This past week I celebrated my *mumbleteen* birthday. In all it was a glorious day of me doing absolutely nothing but exactly what I wanted to. That is to say, reading. I am not a watcher of television (though right now Lost Girl on Netflix seems to hold sway in the brief moments of “what do I do next” in my life). I also don’t subscribe to any news aggregators or websites of any kind. This leaves me blissfully free of any of the baloney political crap that seems to get my ire up in a big damned hurry. The downside, of course, is that it leaves me blissfully unaware of major events happening in the world and I must, sadly, rely on people notifying me, usually after the fact.
Such was the case with the super typhoon that hit the Philippines this past week. It did not happen on my birthday, but it was on my birthday that I learned about it. To some extent, yes, this was easier news to deal with than the aftermath of discovering that a good friend of mine really was telling me the truth when he exclaimed he just watched the Pentagon get hit by an airplane and the stories of the 911 attacks began to unfold (he was actually nearby when it happened). Easier too, I think, than finding out that the brave residents of Estes Park, Colorado (including my high school sweetheart) were in large part trapped in their city because of the unprecedented flooding.
Now for most people, a major happening like this typhoon might serve as a huge downer, to the point of ruining their “special” day. Death simply has that effect people. For me, however, it was a sobering reminder that I am blessed. I am able to regularly choose what I do (usually, write like a banshee), what I eat, what I drink, and the time I spend with whomever or whatever I desire. Few are so lucky.
Lest you misinterpret this apparent calm in my façade, I am still left at times with feelings of horrible, crushing helplessness and utterly convinced that there is precious little I can do until I shake myself out of it and get to work. I suspect that a great many of you out there are just like me and asking “What the hell can I do for this disaster or for any disaster for that matter? Sending blankets and stuffed animals isn’t what they need.” What’s worse, most of us are struggling with money as we try to make this writing life as published authors become a reality. Yet money is exactly what these people need. So what can we do?
As writers we can raise awareness. We’re good with words, remember? We can help people understand. We can help convince people to do something, anything. And we can do it by going beyond the simple “slacktivism” that pervades social media today. But we have to do it carefully. We have to our research. You can’t just say “hey, here are some links” or reshare that post from your friends. You have to do your research on the organizations that you’re saying will help.
Start with sites like Charity Navigator and the charity reviewer from the American Better Business Bureaus (or the equivalents in other countries). Don’t just trust the name of an organization. Check out the organization itself. Check out what they consider to be expenses and what they do with their profits.
And consider helping the writers you know who are going to be donating any money they collect from various fundraisers. Tiffany Reisz, for example, is hosting an outstanding “Original Sinners” auction that’s open to all bidders until the 18th of this month. It’s got an amazing prize package that includes signed copies of her books, advance viewing of secret pages of her next book and some other spiff rewards as well. Find other writers like Tiffany who are organizing things. Donate a story. Donate editing time. Donate beta reading time. And spread the word.
It’s not important how much you donate. Simply donate what you can, as you can. If that’s money, great. And if that’s time and awareness. That’s good too. But don’t feel helpless.