Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day 2008: Be the Change

I spend a lot of time talking about weddings, even though my wedding occurred in the summer and we are now officially in the fall season. In fact, one of my best friends laughed at me and said, “Sara, you’re like a frat boy who graduated four years ago and keeps coming back to the party.”

But in my own defense, weddings matter. In One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding, it reads: “The American wedding gives expression to the values and preoccupations of our culture. For better or worse, the way we marry is who we are.”

And who are we? According to the Wedding Report, we are a culture that spends $1,288,238,469 on flowers (just for the reception; that doesn’t include the $527,401,673 we spend on ceremony flowers or the $54,997,125 that goes toward flower girl flowers--not to mention bridesmaids' bouquets, boutonnieres, or the bridal bouquet). We believe things like: “The tabletop is likely to be one of the most distinctive and memorable elements of your entire event.”

But weddings are also about who we could be. We could be a culture that focused less on consumption as the path to contentment and instead focused on commitment, connection, community and fun. Many of you are already taking this less-traveled road.

It’s not an easy road to take. The wedding world is full of implicit and explicit messages about what makes a wedding a wedding. The line between a need and a want becomes quickly blurred. It’s so easy to become completely consumed by wedding planning. Thoughts of weddings start to overtake your free time and then your work time and then your sleep time.

When I was planning my own wedding, I had 26 students who needed me to focus all my attention on planning lessons and learning experiences. Instead, I wanted to focus all my attention on planning my wedding. It’s alluring. It’s fun. And it’s easy to find a community of people who also want to obsess about wedding details.

It’s important to step back, to get a better perspective of the situation. We have to take off those wedding glasses that color the world in a particular way and look at the world as it is.

Our nation is a far cry from the ideal of “liberty and justice for all.” Step one foot in a school in a low-income community, and you're likely to see disparity and injustice in action. By providing a lower-quality education to students who are already living in poverty, we perpetuate the cycle.

In honor of Blog Action Day 2008 which focuses on poverty, I want to share some ideas of how to make the world better.

Ways to commit to action:

Find a profession that makes the world better
A lot of time and energy goes into our professional work. If more people would commit to professions that directly had a positive impact on society, we'd all be a lot better off.

Find ways to have fun through service to others
This Halloween, for example, my friends and I are hosting an old-school dance. But before the dance, we're going to spend a couple hours trick-or-treating for canned goods to donate to a local food bank. It's easy. It's fun. And it makes a small difference. For other ideas about how to have fun through service to others, see this post.

Donate time
There are tons of social service organizations in the community that need volunteers. Consider creating a yearly tradition within your family of choice or origin--like volunteering on Thanksgiving Day. Or make a monthly commitment to give a few hours of your time.

Donate money
One of my favorite organizations is Heifer International whose goal is to "help end world hunger and poverty through self-reliance and sustainability." Consider donating money to fund one of their many worthwhile and inspiring projects.

Vote for candidates who have the common person’s interests in mind
In this election, there's a clear distinction between McCain who wants less government and more tax cuts for the wealthy versus Obama whose platform is all about making life better for the average person.

Stay aware of what's going on in the world
When we get busy (with planning our weddings or our jobs or just general business) it's easy to lose sight of what's going on out in the world. And yet that awareness is so, so critical to ensuring that our democratic country lives up to its potential.


Our weddings are important. We bring together our nearest and dearest and publicly commit to a lifetime of love and nurturing.

But our weddings do not need to be The Perfect Day. We should not strive to create the happiest days of our lives. They are not the destination—they are just one step of the journey.

What other ideas do you have for making the world better? Or what are you already doing?

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Hayley said...

Great post, I thought it'd be right up your street.

I don't do as much as I'd like to help others, but I do run a few fundraising events every year for which the profits go to good causes. I also offer free web design services to charities. Mostly my work efforts go towards charities for women's issues, like Equality Now, but I've contributed substantially to BookAid too.

So I guess I'm doing my bit, I'd just like it to be a bigger bit!

Kristy said...

*Sigh* I wish I could do more. I wish my job was more socially aware and socially active. Maybe one day, when I own my own non-profit Fair Trade coffee shop.

But I give what I can. Oxfam is one of my favorites. Thanks for the link to Heifer Int'l, though! I'm browsing their site right now.

Sara E. Cotner said...

Kristy, it's not just "what" you do; it's also "how" you do it. You can work in a more corporate environment and still have a non-profit, socially-conscious mindset. For example, you can bring up under-represented perspectives, build community and connection in your workplace, and be the change you wish to see in the world (from the inside out!).

Jess said...

I've been trying to be more conscious about how wasteful we are in general. One of my '08 New Years resolutions was to start recycling. I live in a rental meaning we don't have curbside recycling in our neighborhood- they only offer that service to single family homes. But there is a drop off bin about 1/2 a mile from my townhouse. So my fiance and I went on a search for bins to replace our trash can (so that we could separate our recycling)and we haul it to the drop off once a week. We've been doing that for months now- I know it's a very small step, but as long as we are two more people contributing, I know it does make a difference. I learned the other night (from watching Modern Marvels- yeah, I'm a dork) that only 1% of the plastic we produce gets recycled. One percent!! And about 10% of that plastic ends up in our oceans, eventually being swallowed by fish and other animals- which we eat. I think the more that we talk about scary things like that and the more we tell others about our own baby steps, the more big changes we can make in our world. Thanks for your inspiring words!

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