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  • Siria Contreras

You Can't Help Everyone



You can’t help everyone.


It’s true (and yes, it’s me saying those words).


As we get closer to the end of the year and the bells toll for last-call annual donations from organizations and groups alike, many of us will feel compelled to give. Especially in a year like this one, where hopefully those that find ourselves in good-to-moderate health see just how fortunate we are.


However, not everyone will be in a financial state to do so or at least not in the same position to do so. With many industries and the 2021 forecast still in flux, most will give more conservatively.


If you happen to be one of the more financially stable citizens of the world, odds are that especially in 2020 it has not only been organizations and groups that have come calling for financial donations, but also friends, family, and in the past few months if you’re in the U.S, political candidates and social causes.


Your head could spin with the possibilities of all of the places where you could allocate donations depending on your interests and/or beliefs. To only speak for myself, I in this year alone donated financially towards climate-related organizations, indigenous groups, political movements/candidates, youth-related causes, and arts organizations. I also created money-making opportunities for out-of-work peers and young people.


From a larger strategic standpoint I also helped ideate and hopefully provide some relief for various demographics who struggled throughout via our Nourish Foundation initiatives like Adopt-A-SIP, our ongoing workforce development training Scholarship fund, etc, the larger Crew Nation initiatives of our Live Nation/House of Blues Music Forward collaboration, even our Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls L.A. existed in a successful virtual version this summer. Then of course, was the early March - May collaborations with peers and orgs on COVID-19 relief and PPE material routing.


Somehow, it is still only October.


Many of those initiatives and recipients are those that I likely would have contributed towards in any normal year plus a few more that I’ll get into below. However, with just as many causes, organizations, and or groups of people that I may have helped this year there are at minimum ten times as many more that I didn’t. That’s where I hope the rest of you come in. We all champion different causes and our life journeys inform that which we feel compelled to help better.


One of the things that some people find amusing when I’ve said it is that often-time in the social and non-profit sectors I build things that I hope will no longer be needed in ten years. For example with the Nourish Foundation, food insecurity will likely always be an epidemic yet taking a more dynamic and scientific approach can help to decrease the need significantly. Consciously Studio? Same thing. Some of the things that I expend brain power on are things that I hope will no longer have a need for solutions in my lifetime. Even our Bring on the Ballot campaign was only brought about by necessity.


I don’t do things for credit or for attention, I do things to legitimately provide improvement or solution for. Yet, I know that I can’t apply the same attention to every area. While my actual career may stay rooted in entertainment or technology in some way as those are areas that can keep up with the fast-paced nature of my mind, the areas in which I feel compelled to give back will likely stay rooted in the sectors of nutrition/nourishment, climate action, human/civil/women’s rights, youth, a little in the political sphere, and lastly the arts and literary spaces. Thankfully many of those intersect.


For that last area of impact--the arts and literary space, I also have to be selective as I can’t donate to every museum, organization, or struggling author or artist. I support 2-3 max in a year. Yet, I always care most about how my donation or time is being invested, I don’t care about writing a check for the gloss appeal and typically keep my donations anonymous which was the case when I first began supporting Beyond Baroque, of which I am on the board of. I initially began supporting some of their youth literary workshops after meeting a troubled young woman who shared with me a story of how that organization’s support and encouragement of her writing helped put her on a better path. I was soon thereafter asked to join their board, but I was hesitant as I wasn’t certain that I could make the time to honor that commitment-- I hardly ever am able to make it to most of their events due to my typically busy schedule, but alas I accepted. I still laugh when I recall one of the board members joking that I was trying to buy my way onto their board (as I think they were typically used to having to ask for donations), explaining that their board membership was not one often offered and here I was almost refusing it due to my attempt at balancing my time and responsibilities.


That is just one example of where I supported because I believed in their mission not just because of a cause (of course, books and the preservation of the literary arts have been important to me since I was a child). Since then, I continue to support as I can, but also in an effort to help them help themselves have helped them to modify their digital and social strategy including some things to come later in fall as I’ve grown fond of those that I collaborate with there, even if my time is still pretty limited. Just like this one there are other stories similar in why or how I began to support a cause or organization.


Yet, beyond the normal organizations and causes there are also the individuals. Those that surround us. Some need help and may request it all of the time, while for others it may just be during times of extreme hardship or even times of opportunity. Examples of requests may range from help with making rent/bills, covering medical costs, to funding/investing in projects or opportunities. Then there are those that may shut down during a crisis and just need your time to pull them out of that, which is just as comparable to a financial donation taking up time you likely would’ve spent doing other things. At times, your own mental health suffers and stress levels spike as you try to figure out how to help the person in need as typically there is some time constraint tied to the ask.


This is where boundaries become important. Sure, some people are stronger or more resourceful than others. Yet, that does not mean that they should take on the problems of the world, their communities, nor their friends and families.


Sure, there are some people that we all feel responsible for and will always help if we can. However, it should not be expected. With yesterday having been World Mental Health Day, I felt compelled to write this post to remind those of you who tend to be the nucleus of many “worlds” and groups of people, typically serving as the go-to problem solvers. Remember that the world is not really on your shoulders, unless you allow it to be there. Solving the problems of every other person or keeping other organizations/groups sustained is not your sole responsibility (of course, unless the organization is yours but even then enlist the aide of others as they do you). Ask yourself this question, “If I were not around, who would help this person? How would they help themselves?” Mental and physical health not-withstanding, most people would be able to find an alternative solution if you are unable to assist them.


Lastly, instead of jumping to help them every single time they need help, how can you help empower them to no longer need your assistance and also improve their capacity to help themselves? How can you get them to a place where they can help others instead?


It always feels much better to our conscience, minds, and likely souls to help of our own free will rather than to feel like we have to. As that saying goes, “it is better to be wanted than needed”.

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