I’m not fighting cancer unless I get a free tote bag*

I’m sorry, I just won’t do it. I mean, don’t have cancer, and if I ever do get it I’ll need all the money I have to fight it then. So if you’re gonna sell me on the idea of sharing my own security blanket, my own disposable income, with some scientist to save the day for someone that’s not me, I better get a damn tote bag out of it!!!

Oh, there IS a free tote bag in it for me? Oh, well then, here, I’m happy to help. Who do I make a check out to?

*End Sarcasm Here

Look at the envelope above. Which words did you read first?

Look at the envelope above. Which words did you read first?

It’s not exactly like that, but when I received a letter in the mail today, the envelope had three things on it: 1) A seashell, 2) the words “Imagine a world without cancer!” in blue above the address, and 3) the words “FREE TOTE BAG DETAILS INSIDE!” in red in the right corner. Despite it’s placement, I read the red text first because, ya know, it’s red. And in caps. Plus, ‘FREE’ … so …

Apparently the concept of a cancer-less world has proven to be not enough for would-be donation givers. The truly stupid part was that I opened the standard-sized envelope fully expecting a collapsed tote bag in there like it were Marry Poppins’ purse. Would I even have opened it if the free tote were not an option? Not sure, since it was the offer contrasting with the cause that got my attention.

“Do people really need a free tote in order to fight cancer?” That was my thought as I opened it. And when no such tote was there, I turned here to, I don’t know, vent? We wear bracelets, run in 5k’s, buy T-shirts, and create hashtags to show we care about things that are so basic on the spectrum of caring that it’s hard not to feel self-righteous when we participate. From “I gave blood today” buttons to “Fuck Cancer” t-shirts, we advertise our generosity. It’s not all to promote ourselves and it’s not necessarily disingenuous, but it does seem like we do a lot more when there is a way to show it off.

I get it, too. If I stand alone against cancer, there’s no way we can win. But if I buy a  bracelet then that makes me part of a group of hundreds, thousands and hundreds of thousands. Then I feel a lot better about contributing to a cause that we can win. And there’s even basic truth to it: the more people we have fighting cancer, the better our chances are of winning. More people, more money, more minds, and more tote bags.

It shouldn’t matter why we decide to help, but that we decide to help. In my mind, the cause should be cause enough, and to many it definitely is. But to energize the masses, it takes symbols of community. Like an N-Y on your hat, a yellow ribbon on the back window of your car, or a rainbow flag on your porch, showing support beyond your monetary or voluntary donations does have an impact.

So, yes, send me my free tote bag and make sure it tells people that I helped; that they can help, too. And that when they do, they can get a tote bag that inspires someone else. Not everyone is equally affected by cancer, but everyone needs a bag to put shit into now and then.

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