In just the last week or so I have experienced a handful of things have me thinking about caring and commitment. What does it take for you to care about something? And why is commitment so unattractive to so many of us?
The latest event I experienced was learning of someone's incredible hardship. Matt and Katie are an adorable couple, husband and wife photographers and people seriously committed to a cause. I met them once, two years ago, at a photographers' conference and what I remember about them is how truly committed they were. And since then their lives have been turned upside down... well, that's understatement. When I read about what they're going through, my heart went out to them... all the way around to Australia. I cared, and not only with my heart, but with my wallet too. And watching the dollar figure go up, I'm grateful that so many other people care too.
Another thing that happened this week was a monumental argument in our house about plastic straws. Not a typo... plastic straws. Because it seems a little bit insane to drill oil out of the ground, ship it to China, make plastic straws, and ship them to the US so that I can use it for seven minutes and throw it away. Insane... and pretty disgusting. For the most part, I don't use straws. But my stepdaughter puts a straw in her glass every time she makes a smoothie. So I bought these nifty 2-part, dish-washable silicon straws. And the argument presented to me was "what's the big deal?" I didn't know exactly, other than over-archingly plastic is a gigantic pollution problem. So I Googled, and discovered that in the US, we use and throw away 500 million plastic straws Every Single Day. That's half a billion... every. Day. So if there's a giant problem, but you don't experience it in your daily life, what does it take for you to care about it? If we throw away 500 million plastic straws, but you only see the 1 or 2 you throw away, what does it take for you to give those 2 straws up?
I also had the privilege of creating staff head shots of the incredible team at Realities for Children. My favorite thing about RFC is that they are helping, saving, serving children right here in my town / county / state. Look around Fort Collins, and you think things are pretty honky dory. But in 2012, there were nearly 5,700 reports of child abuse or neglect in Larimer County. Not so honky dory after all. What makes you care about the abuse you don't see? About children you don't even know exist?
And that brings me around to commitment. Because Craig and Molly, who started Realities for Children 25 years ago are the living portraits of commitment. And I go back to the problem of two straws, and I think about getting married in a few weeks... so I'm thinking about why commitment is so unpopular. See the problem, I think, is that so many of us think of commitment as a binary, as black or white. Either I'm on a diet, or I'm not. Either I'm being eco-friendly, or I'm not. I'm either vegan, or I'm not. Every one knows some one who was vegan or vegetarian, and then "had to have a hamburger" and then was no longer vegan or vegetarian. And I ask why? Having been all these things and none of them, I see commitment as a "practice." I mostly eat foods that are grown in the dirt, and then when I just have to have cheesecake, I have cheesecake. And then I re-commit to my health, and all those sweet cows I'll never meet, and my waistline. And that's that. I got water at a restaurant a couple days ago and the waiter brought it with a straw it in. What the heck did he do that for? I didn't ask for a straw...
And when I think about the people at RFC, I get that commitment gets heavy. They can't save every child who needs saving. That's depressing. Disheartening. So when my commitments to saving animals and helping kids and cutting down on plastic and fitting into my jeans and leaving the world in a better place than I found it... when those get heavy I put them down. I have ice cream or suck on a green Starbucks straw or buy that dopey fun thing at Target. But the next day I pick those commitments back up and re-commit. I get better at doing good. What can you find to care about? And can you care enough about the problems you can't see to commit to making a difference?