Be part of the solution, not part of the advertisement

My last post took to task people who sympathize with Virginia Tech as an institution, rather than the individuals affected. This drew a generous and thoughtful response from Daniel Farrell, whose brother-in-law was one of the victims of the recent tragedy:

I think it's just a general desire to do something. That is what I've seen in so many people as we've suffered through this: people just want to be able to do something.

Unfortunately there really isn't much to do. People traveled down to the funeral to be with us, they are making us meals, and just generally loving us. We appreciate all of it. But not everyone can do that. If the best someone can do is a show of solidarity by flying a VT flag, or wearing a VT hat or shirt, in memory of the victims then I'm fine with that and I appreciate it. My brother-in-law loved VT and I'm fine with people honoring him and the other victims by flying a VT flag.

He's right - there's not much us strangers can do to help him and his family, specifically. And I think he attributes very benign motives to most people who honor VT as some sort of proxy for his pain and suffering. I didn't mention this in the original post, but one of the the experiences that set me off on this topic was going into a car dealership where everything was decked out in VT gear, colors, balloons, salesmen wearing hats and sweatshirts, etc. That seems crass to me, period.

But in the comments my friend Sara came up with a good way to channel this outpouring of concern and sympathy for a good cause:

Perhaps another more constructive thing to do than loading up on Tech gear? Reach out to someone that you feel may be the victim of this sort of ill treatment. Everyone deserves respect and kindness. Everyone. And let us all start paying attention to health care (including the mental health systems) to ensure that this kindess and respect extends to all that are ill or in trouble.

Right on. It's not as easy (or visible) as flying a flag, but it actually helps somebody. Grief as a consumer good is way overrated, people.

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Written on Monday, May 07, 2007