A means to an end
For several months I’ve been trying to force myself to write a little bit every day. There are several reasons for this–catharsis, to organize thoughts, to share with a wider audience the things I care about, to prevent brain atrophy, among others. Sadly and ashamedly, it has literally taken me months to start a blog because I have been stumped on what to call said blog. Yes, it’s true. Perhaps someone out there will empathize with my fickleness.
Anyhow, I’m dedicating my first post to the concept of “a means to an end.” It seems to be a theme that’s presented itself in my life as of late. Take this blog, for example. Honestly, I’ve felt an urgent–nay–DESPERATE need to put my thoughts down on paper. I am a writer. Not just by trade but by being. I need to write. And I haven’t had an outlet by which to legitimately write for fun in a long time (and I am positive my creativity has taken a hit because of that). So this blog is a means to that end–despite the fact that likely no one besides my mom or my husband will read it (hey, guys!), it solves a problem of personal need.
Continuing with this concept, Stephen and I grabbed a quick bite to eat at the Yard House in Pasadena since I was tagging along for his class tonight. We had a couple of beers (I savored a pint of my personal favorite, Pyramid Hefeweizen) and chatted about my potential blog (now a REAL blog!) and the discipline of writing. When we got our bill, there was a sticker and small card inside the padded check folder that said “Round It Up!” Basically, from what I’ve found in my research, it’s a program available at several restaurant chains that offers guests the opportunity to round up their bill to the next dollar amount and donate the additional funds to charity. For example, if your bill is for $14.55, you can round it up to $15 and give the extra $.45 to charity.
I thought it was a pretty cool idea–an easy way to give a little to help a lot. Stephen was disgusted disagreed, saying that it was just another way to exploit consumerism without really engaging people with the issues at hand (i.e. TOMS Shoes, Ethos Water, and any other buy-this-item-and-we’ll-donate-$X-to-this-charity business model). His main beef is that it gives people a feeling of relief for their apathy, without changing hearts or fixing problems–plugging a hole in a leaking ship instead of fixing the ship completely, in other words.
I argued that programs like this are a means to an end–a way to engage people who would otherwise be doing nothing. If I were benefiting from the, say, $.45 that someone “rounded up”–I wouldn’t really care if in order to benefit from that $.45, the happy hour-goer had to first purchase two beers. Who cares? Someone is helped! Ditto for something like TOMS Shoes. Yes, it does play off American consumerism. Yes, it is a trend. But people are going to buy trendy things anyway. Why not help kids while you rock those kicks? And I truly believe that people who Round Up or buy TOMS Shoes are now aware of or at least more tuned in to the issues at hand. Means to ends are not always as neat and prim as the rooms in an IKEA catalog. They’re usually messy and they’re usually compromises because an ideal solution wasn’t possible or available. But they get the job done. Does that mean they’re wrong?
I cautiously raise my glass to philanthropy by proxy. I’d love to hear what you think.