Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Where There's a Wil

A few days ago I watched a video that affected me so deeply that it left me in a daze where I couldn't stop thinking about it, but I couldn't find the words to express what it meant to me either.

Now a few days have passed and I've been able to gather my wits sufficiently to write this.

There's something that has been bothering me for a long time. It relates to a delicate topic, really a taboo of sorts so I'm uncomfortable bringing it up for fear of how people might respond. The topic came up in a conversation recently, so I tried to explain it — the thing that bothers me — but the people I was talking to didn't understand at all. I don't know if it was them or me. The conversation left me even more bothered than I was before.

Then I saw this YouTube clip:

The video is of Savannah, an unassuming woman half my age, in the snow sort-of looking at the camera but having trouble maintaining eye contact, while the audio is Savannah speaking a message that she recorded separately.

Savannah starts talking about a technical glitch she experienced while making a video for Project 4 Awesome (P4A). P4A is an event where people make videos to promote a charity of their choice, and money is raised to support those charities. Her charity is Camp Goodtimes, a programme to support children affected by cancer and their families.

Creating a P4A video like that is pretty amazing, and the follow-up clip could have been about her feelings about the charity or the challenges of making a promotional video. Had I been following her previous videos, that's what I would have expected. But that's not what the follow-up clip was about.

Instead, the glitch caused Savannah to make a realisation that was totally unrelated to what she was doing; the same realisation that has been bothering me for so long. And she just SAYS IT. She says it better than I could ever imagine myself saying it.

Listening to that for the first time was a very emotional moment for me.

That could have been the end of the clip, and I still would have found it to be utterly amazing. Simply bringing awareness to this issue is a big deal to me. But there was more. However it took me a couple of days to get past that point; by that I mean I watched the rest of the video during that time, but I didn't really get it.

The rest of the clip was a call to help do something about this issue. There are lots of videos and Web sites that ask people for things, and most of us train ourselves to ignore such calls, so that's what I did at first. I still couldn't get the clip out of my head though so I went back to look at it multiple times a day.

After a couple of days I looked at the view count and the comments. The clip passed 10,000 views, which is not nothing but hardly a blip on the Internet today. I also saw at least one troll in the comments claiming how the whole issue is nonsense and the actions proposed won't help.

I thought to myself: why isn't this video catching on? Don't people understand? Don't they care?

That's when it hit me. The point of the clip was not to get a whole lot of people to understand or care; that's way too hard. The point was to get a smaller number of people who already understand and care to give and receive help.

The clip affected me so profoundly because I understand and care. The empathy I feel for this issue gives me an ability to help in a way that many other people can't or won't.

For years while I was working for a hospital I participated in their blood donor program. I had difficulty giving blood the first few donations but I persisted and after some experimentation I worked out how to fill the pint bag in 10 minutes without feeling sick or dizzy. However I saw lots of people come in wanting to donate but their bodies could not handle it at all, and they had to be turned away. Later I learned that my blood type (O+/Rh-) was very suitable for special kinds of transfusions, making me a valued donor. I learned to be grateful for the privilege of donating blood that others either were unable to or chose not to. I also learned not to judge others on whether they gave blood or not: there are so many different ways to give to others, and we all should be free to choose our own manner of giving.

I've never really done volunteer work before; I don't really count blood donation as volunteering, especially when the hospital I worked for made it so easy. However I think I can help with this. More than that, I think that I'm privileged to be the sort of person who can help with this, and it would be a waste to miss the opportunity to do so. So I signed up.

I don't expect many other people reading this to be affected by the video in the same way I was. However I would ask that you share the video so that others may have a chance to benefit from either giving or receiving help in this way.

PS. Some of you may have noticed that I do not say explicitly what the issue is. As I said earlier, Savannah said it much better than I ever could. Plus, I'm still not comfortable talking about it openly, at least not yet.

PPS. I really should get back into donating blood again.

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