Today begins National Problem Gambling Awareness Week. Did you know that a gambling addiction is just as detrimental as a drug addiction? It goes through all of the same steps: preoccupation, tolerance, withdrawal, escape, chasing, lying, loss of control, illegal acts, risked significant relationship, and bailout? Be responsible, and if you think you have a problem, call 1-800-BETS-OFF.
Last week was Eating Disorders Awareness Week on the Wartburg College campus. Did you know that each year, more than 8 million Americans are affected by serious and often life-threatening eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, binge-eating, bulimia nervosa, compulsive eating, obesity and pica? It’s terrible!
Two weeks ago was Sexual Responsibility Week. Did you know that there are many risks to being sexually active, beyond STDs and pregnancy? Get tested, inform your partners, be safe!
Somewhere in between that was To Write Love On Her Arms Day, where people write the word “love” on their arm to raise awareness for depression and self-harm. It happens a couple of times a year, but it’s a great cause to show people just how much you care.
The only problem with these sorts of awareness days/weeks/months is that, as far as I know, nothing comes from them. I know I largely ignored the Sexual Responsibility Week, and I’m avidly against TWLOHAD, simply because I don’t see how writing on yourself is useful. And I largely ignored the Eating Disorders Awareness Week, mostly because I’m fasting (which, technically, could be considered a religious eating disorder), but also because I know that raising awareness is one thing, but doing something about it is another thing entirely.
There is an awareness day or week or month or whatever for nearly everything at this point, and yet what is really being done about it? Americans are all about wanting to help out in any way they can without really doing much effort. It’s why we throw money at victims of natural disasters, but rarely do we get up and help out. It would be inconvenient to get up and sacrifice some of your job hours to assist in a humanitarian effort.
Personally, all awareness periods do for me is make me more aware of why I’m not helping out with that particular cause. Mostly this is because I’m a firm believer in “people choose their own destiny.” I can help out until I’ve sacrificed everything, keel over, and die, but bottom line is, if the group I’m helping out isn’t willing to do their part, too, then it is all for naught.
Take, for example, sexaul responsibility. I can preach abstinence, safe sex, STDs, pregnancy, condoms, diaphragms, birth control pills, morning after pills, babies, doctors, and the entire reproductive system until I’m blue in the face, but there are still people who will not take personal responsibility for their sexual activities. What good have I done? I’ve made them aware of the repercussions, but unless I go out with them and watch over their shoulder, reminding them to be sexually responsible, it doesn’t mean anything if they don’t take it to heart.
Same thing goes with writing “love” on my arm. I’ll gladly write “love” all over my entire body if it would actually do something. But I prefer to be an activist in the way of depression and self-harm assistance by actually going out, talking with those I’m concerned about, and personally being a listening ear, a gentle embrace, and a shoulder to cry on.
I’m very aware of how self-centered and self-serving this makes me sound, and in all honesty, I’m okay with it. I actively see to make a difference in the world, and I would gladly drop everything I’m doing to rush off to Haiti and help them rebuild. But the Hatian community has specifically said that they only want monetary assistance, leaving myself, a poor college student, with nothing to do. Any “extra cash” I happen to have needs to go toward tuition, books, food, supplies, etc. Don’t get me wrong, if I had a lot of extra income and nothing to do with it, it will go toward charitable causes. But in my current position, there is nothing I can do.
And recent events has shown that awareness is a two-way street. The recent earthquake in Chile was far worse than the earthquake in Haiti in terms of magnitude (8.8 magnitude compared to Haiti’s 7.0). But no one is aware of that, because Chile is a well-developed nation that didn’t suffer as much structural or human damage as Haiti did. Which is why there are still commercials to help out Haiti, while Chile is being largely ignored. The Chilean people need help, too, but pictures from Chile aren’t as heartwrenching enough to warrant international coverage, unlike Haiti.
I guess the point I’m trying to make is that there is a difference between being aware of something and doing something. I’m aware of the people around me that are hurting or are in need. I see them every day, in person, on television, in magazines. But when I can, I do something about it. I’ll lend people money, I’ll drive people places, I’ll sit down and talk with someone if I have to. But I’m doing something more than just being aware, which, really, is the whole point in life.
Be aware, but also be active. You can throw all the statistics and money you want at a problem, but until you do something about it, nothing will change.