Do you feel guilty every time you hear about a charity and you don’t give money? Does it feel like you’re bombarded by requests for help? Flooding disasters. Tornados. Abused animals. Drought.
It’s called Donor Fatigue. It’s defined as “the lessening of the public’s willingness to respond generously to charitable appeals resulting from the frequency of the appeals.”
I want to tell you a story.
In the 1830’s, there were 125,000 Native Americans living in what is now Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina and Florida. George Washington decided that this culture needed to be more civilized, converted to Christianity and taught to speak English. Five tribes- the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Seminole, Creek and Cherokee, were referred to as the “Five Civilized Tribes” when they began to adopt the attributes of the new colonists.
Despite the Native American’s willingness to blend cultures, farmers wanted, and then demanded, the rich land they inhabited. Andrew Jackson was happy to accommodate. He created the Indian Removal Act that allowed the government to exchange Native American held lands in the east for land in the west (what is now Oklahoma).
The Choctaw nation was the first tribe to be moved. It was a disaster. Traveling Native Americans faced the worst snowstorm in the Mississippi Valley’s history and they were not prepared with adequate blankets, shoes or winter clothing. Heavy rains washed out trails and the slower travel meant that food supplies were depleted. Cholera and other infectious diseases struck. Thousands died.
One hundred thousand Native Americans were moved, fifteen thousand (some articles report significantly higher numbers) died on what was later called “The Trail of Tears.”
Seventeen years later, another tragedy occurred in a country far away. The Irish Potato Famine began in 1845 when a fungus infected and ruined up to one-half of the potato crop. Within the next seven years, up to 3/4 of the crop was affected. One million people died of starvation and the Irish were forced to leave their homes to find food for their families.
Word of the “Great Hunger” reached the Choctaw tribe in 1847. They were still grieving their dead, still trying to create a new home in a new land, and they had little to give. Perhaps it was empathy for the loss of lives and the forced removal from their homes. Whatever the reason, the Choctaw tribe gathered money and they sent it to Ireland, creating a bond with the Irish that continues to this day.
In 1990, Choctaw leaders went to Ireland to recreate the famine walk of locals leaving their homes. In 1992, Irish leaders helped commemorate the Trail of Tears. Both groups wanted to remember the past—but also raise money for famine sufferers in Africa.
Here’s why I’m not worried about Donor Fatigue. I can’t give to every charity. I can’t work every fundraiser. But there will always be one that tugs your heart strings. The Children’s Advocacy Center is mine. Children should not be abused. Period.
When it comes along, you’ll know it. You’ll feel it. Give generously to whatever feels right to you…and make this world a better place.
The image is a photo by Gavin Sheridan of a statue in Midleton, County Cork memorializing the Choctaw’s donation to the Irish. Feathers are reminiscent of those used in Choctaw ceremonies and the arrangement in a circle represents an empty bowl of food.
At one time scientists thought that only humans could respond to music. Animals, including cats, dogs and even monkeys, could hear music, but any response they might seem to have was not in rhythm with the music. Music might soothe the savage beast, but he wasn’t able to boogie to it.
But then a scientist, Aniruddh Patel, saw a Youtube video of a cockatoo called Snowball. And it looked like Snowball was reacting to a BackStreet Boys song. The bird changed his pace, his kicks and beak dipping, in response to the music.
It was a fascinating observation that led to the understanding that vocal learners, like dolphins and song birds, changed their body’s response based on the speed of the music. It also helped understanding how our brain coordinates movement in response to music.
You know what I’m taking about don’t you. That’s right. Dancing.
Dancing is more complex than you’d think. The motor cortex of the frontal lobe plans and executes voluntary movements. The basal ganglia, deeper in the brain, helps coordinate movements and the cerebellum allows us to keep a beat, maintain a rhythm.
That’s the part we understand, there’s a lot we don’t understand.
Like why patients with Parkinson’s may show some improvement with dance. In a study in Northwestern University, individuals who attended a dance class for 10 weeks reported a reduction in their disability. The study was small but it was thought that dance activated areas of the brain that helped them improve.
Other studies have shown benefits in stress, anxiety and even dementia. Dancing releases endorphins, the ‘feel good’ chemicals in our body.
Peter Lovatt is known as Doctor Dance. He studies psychology as it is applied in dance. He believes that how we move our body can have an impact on how we learn and think. He was a professional dancer, but in 2008 he combined his love of dance with the study of psychology. He’s a pretty interesting guy and you can hear his TED talks on his website.
How did I discover these interesting facts?
I often visit my mother who suffers from Alzheimer’s. We call her the Dancing Queen. I’d never seen my mother dance until she was diagnosed with dementia. I don’t know if the disease removed her inhibitions or if music appeals to her in a different way now. What I know is that she LOVES to dance. So I researched why that might be true and I think it's because it makes her feel better.
Here’s the cool thing.
I can’t help her. I can’t make her sleep better or understand what is happening. I can’t always be there to encourage her to drink more or comfort her when she’s scared. There’s so much that I can’t do that it makes me feel helpless and frustrated. But there is something I can do with her…
I can dance.
I am not Mahatma Gandhi.
Most people recognize his name. He was an Indian lawyer who became world famous for his non-violent resistance during India’s campaign to free themselves from British Rule. At a time of increasing riots, Gandhi proposed fasting and boycotts. He went as far as spinning the yarn to make fabric for his own clothes instead of buying foreign made goods. In one episode of disobedience, Gandhi started a walk to the Arabian Sea coast, a distance of 240 miles. The goal was to retrieve salt from the ocean. According to British law, starting in 1882, Indians were forced to buy their salt from the British and they were taxed heavily during the process. He started with a few dozen people and ended his walk with tens of thousands.
On arrival, Gandhi was arrested immediately and then taken away. His followers had a different fate, they were viciously executed, clubbed by police until some of them fell unconscious or dead.
So what does that have to do with me?
I recently read an article by a doctor that proposed that we need to up our game to combat the rise in vaccine refusals. He suggested following Gandhi’s footsteps and he had a plan. He outlined the steps we’ve taken thus far (explaining and educating) and what we should consider doing (boycotting businesses of non-vaccinators and even hunger strikes).
I am not Mahatma Gandhi and truthfully, I don’t think a hunger strike will turn this around.
Let me hit pause for a moment and tell you about something unrelated, but important.
The MASK movement. Established in 2015, the MASK movement stands for Mothers Against Senseless Killings. They don’t have a complex agenda. Their goal is to keep “eyes on the street, interrupt violence and crime, and teach children to grow up as friends.”
Tamar Manasseh is the leader of the “army of moms”. On the first day of the MASK gathering, five moms served hot dogs and chips on a street corner. They still sit on the same street corner in one of the city’s most violent neighborhoods of Chicago and they just talk. But there’s a lot more of them talking now.
In articles, Manasseh says she doesn’t want to be considered an anti-gun activist. What she wants is to create a safe spot, to stop the senseless killings. So they eat, chat, dance and talk on the street corner. They make friends, teach their children to be friends and they’ve lowered the rate of violence in their neighborhood. It’s simple right?
Tamar says on her website:
I used to think my greatest accomplishment was raising two happy, healthy children in Chicago, where so many other mothers are denied that right. Then I sat in a lawn chair on a street corner and extended the love I have for my kids to someone else’s. I have been enriched and deeply fulfilled by all of my children. I hope that one day you get to experience the same level of purpose that I have. See you on the block.
Tamar Manasseh is not Mahatma Gandhi either. Instead of hunger strikes, she’s feeding the kids in her neighborhood for free. Instead of long treks to retrieve salt and promote civic disobedience, Tamar is hanging around a corner in her own neighborhood engaging other mothers to help her change the environment they all live in.
But there are two ways that Tamar is like Gandhi.
She uses love to fight hate and her followers have been viciously executed.
Chantell Grant and Andrea Stoudemire , moms in MASK, lost their lives on July 26, 2019. They were shot down on the very corner where the group of mothers routinely meet. It was painful to read about and they haven't caught the shooter yet. But the moms are still going back to that corner. Because, no matter what happens, love must win.
You can read about Tamar and her mission here: On the Block.
The “King of Random” is dead and I’m sad about it—even though I’d never heard his name until yesterday.
Grant Thompson was the creator of the Youtube channel titled The King of Random and he made “videos dedicated to exploring life through all kinds of hacks, experiments and random weekend projects.”
A look at his offerings shows that he lived up to the ‘random' claim. He has a variety of videos including how to: make thunder claps, turn coal into diamonds using peanut butter, and light a fire with a water bottle (this last one is filed under survival techniques if you’re interested)
“There is excitement found in discovering the unknown, so join us and let’s build something great together,” says the description of the channel.
I’m not sure that building was always the goal but discovering the unknown was. In 2017, in an interview on Mediakix, he said that “I just started tinkering and learning how the world works…” Over time he built up a following and he said he realized he was meeting a need.
But what need, exactly, was he meeting?
Primarily, the appeal of just tinkering…. Do you know the definition of tinkering?
To attempt to repair or improve something in a casual way, often to no useful effect.
Tinkering is, at its heart, playtime. It involves puttering around with everyday objects and and exploring what can be done with them. For some, if it involves fire or explosions (as some of Thompson’s did) but for others its just fooling around with a piece of wood and some wire. Doing something with your hands, building, tinkering… can be therapeutic.
But I think the attraction to his channel went beyond tinkering.
His ideas had a sense of ridiculousness, and his Youtube channel provided a droll comedy for his watchers. It reminded me of something similar.
The Ig Nobel Prize.
The Ig honors achievements that make people LAUGH and then THINK. According to the website, “The prizes are intended to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative — and spur people’s interest in science, medicine, and technology.”
They have an annual ceremony (Sept 12 if you’re interested) and the awards are presented at a Harvard auditorium by, you guessed it, genuine Nobel Laureates.
To help you understand what I'm talking about, the 2018 awards went to scientists who explored:
-whether roller coasters could hasten the passage of kidney stones.
-whether a wine expert could reliably identify, by smell, the presence of a single fly in a glass of wine.
-the degree to which human saliva is a good cleaning agent.
I’ve signed up to watch the awards online.
As a bonus, during my research I discovered that I may be a candidate for the Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists. My hair has gotten longer out of pure laziness but now I discover, it may open new doors for me. The LFHCfS is for scientists that have, or believe they have, luxuriant flowing hair. Stay tuned.
“You can't deny laughter; when it comes, it plops down in your favorite chair and stays as long as it wants.” Stephen King