David Ashby, a 14-year-old boy from Orlando, Florida, is walking from his home to Washington, D.C. to raise awareness about homeless children. You can read about this remarkable young man here. Then read the comments. They begin with such venom and vitriol, it’s hard to imagine that the authors of these criticisms read the same article I did — about a boy who cares enough to dedicate his summer to walking 1,100 (southern!) miles, without knowing where he’ll sleep or what he’ll eat each day. When I read such comments I always feel so sad and frustrated, but I am not surprised by them. Unfortunately, finding fault with good deeds is all too common. People who work to protect animals are often criticized by others for “not caring about people” or “wasting time on animals.” People who give money, rather than food, to those who are homeless are criticized for aiding and abetting their potential cigarette, alcohol or drug habits. Recently, brilliant and inspiring humane educator Christopher Greenslate , who has changed the lives of his high school students and helped them to become effective and engaged change agents, was criticized for sending his students a ‘bad message’ because of his tattoos and piercings.
Sometimes our critiques are important, as in the case with the well thought-out commentary on cause marketing I mentioned in a previous post. They help us make wiser, more efficacious choices about how to make a difference. But too often they are just mean-spirited, as in these few comments about David Ashby. One of the criticisms of David is that he could do more for homeless children by getting a summer job and donating his earnings directly to them. But I don’t believe this is true. Were he to work all summer and donate his earnings to the homeless he would do something good, certainly, but the contribution would be minor compared to what might ensue from his walk. Gaining media attention for the travesty of child homelessness in the richest nation on earth has the potential to do so much more than a summer job ever could. It has the potential to influence changes in systems that perpetuate homelessness among children. Thank goodness for kids like David. Thank goodness that they think of creative ways to draw attention to pervasive problems so that we can solve them at their roots.
How much easier to criticize others than to plunge into good work ourselves. If ever you find yourself ready to criticize a good deed, go do a good deed instead. Take that energy and make a positive difference.
Filed under: changemakers, citizen activism, compassionate communication, human rights Tagged: | campaigns, changemakers, compassionate communication, criticism, good deeds, homeless children, homelessness, intentions, systemic change, youth activism