Pity or Proud

In Columns, Just My Bellybutton, Opinion by Nathasha Alvarez

Last night, I volunteered at the MDA telethon. It was my second time. This year was in honor of my cousin, Frankie who recently passed away. Yesterday, I cried before the telethon. This would be the first year without asking the question “How is Frankie?” I now know the answer.

Some of my friends are contemplating whether the telethon is more of a degrading media spectacle at the expense of the children. I sometimes think so too.

But then again, we are in America. The place where you have to constantly be in someone’s face in order to remind them of other people’s struggles. Imagine no telethon next year. Hmmm…what would happen to the kids?

Do you really think that Americans out of the kindness of their own hearts will give generous amounts of money to the MDA? I doubt it. Even the celebrities got together to raise money for the victims of September 11. Why? Because they know that Americans have a short attention span and the media is the best way to persuade them to open their hearts and wallets.

Perhaps telethons can take a more dignified approach to their marketing strategy. Not all disabled people are weak victims of their own confinement but then again who wants to give money to disabled people with a job, a happy marriage and a wonderful home? Not me!

So where can we find a middle ground for these telethons while still maintaining the dignity of the very same people who need the help? One solution would be to demonstrate people who are leading happy and healthy lives with the help of the organization asking for donations. There doesn’t seem to be a gun pointing at the heads of the children and parents on any of the telethons. They realize that without this money their lives will be more difficult than it already is.

Sometimes we need to touch the compassionate nerve of Americans and even their guilty side as well. In a society where material possession is a goal, the guilt factor can actually bring people back to some humble beginnings. People who are not disabled complain about how difficult it is in this volatile economy yet they don’t have to worry about buying medicine to live, wheelchairs, therapy, crutches, hospital beds, personal attendants and more. The government is not out there giving this stuff away to those who need it. We do need help. I am not denying that. It is great to know that at least a few types of disabilities are getting financial assistance. I know I have lived with Osteogenesis Imperfecta all my life. I have survived over 50 fractures and nine operations. But no telethon helped my family while I was growing up. I don’t have a phone number where I can call when I have a flat tire or need a new wheelchair. So maybe this marketing technique bothers people. Ok, no problem.

But let me leave you with this thought, when was the last time you gave to a disabled organization without being asked?