Bandwagon Fans & African Orphans

“Why do you spend time and money going to ________ (insert 3rd world country) when we have so much need here?”

I hear this a lot.

This summer I am going with a team to Haiti to work with children and help expand a school, orphanage and church my friend runs.  I need money to make this happen.  I’ll ask.  Then inevitably, I’ll hear it again.  When I hear someone say it, I don’t get mad.  If anything, I respect the person for having the courage to say it to me directly and not behind my back.  But then it also informs me where they are coming from.

Because, where we are coming from, makes all the difference.

This week, the NCAA basketball tournament gets underway.  For the first time ever, Cal State Bakersfield has made the tournament.  They have only been a Division 1 school for a short time, so this is quite an accomplishment for a school in a town that is often overlooked if not the butt of jokes.  It’s fun and quite interesting to see how people who have never been to a CSUB basketball game are coming out of the wood works and are now super fans.  When the RoadRunners of CSUB take the court and get blown out by Oklahoma on Friday, I’ll be rooting for them too.  Why?  I haven’t been to one game and don’t know any of the players.  Because I am from there too.

Because, where we are coming from, makes all the difference.

We are seeing this now in the Bay Area with the Golden State Warriors as well.  3 years ago, there were no GS fans, they were practically giving away tickets to home games.  Now, the arena is full and everywhere you go in Northern California, people are wearing (brand new) warriors gear and talking about Steph and Klay like they’re old college friends.  Bandwagon hitching at it’s finest.

Whether it’s jumping on the bandwagon of your area team or deciding where to invest your empathy and compassion, what is clear is that there is one central characteristic that they often share.

Proximity to you.

When it comes to bandwagon fandom, it’s not a big deal.  Buy your new gear.  Change your twitter avi.  Have fun.  Just know that you’re not fooling anyone.  Just be honest and don’t portrait yourself as some kind of long suffering fan whose long time support is now paying off.  We all are in on it.  It’s ok.  We get it.  That team is now relevant and you live there.

When it comes to compassion for others and choosing where to invest your empathy, charity, etc. I would ask the proximity question this way.  When people are suffering, why should proximity to you determine how much you should care?  Isn’t that making you the central part of the compassion equation and not the person or people in need?  It’s one thing if you’re choosing a team, but not if you’re choosing compassion.  If people are hurting, broken, lost, without hope, then our common humanity should compel us to act. It should not be based on nationality, lines on a map or least of all: proximity to me.

Should we care about African orphans, refugees fleeing Syria, gang violence in Central America, or extreme poverty in Haiti?  Or, should we care more about homelessness, income inequality, unemployment, lack of healthcare and a deteriorating education system in the US?

Yes.  Both, and.  One is not more important than the other.  The child clinging to a raft in the Mediterranean trying to flee the violence in Syria isn’t more or less important than the child being under-served in the LA school system.  They are both the same because they are both human beings.  Their value as human beings isn’t increased or decreased based on proximity to me.

Whatever you choose, choose something.                                                                                            There’s great need everywhere.                                                                                                                    Get involved.                                                                                                                                                Make Waves.

And, go Cal State Bakersfield RoadRunners!

-Kelly Lowery

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