, but it takes more than simply attending an event to be a true benefactor of a cause. It takes more than doing a bit of fundraising and then checking it off an imaginary list of required good deeds.
This is not to say, by any means, that attending such events isn’t worthwhile. I myself have been to three Relay for Life events — and every year, I’ve made a luminaria bag for my cousin Bradley. Every year I’ve made an account and raised money in his memory.
For me, it’s the sentiment behind the event that matters, not the perceived benefits of the event itself. According to CharityNavigator, almost 20 percent of my minimal financial contribution to Relay is used by the American Cancer Society in further fundraising efforts rather than direct programming. I know that my once-a-year effort doesn’t really constitute a meaningful contribution to the cause.
I also attended the YellowJackets’ concert. But I would have attended the concert regardless of whether or not the proceeds from my ticket were benefitting Friedreich’s ataxia research.
What constitutes a meaningful contribution then? Consistency. Getting behind a cause and sticking with it. Leading an initiative, taking a stance, and following through.
That takes passion and a long-term commitment. It’s easy to get behind someone else’s cause (even blindly) and follow along. It’s much more difficult to take an initiative and become a true advocate.
Again, that’s not to say attending other events isn’t worthwhile — it’s necessary if another person’s cause is to be successful. For instance, the students who organized the Yellowjackets concert clearly made a long-term, impassioned commitment to their support and advocacy for Friedreich’s ataxia, needed all those audience members and ticket purchases. I know I’m glad that I was able to support them in their endeavor, but I certainly can’t take much credit for supporting the cause. A one-time contribution doesn’t justify that.
Admittedly, not all of us can — or should — dedicate our lives completely to furthering a cause. We can’t all be Martin Luther King and become the face of the Civil Rights Movement. We can’t all be Jody Williams and receive the Nobel Peace Prize for banning landmines. But we can do more than attend one-time events that “fulfill” a “good-deed quota.”
It’s wonderful and necessary that so many people are willing to spend time and money at events like the YellowJackets’ Concert for a Cure, Relay for Life, and the AHA walk, among others, in support of causes and organizations they feel to be worthwhile.
Still, it’s important to consider the greater impact we could have if every person dedicated him or herself to a cause, upheld a stance, and consistently followed through.
Remus is a member of the class of 2016.