It occurred to me a day or so ago that as a young teenager growing up decades ago, we had limited immediate access to issues around the world beyond the daily newspapers or news reports. However, I remember the impact that many of these messages carried, perhaps because we weren’t used to seeing them constantly hour after hour in various news feeds on social media?
One example that came to mind was Bob Geldof’s Band Aid “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” song that was created by the top musicians of that time and the ability to film them all in one place singing to raise awareness and money to help the crisis occurring throughout Ethiopia in the early 1980’s. One way that I felt I could contribute was doing the World Vision 40 Hour Famine. I gathered sponsors and a friend or two who would do it with me. We sat in the luxury of my comfortable home and passed the time playing games or watching tv. Not exactly a mirror image of who we were raising money for, but we were involved. However, the whole idea of the 40 Hour Famine was to go without food for 40 hours. The only thing you could have was water and barley sugar. That was it. And it was hard. It was not pleasant towards the end of the 40 hours, even though I knew that my short period without eating would come to an end at a definite time and food would be in abundance for me again. Even still, the experience has stuck with me some 20+ years later.
Efforts such as these continue today with superstars donating their name, time and money to continue to raise awareness for global issues. And the 40 Hour Famine continues as well. However, I am somewhat disheartened that now you are able to give up anything of meaning to you for 40 hours – food, furniture, technology, talking are some of the examples given.
This made me wonder – when did we lose sight of the fact that people around the world suffering at the hands of Mother Nature or from atrocities committed by other people do not have a choice of what they give up? These choices are made for them, and they are forced to try and survive anyway.
Have “we” become so shallow that the only way that charitable organisations can tempt us to be involved in campaigns such as this is to allow us to give up whatever we choose for 40 hours, without actually genuinely engaging with the experience to gain empathy for those people we are trying to assist?
All I know is that had I given up furniture for 40 hours instead of food, I would not have gained as much from my short experience. I also doubt that I would remember it as vividly some 20+ years later, and I am confident that it would not have become one of the lenses that I use when I look at the world today.