Yesterday a fellow Mundania author and Canuck sistah of mine, Skyla Dawn Cameron (go, look, enjoy!) basically got slammed on Salon.com by thugs in the letters column who mocked the fact that she’s putting together a book to help Equality Now, based on the incidents first mentioned by Joss Whedon (yes, him!) about a woman being stoned to death in the Middle East.
The gist of the comments were that there’s so much wrong with the world that why go for something as limited as honor killing of women? There’s starvation, there’s honor killing of men, there’s… well, you can imagine.
And the sad thing is that they’re all right, to a degree. There are SO many causes out there that you can, literally, go bankrupt if you gave a buck to each deserving group out there. It’s mentally overwhelming.
I also recognize something that I call volunteer fatigue. It’s when you literally freeze up because you realise that you’re only one person in a world that’s got just too many problems and you can do only so much.
I’ve been there because many, many years ago I dedicated two years of my life to some intense volunteer work. In a nutshell I lost my job, my friends and pretty well stagnated my career to work solely on the idea of making my community better. And I like to think that it was worthwhile, if only to keep my mind sane.
But, in the end, I burnt out. It’s happening to volunteers everywhere, some with less time and some with more. Some look at the Katrina debacle and blank out, some look at the local animal abuse story and shake their heads because they were just by the house yesterday and it seems just fine. Or they see that video of the woman being stoned to death (captured gracefully on camera!) and just can’t deal with it.
And it’s okay. It’s just overwelming to stand at the foot of a mountain of crap with a toy shovel and be told that it needs to be moved from here to there. Like, now.
But dumping on those who *do* get working with that shovel doesn’t help either. Yes, we’re all tired of the charities asking for money and we’re tired of giving our time and our talent and not seeing a major change in the world… but dragging those with the energy to do so down into the pit with us just ain’t nice.
I think most times it’s just that there’s so much out there and you don’t know where to start. The local animal shelter? The Salvation Army? The Red Cross? Peace Corps? What can you do if you’ve got limited resources or just can’t get around much? What if you can’t spend all the cash necessary to make it work?
But instead of freezing in place and/or tossing turds at those who do – why not at least be realistic? Because if no one does anything, well… we all lose.
To paraphrase a recent slogan:
Can’t save the world – don’t save the cheerleader.