Saturday, July 02, 2011

Do-gooder Wannabe

In my profile description, I say that I am a "do-gooder wannabe."  A few years ago, before Sidney was born, I took a hard look at my life & career and considered what many people do who are educated, well-paid and sympathetic to the disparity in the world: wanting to cross over to a non-profit job.  

I was ignorant though, let's establish that right off the bat.  The non-profit world is not waiting with baited breath for me, a former hi-tech program manager who is good with logistics but has no established background with issues nor has an advanced degree in anything.  Some of the folks I spoke to at these organizations are some of the most "degreed up" people I have ever met doing the same job I did at a hi-tech company for half my salary.  But it's not about the money when you go to work for a non-profit, it's about helping others.   

Non-profits in Seattle can be very picky because it seems like so many bright, driven and appropriately experienced people who want the jobs too.  It showed me how ideal yet unfocused I was about this pursuit which really took me aback.  I had never been so unprepared as I was in trying to find work for a cause.  Maybe because I never crusaded for a cause or issue before.  So I began to consider what causes or issues was I really concerned about.  I knew answering "all of them" was incorrect.  Ghandi said something like "be the change you want to see" but I just felt overwhelmed by the choices and unwelcome professionally.  I'm not proud of it, but at that point, I just gave up and tried to rediscover some joy in the job I had at the time.  Then I got pregnant with Sidney.  And then I left that job to be a stay-at-home-mom, work that pays nothing but is infinitely more rewarding.  (Maybe that's a little like working for a cause.)

But I still have a desire to effect change and improve the world.   But to be said in the manner of Derek Zoolander, lips pursed, "I'm frustrated because I can't figure out how to help people less fortunate than me. " I know, it's such a ridiculous, first world problem--I just need to stop whining and get doing.

Three recent events have especially rekindled the do-gooder fire:

1. A blog post about a recent trip to Bangladesh by Heather Armstrong, the blogger behind  She went there earlier this month to raise awareness about maternal health and generally the conditions of one of the poorest nations on the planet.  Her visit was not without controversy but ultimately any attention and mobilization of assistance is key.

2. Attending a showcase last week presented by reporter Jenny Asarnow and photographer Jake Warga with stories and images from a recent trip to Haiti which is still in chaos and highlighting the conditions of birth and labor for Haitian women.  They followed an American midwife who trains others in Haiti to improve the chances of maternal survival and reduce complications.

3. The departure last Tuesday of our friend Bev for a month to Bangladesh to help the Distressed Children and Infants International Organization by teaching English to orphans so that they might have another skill to pull them out of a cycle of indentured servitude and prostitution.

With all of that in my consciousness as of late, I can't help but want to re-engage.  Even though the most paralyzing aspects for me are "where is the most need" & "what can I do for them."  I realize every cause is important and deserving in their own way so I guess it's just like dating: do your research, make a commitment and do as much as you can before you move on.  Because you don't have to marry the cause (or make a living doing it either) to make a difference.  With that I think I'm going to look a local food bank and see about sorting things, putting stuff in bags or organizing food stuffs.  Put that OCD to work!

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