The internet has made our world smaller, and that is a good thing. Everyone who has spoken to me about microblogging knows that I’m madly in love with the work that my friends at Epic Change do. I’ve fallen for Africa without ever having visited because of the Twitter Kids.
As a community we’ve watched disasters unfold in New Orleans, Japan, and Haiti. We’ve taken action and raised millions of dollars quickly and efficiently. This is a good thing, this is an incredible use of the connectivity the internet provides.
What we haven’t done is support our own communities.
My childrens’ school supports a local food bank. Every Friday every child is expected to bring in one canned or boxed good. Those hundreds of items are dropped off at the food bank so that individuals and families who aren’t as lucky as we are get proper nutrition (yes I attribute a lot to luck in this economy). Periodically the classrooms have competitions where the class who brings in the most canned goods will win free dress or an extra recess. This is when my son gets competitive. He will beg me to go the 99 cent store and buy lots and lots of tuna fish or peanut butter so they can win the prize.
I’ve explained to my children that feeding the poor means that we’d send them the same food that we’d be willing to eat. I’ve winced as my children pull my favorite cans off our shelves to give them away, but then I remind myself that I have the incredible privilege of going to the grocery store without worrying if I can afford soup. Still, I struggle with this. I’m human, and like everyone else I can be selfish.
While I watch millions of dollars being raised in my community for third world countries, I’ve simultaneously seen our local schools fail, our food pantries empty, and an increase in homelessness.
I can’t change the world. You can’t change the world. We can all change someone’s day, and perhaps offer a glimmer of hope for the future.
Today I’m asking each and every one of you, my readers, to walk into your kitchen, and to find three cans or boxes of high quality food and to donate that to a food bank near you. If you feed your children organic peanut butter with no sugar added, my expectation is that you will donate that same high quality food to a food pantry. If you love to have Amy’s Organic Soup please consider donating that same high quality food to a family near you that might not otherwise have dinner.
If you have $2 or $20 to spare I challenge you to walk to your nearest public school and give that money to their parent association, or just to the school, so that they can buy things like paper and pencils. Los Angeles schools have no money for paper.
If you have time I’m asking you right now to find a way to give some to your community. I don’t care if you answer phones at some sort of hotline or pick up trash on the side of the road. Maybe you’ll make dinner for a family who is on a tight budget.
I’m tired of the internet being all about vague charities that are funded by mega corporations who are looking for a little marketing to toss into their tax exemptions. I’m sick of sending a dollar to a stranger so that 40 cents can be used for administrative costs. I love the idea of non profits finding their roots online, but even more I love the idea of each of us unplugging for a few minutes each week to make a difference in the towns we live in.
All I want for my birthday is for you to give a little something back to your community. The community you see right outside your front door.
Bloggers love and hate comments. Comments are often the validation that we’re all looking for, and, almost as often, can be like a dagger through the heart (or an axe in your back). I’ve had dozens of people ask me the same question:
How do you deal with the hateful comments. Don’t they bother you?
No, they don’t, and they shouldn’t bother you either.
Have you ever accidentally cut someone off it traffic only to have them honk at you, drive past, sneer and flip you the bird? Have they ever rolled down a window to yell and scream at you, and then skidded off leaving only a trail of burned rubber behind?
When I was younger I might have reacted to the driver with road rage. I might have sped after them, or cut them off again, I might have played dangerous games of chicken while my adrenaline surged.
I’m wiser now, and I’m a fairly courteous driver. I see road rage around me, and it leaves me unaffected. Road rage is just like comments.
If you haven’t been in my home your angry comments can’t hurt me. I look at them, and I envision you speeding past me on the 405 with your middle finger hanging out your car window. I think of you alone in a car headed nowhere quickly. Even when the comments are not anonymous, they’re not likely to be words that would be said to my face.
I’ve promised myself that every time I read an annoying comment, I’ll just imagine who is it behind the computer, and more often that not contempt fades to pity, or even worse apathy. I don’t care that they exist. I honestly see no value in their words. None.
Conversely, if I’ve been out of line, and someone from my inner-circle leaves a comment letting me know that I’ve been hurtful, crude or mean, those are wonderful comments to get. Thank you for saving me from general assholery. It’s good when your girlfriends help you become a better person.
Recently I stated that “I have little respect for my community, yet I adore my audience.” Some folks believe that audience and community are synonyms.
They most certainly are not.
An audience may be an interactive audience, as this one sometimes is. In reality very few of my readers ever comment. Some of you email me, and I delight in that. I don’t need your comments to know you are here. I see you. We have a nice rapport, you and I. If I didn’t want you here, I’d keep a journal. Y’all delight me.
Conversely, it is entirely possible for a community not interact at all, but simply to be present. It is possible that the community can lurk, demean and harass It is possible that my friends would alert me to strange searches on their sites. Entire sites within the blogging community exist solely to destroy other people. Publicists behave like sullen teenagers throwing their weight behind blog posts that take an entire company and pit it against one (very green) mom blogger.
I’m not exactly sure how to proceed. Blogging used to be fun. I met amazing women, I’ve been given great opportunities, and this has been a nice living.
The reality is that my husband and I don’t need this income. I don’t need the feedback, the accolades or the headaches.
I’m back to the same silly place. The community is rancid, but the audience is terrific. We’re going to have to find a way to make this work.
Photo Marfis75 via flickr creative commons