Indifference and Advent

Yesterday Sarcoma UK published its report on the current state of this cancer in the UK. You can read it for yourself here: It is not sensationalist, nor does it whinge about lack of interest or funding, but it does explain why the charity has chosen to call sarcoma ‘The Loneliest Cancer’. I have a personal interest because I myself have metastatic leiomyosarcoma and know, from the inside as it were, what it feels like and how it affects one. This is not, however, a post about sarcoma as such, nor is it yet another contribution to the ‘my cancer and me’ genre. It is about indifference, and I am using the Sarcoma UK report as an illustration because I think it touches on a bigger question: what we do during Advent.

My Facebook followers have responded to my post about the charity’s report with their usual generosity and kindness, so have many of those who follow me on Twitter; but when, yesterday evening, I looked at the number of people who had noticed Sarcoma UK’s original twitter announcement or its subsequent repeats, I realised what an uphill struggle it will be to engage people’s interest. Can you imagine any other cancer charity’s ‘likes’ and retweets’ being for the most part in single figures/low twenties regarding such an important announcement ? True, we have an election coming on, and Black Friday deals always seem to appeal to the acquisitive in us, and there are a thousand and one other things clamouring for attention, but even those who proclaim a burning interest in health matters and the future of the NHS seem disinclined to press the ‘retweet’ button. Perhaps it will gain momentum as days pass. It certainly won’t be for any want of effort on the part of Sarcoma UK, nor for any lack of professionalism.

What does this apparent indifference say about the way in which we react to situations that do not make an impact on us personally? I’m confident that anyone affected by sarcoma, even at one remove by way of a family member or friend, will have some interest in the subject. I am equally sure that no one, confronted by a sick person in the flesh, would want to do anything other than be as considerate as possible. But some causes make no appeal to the imagination, do they, and perhaps this is one of them, or maybe it is just a case of sheer ignorance. Many years ago, when my sister organized special events for the Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital Appeal, she remarked that sick children were probably the easiest of all causes for which to raise money. Others were much harder to win support for and had fewer ‘feel good’ factors, especially if they ran contrary to society’s current obsessions or were beyond the ken of most folk. 

During Advent, most of us will be thinking about almsgiving and giving time or money to good causes. We all have our favourites, but perhaps this year we could do a little more exploring. Instead of automatically supporting X or Y, we might think who really needs help urgently. There are literally hundreds of charities run on a shoe-string that support causes we may never have heard of, or that supply a need we did not know existed. It would be good if we could each find one that we judge worthy of support and do what we can to show we are not indifferent, and never can be, because of love for our Saviour. That would make our Advent special, and perhaps transform the lives of others. It would assuredly transform our own.


21 thoughts on “Indifference and Advent”

  1. Thanks for a thoughtful blog post. Indifference or even ignorance can be an issue for any of us with a Chronic condition. I am diabetic, and find that people are either quite well informed or are totally ignorant, telling me that it is due to my life style or what I have eaten over a life time.

    They are not aware that diabetes can be something that runs in families. My father died from the complications arising from diabetes, out of control and undiagnosed only after his first amputation did he take it seriously. This in the knowledge that four of his older siblings had pre-deceased him due to that very disease. That genetic inheritance was passed onto us. My elder sibling has been diabetic since her forties, albeit under control. My younger sibling died from a combination of diabetes and vascular dementia over two years ago.

    I have been diagnosed for around three years and had to adjust my lifestyle to cope with it. But despite being careful about diet and exercise and being told by my doctors that I am managing well, I have to accept that the disease is incurable and if I am not careful could progress further with damage to my bodily functions.

    I thank God that so far it hasn’t but I know that occasionally I get incidences of low blood sugar which need addressing quickly to avoid a incidence of hypo. I had one on Saturday, during our Victorian Fete, and I had foolishly forgotten to carry my test kit and supplies of Glucose tablets with me. I had to get home quickly to deal with it and needed to rest for some hours before it allowed me to function normally.

    The main UK Charity is Diabetes UK, which receives huge amounts of charitable donations, while other smaller charities such as “The Independent Diabetes Trust” which is to my mind a much more informed charity, struggles to receive funds.

    I subscribe to them annually, which gives them some certainty of income and receive vital information on the condition, new treatments and how to find them, immediately they are available. I suspect that combining with the larger charity might increase their income, but they always challenge some of the stuff published on the diabetes UK website as being popular isn’t always the same as being accurate.

    I will pray that people will consider where their charitable giving should go, and not necessarily to the big charities, which draw in millions, but to smaller ones, local to them with specific aims to address needs in their particular sphere.

    • Thank you, Ernie. There is diabetes on one side of my family, so I have some inkling of the daily struggle you face. I think those people who play the blame game should consider, for a few minutes, what it is like to live with a potentially life-threatening condition. Those of us who know you are full of admiration for what you do and pray that you may go on doing so for many years to come!

  2. Dear Sister Catherine, there is a similarity between loneliness and the lack of attention accorded to lesser known illnesses and their respective charities. For those in need of support, it must be like screaming for help in a vacuum.
    I will do what l can to disseminate the news about sarcoma through social media not only for your sake but for all the many people who suffer with this debilitating illness in the hope that greater visibility may lead to improved action.
    May the Lord bless and care for you as you struggle with your sarcoma. Peace and love be with you xx

    • Thank you, Tim. There are very many illnesses that don’t get much attention, and many good causes that don’t seem to have wide appeal. In the past many of our efforts have been devoted to blindness and visual impairment. Thank you for your prayers which are, as always, warmly reciprocated.

  3. In the past I have supported charities at Christmas that have caught my interest. One was Sister Rita, in Liverpool think, who featured on TV helping people in her community. Sne was lucky because she was featured in a series on TV which caught the public interest. Another one was toilet twinning, which seemed a good way to make an immediate difference to people’s lives. I think people are more inclined to support charities where they think their money is likely to make a real and relatively immediate difference they can see. They are resistant to giving money when it feels as if it will disappear into a huge cause like medical research and not show any immediate benefit. You have educated me – I now know about Sarcoma, I didn’t before.

  4. Thank you for such a thought provoking article sister. I have macular degeneration and feel this is a sadly overlooked charity also. I wish you well and pray you will be richly blessed at Christmas.

    • Be assured of my prayers and those of the community. When we produced audio books for the blind and visually impaired we became very conscious of the isolating effect of macular degeneration; and my own experience of virtual blindness earlier this year helped me to understand how frustrating it is.

  5. Thank you for this gentle prod. I did see the references yesterday to sarcoma but failed to follow up. Mea culpa. But I will take your suggestion to heart about finding a charity that may not have the biggest support. It can be difficult, some to whom one gives on a monthly basis can become quite aggressive in asking for more and are offended if it‘s pointed out that there are others. Blessings on you, sister, keep fighting!

  6. Well said Sr Catherine. After 33 years working in the public and charity sectors, I know that street homelessness, domestic violence and mental health are almost insurmountable to fundraise for. But even popular areas supposedly easy such as visual impairment where a relative is active, take a huge amount of ongoing fundraising effort, with up to 20% of a fundraising campaign spent on core staff support in setting up a fundraising campaign.

    Myself, my first homelessness volunteer role then job were at Alone in London, part of a then hostel network with Centrepoint, for street homeless teenagers in the 1980’s, will be on my Advent list as well as Guide Dogs UK.

    We used to fast for Advent, very much like Lent. Charitable giving is a lovely version of that.

  7. Thank you Dame Catherine for such an inspiring and challenging post. I am glad that I returned to it later to read the comments. Thank you too, ukviewer, for mentioning the Independent Diabetes Trust which I will investigate for the future. I am a type 2 diabetic and have tried to eat fewer carbs and exercise more but, unfortunately, the weather has not been cooperating recently!

    I gave my donations today to four charities, including the Silver Line as I’m very aware of the loneliness issue particularly with elderly and disabled housebound; Leukaemia Care as I’ve known two young people that have died from it; and FARMAfrica which helps East Africans to develop agricultural businesses not only with the means, such as seeds, bees or livestock as well as the training needed to look after them and market their produce. It keeps costs to the minimum. I know by supporting one parish priest in Uganda that a little bit of money can end up supporting a lot of families. It really made my school motto ‘A Minimis Incipe’ (From Small Beginnings) come alive for me.

  8. Very thought provoking as usual
    I stopped giving to some big causes when I saw the increased overheads , salaries etc. I also got cynical about pens being sent to me , bags. Key rings and very glossy magazines
    Wonderful idea that if each of us actually searched for the small often one or two man band or women band of course charity and helped them .
    Yes what a difference it would make to us also

  9. I support Prisoners Abroad, a small charity which supports UK citizens that are prisoners outside the UK (and their families).
    The charity supports all UK prisoners abroad irrespective of their charge or whether they are innocent or guilty. Its easy to find on the internet.

  10. Can I give a shout out to a small charity I support-Mary’s Meals? They support children in countries like Malawi, by providing a hot meal cooked by wonderful ladies at local schools. This free hot meal gives parents an incentive to send their children to school and so they are educated. For many of the children this will be the only meal they eat each day. Educating the children helps to prevent the next generation falling into the same poverty as their parents.Thank you Sister for your excellent comments.

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