“For just one dollar a day, you could feed a child for life.”
We all know those commercials. The ones where the missionary-type person is walking around an impoverished nation, loving kids in front of the camera and begging for our help. The children are starving. They really do need help. Their stomachs are swollen and distended, their limbs are gaunt, their eyes are big…sad and hopeful.
We feel moved, saddened, upset with the state of the world. We think, what a great PSA. If I had an extra dollar a day, I would totally give it to these people. In fact, someday I’m going to. I’m going to help save the world. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe next week.
As much as we hate to admit it because we don’t want to look like the hard-hearted people we are, these television spots and magazine spreads have ceased to work. All they do is make the viewer feel like a good person for seemingly feeling sympathy and outrage for these poor people. But not enough sympathy or outrage to give up our ordered coffee each morning to help feed them.
In essence, these spots are doing the opposite of their intent. They’re soothing the slacktivist instead of needling them into action. And they’re not getting the money they need.
With that said, I give you this:
In the video, activists put a tape recording of a baby crying in a blanket in a box and leave it on the sidewalk. Passersby think there is an actual child in there, and many stop. On the television we get to clutch our hearts and swear at the world before clicking the channel. On the street, if you come across an abandoned baby in a box, you’re going to stop. Already you’ve done more than the TV watcher. Already the activists have created more awareness than the old PSAs do at this point.
By taking a problem that seems far away, and making it real, tangible, right in front of us, you succeed in reaching a different part of people. A part that is called to action inherently. A part that doesn’t have anything to do with the self-congratulatory voice inside of us, telling us what a good person we are going to be someday. In fact, those passers-by aren’t even thinking about themselves at all. They’re thinking, oh God, someone left a baby on the street. They stop to help. They never think about how awesome they are once.
And that’s an eye-opening experience for them all on its own. By jarring them into action before thought, they realize how good they actually are deep down. They feel even better about themselves because they have an instinct they never even knew about, and now they know that they can count on that instinct, that they will stop and help.
And if they were willing to stop and help a baby on the street, which would have been a lot of work, distraction, paper shuffling, commitment, and confusion, wouldn’t they be willing, instead, to donate a dollar a day to the cause? It achieves the very same thing they were about to try to do, anyway, for a real person, not a tape recording, and it’s a lot easier.
Well done, I say. Bravo.