Thursday, December 24, 2009

HSPs and the Season of Giving: Reprise

This month, many of my thoughts have been dedicated to the concepts of giving and making a difference. You've seen several posts here, related to giving and charity.

I've forsaken my annual "advice column" on dealing with the stress of the holidays in favor of looking at core values, and what this time of the year really means... or could mean.

Part of my focus here, has been a bit of an examination of apathy. A deeper look at our tendency to readily "be concerned" (and even "horrified") by events and needs around us, and yet we sit passively as spectators and observers... heartily agreeing that something that's going on in the moment is "horrible," yet we do not even the simplest thing to make a difference.

I have written-- in the past-- about our tendency to get trapped by "all-or-nothing" thinking, when it comes to making a difference in the world. We don't take the time to make "little differences" because we perceive them as being insignificant, and not making a difference. Yet, when we look at the history of social change and general life improvement for all, it is extremely evident that far more "massive changes" are the result of "millions, each doing a little" than "a few, each doing a lot."

There are some interesting dichotomies associated with this HSP trait of ours. The one I find most noteworthy, is the strange and conflicted intersection of a deep sense of idealism and wanting to better the world and right wrongs... crossed with a hesitancy of being "in the world" that leaves many choosing the sidelines, from where they observe, rather than participate.

Well, it is Christmas Eve. I wish a Merry Christmas to those who celebrate, and Happy Holidays, to all others.

As for the charity that was part of recent entries here... in spite of much publicity, and concerted effort by those who did get involved, we did not come up with enough votes to reach the final stage of the grant process. But... we gave it a good try!

Talk Back! When you are honest with yourself, do you find that you often chose to "observe" rather than "participate?" Is your idealism more of an "idea" than a "reality?" What do you feel would have to change, in order for you to be more actively involved?

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

If this were Porn, we'd have 100,000 votes....

At the end of my last post about "Giving and Apathy," I promised I'd come back and update on the cause I'd gotten involved with.

A week has passed, and I'm sad to report that the apathy of the world continues to reign supreme.

Perhaps the most poignant comment I received came from a friend (who DID participate, and thank you for that!) who observed the following:

"If this were porn, we'd have 100,000 votes already!"

Sad, but probably true.

His observation-- along with some of the feedback I received directly-- made me feel sad and disturbed about the broader state of the Human Condition, regardless of whether we're HSPs, or not.

What matters?
What do we MAKE matter?
Where do we place our priorities?

Perhaps what made me feel MOST sad was the sheer number of responses (by email, or direct message) I got, offering me reasons, rationalizations and excuses to NOT participate. My point being that these people had anywhere from five to thirty minutes of "spare" time to write me an explanation (about feeling overwhelmed, about it not being "their" charity, about not supporting anything "corporate" you name it), but NOT one minute of time to just harmlessly participate, at no expense or exposure to them.

I suddenly became aware that "excuses" actually outnumbered "votes."

It reminded me of something I recently witnessed.

Back in October, I was standing in my local Safeway grocery store, waiting for the Customer Service Counter staff to figure something out with the Grocery Manager, as to whether or not a particular product could be ordered. As a result, I stood outside the busy checkstands for about 15 minutes.

At that time, the local high school was having a fundraising drive. They evidently had found a sponsor who'd donate the equivalent of 5% of the "value" of all grocery receipts they could collect and turn in to the sponsor, to get cash to build a "haunted house" for Halloween, or something like that. The short of it was, that if you (the grocery shopper) gave the kid your $100 grocery receipt, they'd be able to turn it over for a $5 cash donation.

ALL they had to do was collect grocery receipts from patrons who'd finished shopping. Grocery receipts that most likely would be thrown away, 15 minutes later.

I watched in amazement as these high school kids would approach departing customers (and this was WITH Safeway's blessing, I should add), explain what they were doing, and politely ask if they could have that person's grocery receipt. What stunned me was that probably 80% (or more) of the patrons asked to give up their receipt said "no," or looked the other way and hurried out of the store.

I share this, because it was another example of people being broadly unwilling (in my opinion, "apathetic") to make a free contribution that would take five seconds of their time. So often-- it seems-- we just automatically get defensive and bark "no!" without even hearing what something is actually about; just assuming that it will "cost" us.

Allow me to bring some more "global" threads into this-- let's back off and take the "50,000-foot view."

This morning Sarah (my honey) commented on a Rolling Stone article she'd read about global warming, and just how hosed we're getting. Global warming-- a MUCH bigger issue than a community charity-- is yet another example (in the "meta pattern" sense) of apathy, and not caring.

Her words, in turn, reminded me of a TED talk I watched yesterday, about a man who spent 17 years in silence, in support of environmental change. You can watch the video here-- it ALSO won't cost you anything, aside from twenty minutes of your time. Or I can just share that MY primary "takeaway" was that ultimately WE are "the environment." And our surroundings are largely a reflection of how we treat each other, and what we make important, in our lives.

Do we care?
Do we help?
Do we act from a place of being aware and mindful?

Then, in that lovely way of synchronicities, an HSP friend wrote a powerful piece on the importance of stepping up and being seen, as HSPs. Again, a highly recommended read-- won't cost you a dime, just a little time. If you don't subscribe to her blog, you should.

Anyway, to bring this full circle, we have two days left to go in adding votes for the cause I mentioned in my last post. If you want to participate, we appreciate it-- just click on the banner, which will open a Facebook page (you may have to register) where you follow simple instructions to vote. No cost. No salesman will call. If you get lost (I can't imagine you would) you can come back here and try again. The deal ends December 11th.

If you don't vote, I forgive you. What I DO ask of you is that you pause and consider "what matters" to you, and whether or not you're actively engaged in what matters to you... in your community, in your life. Because the problem (and solutions) begins with YOU, and "intending to" is not enough.

To quote Yoda: "Do. Do not. There is no TRY."

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

HSPs, the Season of Giving, Doing Good and Apathy

One of the things I like most about HSPs is that we tend to have a more giving and compassionate nature than most people out there. One of the things I don't like about HSPs is our tendency to be tentative and even apathetic, when it comes to making a difference.

I've been told-- by more than a few readers of this blog-- that part of the reason they read is that I don't tend to sugar coat life as a sensitive person, and I don't feel compelled to characterize HSPs as pink fluffy bunnies dancing through the meadows. Not that pink fluffy bunnies don't have a place in the world, mind you. Sometimes, I even rattle a few people's cages... so let me rattle yours, for a moment.

We're entering the holiday season, and I have been pausing to ponder the true meaning of this time of the year, apart from the general explosion of overconsumption that otherwise dominates the landscape and airwaves.

This is the season of giving.

Not "giving" in the sense of fancy baubles purchased from the store, but giving of ourselves; giving from the heart. Doing things to make the world a better place.

What have you GIVEN, lately?

Sometimes I am stunned by the apathy of the world. Someone near and dear to me (who happens to be an HSP) is trying to rally support for a cause she really believes in. She was sharing with me how she'd contacted all manners of people she knew and had gotten what-- at least in my opinion-- is a very apathetic response.

Now I can appreciate the fact that we all get bombarded with requests for donations to charity during the holidays-- and times a tight. However, that completely misses the point of my friend's story.

You see, she wasn't asking for money. She wasn't asking for people to do work. She wasn't asking for hours of time. She wasn't contacting strangers, she was contacting people she already knew. All she did was ask people to use a few moments of their online time to visit a web site and VOTE for her cause in a contest, so that they might have a chance at winning $25,000 someone ELSE is already committed to donate.

100's of emails, yet hardly anyone could find two minutes of their time to make a few clicks to cast a vote online. My cynical side says "and these are the same people who have 30 minutes handy to play solitaire on their computer, or spend hours cultivating the cornucopia of apps on Facebook, or tweeting the content of their last sandwich to the twitterverse."

The story was interesting enough to me that I decided to pick it up for this blog, and for my other web presences... and to write a sort of "challenge" to people. How apathetic ARE we, really? We like to SAY that we "care," but do our actions match those words?

Someone you know asks you (during the "season of giving," remember?) for two minutes of your time, no cost involved, so that a greater good can be served. Do you just sit on your hands? Or do you say "yes, I CAN do that for you" and help out?

Perhaps I should add that the cause in question wasn't "weird" or "controversial." It's a community theatre in Carmel, CA, which helps 1000s of kids every year. As much as HSPs tend to enjoy the arts, it's a natural "fit" as something HSPs would be supportive of... hence my additional surprise at the very "modest" response my friend received.

So, what's wrong with this picture?

Maybe people were put off by the fact that the host site where the voting takes place works through the Facebook social network.

"I don't want to be part of that. I don't trust them. I don't want a Facebook account. It's just for kids. They'll steal my identity."

I've heard those excuses for years, especially from the HSP community. Fact is that Facebook wouldn't have gotten to have 350 MILLION members by being untrustworthy and being "just for kids." Ever see a facebook ad on TV? Or in a magazine? Or in a newspaper? Neither have I.. because it's completely "viral," as a result of friends telling friends... and when you recommend something to friend, it's usually because it's GOOD, right?

"An HSP would never be part of a social network!"


Many of the HSPs I have met personally, or know through web groups are on Facebook. Guess what? I actually got ON Facebook to stay in touch with HSPs I'd met at HSP Gatherings! Guess what else? There are two HSP groups on Facebook, and both are among the five largest online HSP Communities in the world.

Anyway, what's the point of this article?

I was asked if I would do something simple-- go to a web site, register, and vote for someone's charity to receive someone ELSE's money. And so I did... a few minutes of my time, a worthy cause; no cost to me.

Then I heard the feedback from my friend, and became ashamed at how apathetic the world is. So, I decided to make this MY cause, as well-- as a bit of a "social experiment." I took the next step: help spread the word.

Now I'm asking YOU.

Would you give a few minutes of your web time to help a good cause, at no cost to you?

If the answer is yes, click the small blue banner below. And follow the instructions. If you get lost, I've made it so the link opens a new tab in your browser. You can just come back here and click on the banner again, to get back to where you were.

And yes, I'll come back and update. And I'd appreciate it if YOU came back and commented on what YOU did, too.

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