Raising awareness

Here is a topic about which I haven’t written for a while. Are you ready to celebrate and have your awareness raised? I hope so, because today, October 12, 2018, is National Farmer’s Day. It is a good thing to celebrate farmers and the hard work they do to supply us with food. Records of National Farmer’s Day events exist back to the 1800’s. Here at the end of harvest it makes sense to thank farmers for their work and their contributions to our economy.

But you will want to save some energy because it is also National Savings Day, National Gumbo Day, National Freethought Day and, through I’m not exactly sure how this can be, it is also national Vermont Day. I get celebrating gumbo and I think eating a bowl of gumbo to celebrate might be a good idea. And there aren’t many people here in South Dakota who know that the word Gumbo comes from a West African word for okra. Some believe that you don’t have real gumbo without okra. Gumbo is the official cuisine of the state of Louisiana. The place to be for the celebration of national gumbo day is New Iberia, LA, where the World Championship Gumbo Cook-Off will be held. Maybe you have to travel to celebrate some of these days. I’m now sure how someone who was born in Montana is supposed to observe National Vermont Day in South Dakota.

And if the national days for today don’t excite you, never fear. There are nearly 1,500 national days, national weeks and national months. nationaldaycalendar.com lists 113 national observances for the month of October. Some are important awareness issues, like breast cancer awareness month and caffeine addiction recovery month and dyslexia awareness month and spina bifida awareness month. But did you know October is also national squirrel awareness month, which is different than squirrel appreciation day in January. October is national toilet tank repair month and national pretzel month and bat appreciation month. And, readers, don’t forget that October is national church library month.

If national month designations don’t get your awareness going, October has 11 world days when a national recognition just isn’t enough. And there are twenty official week long observances from spinning and weaving week to no salt week and national carry a tune week, which, by the way has already passed, so if you are still humming you may be out there all by yourself.

If you check you mail, your email inbox or your social media accounts you will find that they are filled with pitches aimed at raising your awareness about this or that issue. Kaydi Pyette, a columnist for Paddling Magazine has referred to the time in which we are living as the golden age of awareness raising.

Awareness raising can be important. We should pay attention to white cane safety and brain training and it is probably good to have a national mother-in-law day. I hope you are all planning a very special pastor’s appreciation day, which is coming up on the second Sunday of October. This year national pastor’s appreciation day is also national dessert day, so it might be a good time to share your favorite dessert with your pastor. Just saying . . . I’m not up on all of the proper social media rules, but I now you have to have a hashtag to get a lot of attention. How about #pie for pastors?

And just in case you haven’t noticed, the day after national pastor’s day, October 15, is national grouch day. Those two days might be connected, especially if your pastor doesn’t end up feeling appreciated. Just saying . . .

Back in the 1980’s when i was early in my career as a pastor, social scientists popularized the information deficit model. The belief was that if only the public had the right information, conveyed in a way people could understand, they would make the right choices. In the intervening decades it has been fairly clear that just having awareness is not enough, though there are certainly a whole lot of groups around who use this model and who seem to believe that all we need to do is to be aware.

But as I remind my family doctor from time to time, I’m not overweight because of a lack of information. I know the basics of diet and exercise. I have information on a healthy lifestyle. I know that smartphones make people more stressed, but I haven’t given mine up yet.

Take the problem of plastic pollution. More than 40 percent of plastics are used only once and then discarded. Plastic makes up approximately 90 percent of all trash floating on the ocean’s surface. According to Google News, plastic pollution has been the topic of more than 2.6 million news articles. There have been 1,600 news reports in the mainstream media that have focused on plastic pollution. I’m pretty sure that the average citizen has heard about the threat of plastic to the world’s oceans. If awareness was all that was needed, plastic pollution would be decreasing, but it is not.

Sometimes it takes more than awareness. Real change requires action. And we are more effective in our actions when we are focused and choose just a few areas of concentration. No one can be effective at managing 1,500 causes every year. None of us is going to take action on 113 national awareness issues this month.

What we can do is to pick a few important causes and invest our energy. National Gumbo day might not be capturing your attention, but you might passionately care about Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness.

Awareness, focus, action - there are several steps required to bring about genuine lasting change. We seem to have the awareness part down pretty solidly. The next step, focus, is a challenge. With so many efforts at raising our awareness constantly bombarding us we need to not only choose which areas are worthy of our focus, but also which areas we will ignore. For example, I have no intention to observe national brandied fruit day or national mulligan day for what it is worth.

I’m including farmers in my prayers today. They’re pretty good at praying themselves, but a few extra prayers never hurts. I’m hoping that Vermonters can take care of themselves.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!