art is charity

What Is Your Cause?

Reality TV starlet & model Kylie Jenner has taken a stand against bullying.

Pop singer Demi Lovato wants to educate the world about the realities of mental illness.

Athlete Ronda Rousey is outspoken about why women need to stop starving themselves and punishing their bodies.

These famous women all share one thing in common: a cause that they believe in.

They’re leveraging their fame to raise awareness and spark conversations about topics they care about. They’re creating real change in the world.

Incredible, right? But celebrities aren’t the only people who can enact change in the world. We all have the power to choose a heartfelt cause and raise awareness—perhaps not amongst an audience of “millions,” but certainly in our own communities.

Like my niece, Paige, who has chosen to support an organization called HERO, which collects gently used medical equipment and other supplies, processes them, and then ships the goods overseas to countries like Haiti, where recycled equipment can save many lives. HERO was started by an OR nurse who hated to see the waste and thought of a way to collect and redistribute the items. My medical center just made a donation a few weeks ago to the Fargo-based Haiti Medical Mission. It’s good to know that supplies we no longer need can help others.

Or my sister-in-law Liz,  who has made it her personal mission to raise awareness about Parkinson’s disease—not just the impact on victims of the disease, but the impact on other family members, like spouses, who often serve as caregivers and who face many challenges, too. Her work honors her late father Marv Bossart, and her mom, Betty, who was a champion caregiver. She and her family even climbed White Butte in western ND this summer with Michael J. Fox himself as part of an awareness campaign!

Or this amazing woman, who decided not to have a traditional “wedding registry” filled with saucers, plates, and other gifts for her home, but instead raised money to build a science lab for girls in Kenya. Now that is a truly beautiful bride!

I read about marathon runs and walks across America to honor loved ones and to raise money for research. I had a co-worker, Cindy, who started a charity and walk for melanoma research after her wonderful husband, Willy, lost his battle with this awful skin cancer. And then there’s Laura, who started a downtown Fargo Boutique called Others, which promotes fair trade and ethical shopping. And how about James, who is partnering with Habitat for Humanity to build a house by encouraging as many people as possible to contribute five dollars or more.

What is a topic that matters to you? What makes you frustrated or angry? What is something you wish other people understood better? Or something you wish people would do more, or stop doing?

Your cause doesn’t have to be disastrous or sad. Maybe your cause is planting more gardens in communities that lack greenery… or helping kids and their parents get active and play outside more… or inspiring more girls and young women to pursue careers in science and medicine (that’s a personal mission of mine!).

Likewise, your cause doesn’t necessarily have to become your “full time” occupation, either. You don’t have to run a massive Instagram campaign or throw a huge fundraising event or deliver a TED talk about it. You can support your cause in “everyday” ways: by talking openly about your story, by gently correcting people’s misguided perceptions, giving when you can or simply leading by example: modeling the kind of behavior you’d like to see in the world.

I know from experience that life becomes so much richer and more satisfying when you feel a sense of purpose, when there’s something you’re trying to change for the better, when you’ve got a cause and you’re not afraid to share it.

Look into your heart and see what is calling to you. The Christmas season seems to make all of our hearts bigger, so now is the perfect time.

Where are you being led? Maybe you support the backpack program so that no child is hungry over the weekend. Or maybe, because of you, all holiday wishes are fulfilled on the Giving Tree.

What is your cause?

~Dr. Sue