There I am serving food to people experiencing homelessness in Baltimore with an amazing organization called Generosity Global.
I also spend a lot of time working with and volunteering for a non-profit called Comfort Cases.
I’ve also given time and money to The Tree House Child Advocacy Center of Montgomery County.
Recently a singer named Tank went on an Instagram rant telling people to stop taking a camera with them when they help the homeless, and now the internet is jumping on board to shame people for sharing their good deeds.
“Before you record yourself ‘helping’ the homeless, imagine the lowest point of your life on Facebook Live… #HelpNeedsNoCamera.”
Now, I get where he’s coming from, to a point. We shouldn’t exploit people to make ourselves look good. We shouldn’t put a camera in someone’s face without their permission or with the intention of humiliating them. I think that goes without saying.
The problem I have is that this comment spurred a barrage of Facebook posts and articles in which people are perpetuating the idea that anyone who helps the homeless or gives to charity and shares it online is doing it for “validation” and that their actions are not sincere.
“Can’t stand people who do this. Do good because you want to for your own peace. NOT to be praised by others.”
So let me get this straight, it’s totally acceptable to seek validation on social media by posting pictures of our new cars, our job promotions, our kids’ report cards, our new hair cuts, and our engagement rings, but if we post about cooking a hot meal for people who need something to eat, we are doing something wrong and self-serving?
Here’s why this way of thinking is counter-productive and dangerous. A lot of charities and people working to make this world a better place depend on social media to spread the word about their missions. They rally their followers and friends to help by saying, “I’m getting involved with this good cause, will you help me?” And you know what happens when they do this?
People step up. They are inspired. They are motivated to help. I have seen it happen over and over again.
A few years ago I was trying to help The Tree House Child Advocacy Center of Montgomery County restock their pajama shelf. When children are sexually abused, they are referred to The Tree House for a physical exam and they receive a new pair of pajamas after they see the doctor. I “bragged” on Facebook about what I was doing and asked my friends for help, and I was able to purchase 30 pairs of pajamas with their donations.
My friends who run Generosity Global use Facebook Live every second Saturday of the month as they gather to feed members of the homeless community in Baltimore. I found out about it and decided to join them because they “bragged” about it on Facebook. This same organization built a shower truck for people who don’t otherwise don’t have a place to take one. They’ve also built wells in Cameroon, Africa, giving people access to clean water. They’ve been able to do this by using social media to share their vision.
I work with Comfort Cases, a non-profit that provides backpacks and personal care items for children entering foster care who would otherwise be given a trash bag. We had a 24-hour Marathon Packing Party last weekend and we asked participants to share on social media – not to seek validation for themselves – but to encourage others to support what we are doing.
Let me go back to Tank’s statement about putting people “at the lowest points in their lives” on Facebook Live. True, people feel a lot of shame when they are experiencing homelessness, poverty, and addiction. Some probably don’t want their faces on camera, I can see and understand that.
But what if we looked at it differently and realized that we can respectfully share someone’s story, and rather than humiliating them, we are giving others the opportunity to see their humanity? What if the intention is to treat them with dignity and we’re sharing because we believe they are worthy of help? What if instead of thinking we can’t show this person’s face because his clothes are dirty and he’s ashamed, we put him on camera and ask him to speak because his voice is worth being heard?
“Social media has confused the idea that if it’s not recorded and posted then it didn’t happen. Find peace in the things you do for the right reasons. Not because you’re getting likes and interaction for it.“
OK, but why does this apply to charity of all things? Why find fault with someone getting likes and interaction for doing something positive for other human beings? It’s fine to get likes for posting a picture of the gourmet dish you’re about to eat at a fancy restaurant but you should be ashamed of yourself for getting likes because you helped someone in need? Really?
I love and appreciate the people I know who are doing the most work and sharing it. It’s worthy of being shared. It’s inspiring to see, and it shouldn’t be done quietly. Keep doing good, and do it loud, and share it until everyone is on board and the mission is accomplished.