Years ago I photographed a United Way campaign that asked the audience to feel the way someone else feels. In reality we aren’t capable of that empathy unless we have some parallel experiences. At best we can only imagine.
There has been debate over the recent Nike ad featuring Colin Kaepernick. In spite of peacefully protesting during the Anthem, the focus has been on whether or not it's patriotic which to me is futile as is burning Nike apparel. The basis of Kaepernick’s protest, racial discrimination and violence is lost to many and so is Kaepernick’s own philanthropy in the community. Without the experience of discrimination there is no real empathy. Yet I offer that more important than Flag and Anthem is the premise and guiding foundation offered by The Constitution of the United States. (see Preamble)
I wonder if deflection and debate isn’t America’s secret past time. Its talk, not positive action. Would we not be better off making America stronger by engaging our compassion, directing it to causes we individually feel compelled to address by lending a hand? What are the issues facing your community’s most in need and how can you take part in solving those problems improving the quality of life? That seems to me to be a good use of energy rather than being embroiled in arguments without end.
Philanthropy is more easily done with fame, platform and means. However, there are many people without those advantages that lend a hand in meaningful ways without promoting a business, a brand, political or religious agendas. They do it out of pure good will. Let us celebrate that and see we are more alike that different. When we find out the facts about specific issues, pathways more easily open to solving problems.
My community has an Emergency Assistance Center. It is the fastest way I know of that I can lend that hand having a positive impact. Providing food and goods to those in need, these centers are part of a community network for first response. They operate on limited budgets and staff. If a family's home has burnt down, a natural disaster strikes, or someone is out of work they can receive help.
There are homeless Veterans in need of shelter, clothing, transportation and healthcare. They need political representation for VA benefits to be realized. Making sure they receive what they need is respect for their service.
Hospitals need clothing for rape victims as all victims’ clothing is taken into evidence. These women leave the hospitals wearing whatever is on hand. They have little to no representation to advocate for them and is why so many more do not come forward to experience further assault from scrutiny and public humiliation.
Many special needs children are awaiting foster care and adoption. Schools in need of donations and support. Teenagers in need of a purpose, skills and hope. Rural elderly shut in’s needing food and residential assistance. A friend who finds himself without a job can benefit from your support in a resume update and side work. Many citizens in need of a humane helping hand and yes, someone right in your own neighborhood quietly suffering that needs compassionate assistance. Young, middle aged, elderly no matter the race or nationality, economics or education, it’s a fellow American in strife.
People that I respect are those that willingly lend a hand. They are building Community by strengthening unity. Not through politics, not one side or the other. It’s being in the moment, being in relationship and moving forward with positive action for a greater good. By bringing levity to any argument we can see we each have blessings to share. Whatever you see that can benefit from your positive action, do it.
We have the opportunity to affect positive change. Whether a social cause in our neighborhoods or in the larger scope of the world, each of us can make a difference. At the end of the day, those in need right now could easily be US in the future. Ultimately, we create the world we live in despite the issues, the debates, and the deflection. Let our response be positive and know that transitory issues will pass and we will be standing stronger and better than we were before, because of positive actions.
about the author: Karen Ollis is an experienced photographer specializing in studio portraiture, and environmental on-location portraits for editorial stories, PR and marketing testimonials. instagram @ollisphoto