Screw The United Way

Before I get into explaining exactly why these people can eat an over-sized bag of hell I should probably explain just a little about who they are, since I know that this site is a worldwide thing and that not everybody will know about them since there might not be a United Way outside of Canada. The long and the short of it is that the United Way is a big charity that collects piles of money, skims their cut off the top and then distributes what’s left to other smaller charities that are what they call member agencies. Best way to put it is that they’re the Uncle Sam of the charity world. They collect whatever revenue there is and then give it out to all the different departments for them to spend on doing whatever it is they need to do to run their own opperations. Now Steve, you’re probably saying to yourself, this all sounds very noble and it’s great that there is an organization that will do this to try to boost funding for valuable organizations that desperately need it. Why are you picking on them? And to you I say, hang on, I’m getting to that. You see, in theory, you’re absolutely right, a lot of charities depend on the United Way money for a great deal of their funding. I know this pretty much for a fact since I have done, and am actually doing now, work for member organizations that are to the best of my knowledge, heavily supported by the UW and the money their campaigns generate. And in that last sentence, we’ve hit on my problem, the campaigns.

Don’t get me wrong here, I have no problem with fund raising and I actually think some of the ideas they come up with for getting donations are pretty cool, like having one of the morning show guys from a local radio station live on a giant billboard for a few weeks to raise whatever the goal happens to be. Dude lives in a tent up on top of this thing, people come out and drop a few bucks in the pot to help get him down from there. Every now and then they do live cut-ins to check in with him, and he tells you about how he’s doing and how the donation gathering is going. Neat idea, and not something you see every day for sure. They do all kinds of other stuff too, like workplace challenges and things like that, all pretty innocent stuff, and it can be fun, and you know the money is going to be going to people who can use it, for the most part anyway. But this year I decided that the United Way will never get another red cent of my money, and don’t worry, I’ve got a good reason for that.

As you’re probably aware, any high profile campaign, or anything that wants to be high profile, has to advertise. Advertising can come in many forms, from billboards, to newspaper ads, to radio commercials…and therein lies the problem. The United Way has always had radio commercials, but somebody seriously dropped the ball this year, and they dropped it right on me.

This year, the braintrust over at United Way promotions decided that it would be a good idea to run a series of ads that would tug at people’s heartstrings over the holiday season in the hopes that because of feelings of pity for the less fortunate, they would give more to charity in the hopes that they could make a difference in the life of some poor bastard who’s down on his luck.

All of the spots have the same basic premise, they just spotlight a different plight. They all feature a single person standing somewhere doing a monologue about something. For instance, they have a domestic abuse one that goes something along the lines of, “Sometimes at night I can hear them arguing from down the hall and I think to myself, why is he yelling? And then I think, why is she crying? And then sometimes I see her out walking around with her hair combed over one eye and I think, why doesn’t she just leave? And then I think, I wish I could do more than just think.” Then the helpful announcer tells you that you can do more than just think, you can give generously to the United way, because you can make a difference.

Surprisingly enough, that’s not even the one that pissed me off to extremes, even though I’m bothered by people who are willing to trivialize the problem of domestic violence in the interest of making a buck supposedly to help people suffering through the problem. It’s different when commedians do it, because they’re not trying to raise money, they’re trying to be humourous and everybody has their own brand of humour. I just thought I’d mention that before some of the more reactionary among you start labeling me.

No, the one that got me was this one, and remember, I’m quoting this stuff from memory, which isn’t that good sometimes. Actual wording may be slightly different, but the point is the same.

As before, we’ve got the lone voice speaking to nobody, this time it’s a girl. “I saw him there while I was out driving in my car. He was walking alone and looking lost and confused near a construction site. It wasn’t until I watched him for a minute that I realized he was blind. Watching him there made me think, what must it be like to have to face the world like that? What must that be like? I wished there was something I could do for him.” Then helpful announcer comes along to inform you that there is indeed something you can do and no, it’s not help the guy, it’s give to the United Way, because that’s gonna help our blind friend find his way out of the fucking building zone somehow. Not sure how that works, but there ya go.

So why am I getting so worked up over this ad? Well it’s pretty simple actually. I know some of you know this, but it’s not something that I’ve really come out and said on the site here up until now. I’m about as blind as a guy can get. Only way you can be blinder than me is if you didn’t have eyes. I’ve been completely blind for my entire life, at least as much of my entire life as I’ve gotten through up to now. I was born that way, and I’ll die that way, because that’s my choice. I like my life as it is now and I see no reason to change. If it ain’t broke, why fix it I always say.

But back to this commercial and why it pisses me off so much. It shouldn’t be too hard to figure out where my problems begin, but I’ll break it down for those of you who might still need that extra bit of explanation.

1. “It wasn’t until I watched him for a minute that I realized he was blind.”
Congratulations, you’re an idiot. If you have to observe a blind person out walking alone for more than 3 seconds before coming to the startling revelation that he is in fact a blind person, you my friend have an excelent career ahead of you in the field of lawn care. If the dog or the cane weren’t enough to tip you off, what finally did the trick? Your friend in the passenger seat saying “hey, look at the blind guy over there.”?

2. “I saw him there while I was out driving in my car. He was walking alone and looking lost and confused near a construction site.”
Ok, so why not get out and you know, see if he needs a hand? I’ve had people do that to me before when I’m not even lost. I appreciate what they’re trying to do as long as they aren’t assholes about insisting that I take their help because I’m blind and I obviously need it. If you were able to watch him for a minute and have time to think all these things, you probably had time to get out of the car and set the guy on the right path again. Oh wait, that would have interupted your thinking time and the folks over at the United Way wouldn’t want that since it would fuck them out of a perfectly good commercial spot.

3. This is the most important part. I can’t speak for every blind person out there, but I don’t rely on the United Way all that much and if I did, I don’t want to have that fact constantly rubbed in my face, always being made to feel like I’m some sort of asset to them. I’m not a money making tool, I’m a human being, just like the rest of you. We’re equals, I’m just an equal who’s eyes don’t work and who’s a bit different, which I guess contradicts the whole equal thing, but you get my point.

The United Way would have you believe that I hardly ever leave my home and that when I do, I get stuck in construction areas and wander around like a fucking idiot until somebody donates money to put me back on the sidewalk. Granted, I’ve gotten lost before and I’m sure it’ll happen again, probably over winter, but when I do I can say for damn sure that it won’t be the United Way who comes to give me a hand. It’ll either be me figuring it out for myself, or somebody who has the good sense to do more than just think.

So thanks for spreading ignorance, open minded charity people, I appreciate that. It’s assholes like you who do more to set people like me back in the world than just about anybody else. When people hear shit like what you’re putting out there in the media, they believe it. I can’t tell you how many people have told me that I can’t possibly be blind because I don’t do something like shake my head or rock violently or that I get around way too well to be blind and that I must be shitting them. Somebody actually said to me once, “you guys are different than on TV.” that comment floored me, and it really made me stop and think about how powerful the media is. So think about that next time you feel like using somebody else’s predicament to further your own agenda, and don’t do it. Tell the people where the money is going, who benefits from it, that sort of thing, but for the love of Christ, don’t make it seem like we all need you. We don’t.

So in closing, I encourage all of you to give nothing to your local United Way. Feel free to donate to charities, even if they’re members of the organization, but be sure to ask before you do if they have to pay a fee to be part of the UW. If they say yes, tell them you’re sorry but you don’t have the money, and feel free to explain to them why it’s not there. If they’ve got any sense, they’ll understand. Happy donating.

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