Why do some people become activists?
Some become activists because they have a natural passion, a deep sense of empathy for the tragedy or injustice felt by others. Jane Goodall is one such example. Her empathy focused on the animals that she fought for throughout her life.
Others become activists after they are personally struck by tragedy or injustice. John Walsh became an activist after his son was kidnapped and murdered. In response to that life-changing event he dedicated himself to hunting down criminals and saving kidnapped children.
John was transformed into an activist, Jane simply was an activist.
Regardless of how you get there, it is admirable to have at least one cause greater then your own immediate self-interest that you are passionate about. It is not only good for society, not only good for the planet, not only good for future generations, but it is good for yourself as well.
But most of us are not naturally passionate activists like Jane Goodall. And thankfully most of us are never transformed by tragedy into activists as was John Walsh. Most of us don’t have a burning passion and most of us don’t become active in causes until and unless we’re personally affected by them.
Sure, I guess I should care more about starving kids in Africa, but frankly I don’t know any of them personally so it’s hard to get too worked up. We’re apathetic about gay rights until our own child comes out. We don’t think much about cancer until our spouse is stricken. We don’t fight to get guns off the street until our child dies to gun violence. We don’t typically offer anything beyond the mildest philosophical support for the heartfelt passionate causes of others, little more than token responses to their pleas for help and support – unless and until we’re personally affected.
You can still find transformed activists out there working hard for every possible cause. It sometimes seems difficult to accept their impassioned urging that we should care, when they never cared until it personally affected them. Sometimes we even wonder, what kind of person are they that they only became concerned about a problem after it affected them or someone they love personally? Was it not a problem before it impacted them? Did they not pretty much ignore the pleas of those affected before they were personally impacted?
The practical reality is that there are way too many important and worthy causes for us to become deeply, emotionally, actively involved in every one. But surely you have room in your life and in your heart for just one. It would be nice, would it not, to choose a cause, any cause, that you really care about, rather than maybe someday simply adopting a cause only because you have been personally stabbed through the heart by it?
There are so many worthy causes that deserve your help before you personally suffer from their effects; quiet causes and loud causes, modest causes and epic causes, surely there is a cause that matches your interests, abilities, and personal style.
Find your cause before it finds you.