Which Road Are You On?

I recently re-connected with some charity staffers I used to know. I was telling them about a local artist whose ‘I Love E-Town‘ design is very popular with a certain group of people.

One of them reacted with some resentment, saying that if these people love Edmonton so much, they need to realize that there’s a certain amount of social responsibility that comes with that. My interpretation is that she thinks, because these people are not supporters of her charity and/or similar ones, their love of this city rings a bit hollow.

I remember feeling this way; resenting people who didn’t support the organization I represented as a fundraiser. The world view from my desk was that there were two kinds of Edmontonians – those who supported us, and those who were irresponsible and short sighted.

But when I think of the people who resonate with the Edmonton-loving image, the terms ‘irresponsible’ and ‘short-sighted’ do not apply at all. Most (if not all) of them are working hard to make their city a better place, each in their own way – something that works best for him or her according to their goals and resources.

If these people were more aware of the charity my acquaintance works for, they might find ways to be supportive of it. But does the fact that they’re not all flocking to charities to make a difference mean that they lack a sense of social responsibility? Hardly.

I think we need to watch out for this – we can’t let people make us feel inadequate or ashamed for not choosing the same route to goodness that they have, no matter how accomplished, well intentioned, or prominent they may be.

“People take different roads to fulfillment and happiness. Just because they’re not on your road doesn’t mean they’ve gotten lost.”

The Dalai Lama


  1. Marissa July 31, 2012 at 11:16 am - Reply

    VERY good point. Supporting a charity should be a personal journey. You can donate the one-offs (a runner in a marathon, buy the cookie dough, etc) without barely remembering the cause. But when you truly support something – giving regularly, whether it be time, money or your career, then it has a bigger impact.

    Like when people ask why I put on the pop up shops – it’s not a charity, but it does impact small business owners, the neighbourhood we move into and it leaves things a little more shiny. Not a lot of money passes our way, but the relationships we are building with our community are so so valuable.

    A love letter to Edmonton and the people who live here.

    • nriopel July 31, 2012 at 3:13 pm - Reply

      Thank you, Marissa – perfect example. I also like your point about really supporting something, being informed and meaningfully involved. Someone recently described it to me as being a piece of the ‘slow’ movement – slow giving. Slow Do-Gooding. Thanks for your comment, and thanks for being a self-aware Do Gooder.

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