The Why of Donating to Covenant House

3 01 2011

Perhaps naively, I thought that my decision to donate my $200 gift card from Oakridge Centre would’ve made a few more waves than with the feeble tiny ripple I sent out.

Facebook event page: 65 invitations sent out.

5 attending.

3 actually attended, including me (from the list of people on the event page).

Perhaps this has something to do with my unpopular theory (why do I feel like if Ryan Clayton created the same event and sent out invitations to his friends that at least a hundred people would respond?).  In any case, it turned out to be a small operation of super fantastic people who were willing to lend their hands to help out for a good cause.

Perhaps naively again, I imagined myself in front of TV cameras, explaining to reporters about how I came to the decision to donate my money to a non-profit organization than buying some new clothes at the Bay.  Since that didn’t actually happen, I’ll put up my responses here instead, to make me feel like what I imagined wasn’t a waste of time, and that what I think does in fact matter.  🙂

Though I’ve had the gift card for several months now, I didn’t know what to do with it for the longest time.  I thought of buying myself clothes or even buying a cable to connect my computer to my television at The Source and if a cable had indeed existed that could do that, I would’ve bought it.  But instead, I found myself strangely disturbed at the fact that I wanted shiny new things when other people didn’t even have the basics — food, shelter, support.  What kind of person would I be if I went out and knowing that there were less fortunate people out there, proceed to splurge it on myself?  I just couldn’t do it.

I attribute the strange feeling to English Literature class.  At the time, we had been learning about Gulliver’s Travels — not the probably lame Jack Black version, but the real, satirical one — and talking about Swift’s many jabs at humanity.  In fact, I even wrote an entire essay about how I thought humanity was not worth saving (which I got an A on).  Most if not all people during Swift’s time weren’t aware of the problems in society; homelessness, corruption in government, exploitation.  But with the publication of Gulliver’s Travels, and then later with Romantic poets like William Blake, people knew.  Only now, they still didn’t do anything.  True ignorance.

And that’s the hardest part.  Making people care.

Do I still believe humanity is beyond saving?  Proabably.

But there are the few of us who aim to prove otherwise.  I try to be one of those people.

Even if it is a mere $200 at a time.  At an overpriced shopping mall nonetheless.

How should I spend $200 to change the world?

9 11 2010

Before all two of you start harassing me about where I suddenly got $200 from, I shall explain.  Last month, there was a special day when students, teachers, and random people who were most likely drawn in by the abundance of orange balloons in the front of the building, all gathered to celebrate Langara’s 40th birthday.  There were contests, games, and booths everywhere on campus and I entered a whole bunch of contests, not thinking I would ever win anything because of course, well, I don’t.

About a week or so later, I get an email from someone at Langara who tells me I’ve won a $200 gift certificate to Oakridge mall and asks when I want to come pick it up.  Long story short, I now have $200 to spend and I’m not sure what to buy.

My first instinct was, as most people’s, what to buy for myself or for friends/family.  After all, Christmas is coming up and as a student, I don’t have that much to spend anyway, so this would be a good chance.  But it didn’t seem right — maybe it was the fact that I had been reading Gulliver’s Travels and was filled with hopelessness about the entire human race (likely) but I wanted to do something more.

I established that I wanted to do something for the homeless by buying them a whole bunch of blankets at Zellers or the Bay and giving them out to people on the street but I realized that it wasn’t enough.  Sure, it would be keeping them warm during the winter, but that, to me, isn’t the point.

I don’t want to make their lives more comfortable, only to have them face the same hardship next year.  Instead of trying to fix the problem, I want to eliminate it.  I want to stop poverty at the root, rather than provide a temporary solution.

This seems ambitious, even to me, and it’s not like I have $200 to spend on buying people a new life.  I also thought of, just today, helping out gay teens who may be thinking about taking their lives, what with all the publicity surrounding their suicides these past couple months.  But I also have no idea how to do that.  I realize i could very well start a campaign of some sort to make people aware — something like buying pink shirts and waving pamphlets in people’s faces on the street and then getting everyone to wear a pink shirt, much like Anti-bullying day — and it’s not that I don’t think these campaigns are effective, but that they do not seem effective enough.  I want to do more.  I want change now.  That is a lot to ask for, and I know that, but I want to do more than buy a whole truckload of pink shirts or buttons or something to combat a much bigger problem.

If anyone has any suggestions, I’d be more than open to hear them.  Keep in mind that the gift certificate is only valid at Oakridge (aka. Rich People’s Mall) so I am limited in the stores and consequently, what to buy.

PS.  I also secretly want publicity but I have come to realize (and accept… sort of) that anything surrounding me is never really publicized.  That being said, it would be nice though!