October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Among the beautiful fall colors are bright splashes of pink almost everywhere you go. It’s painted in stripes down the street, it hangs from lamp posts and it has become the must-have color of October. Stores put out pink wares to grab your attention. Pink clothing is not just in the baby department or Victoria’s Secret; it’s in every department and on every rack. I even saw a pink Kitchen Aid mixer being touted as a Breast Cancer Awareness month special. If it’s pink, it’s commercialized in October!
The last straw for me was seeing National Football League uniforms sporting pink touches. Pink trim on uniforms, pink wristbands, pink hand towels and pink shoes and socks! This tattered bastion of manliness has been trying mightily to prove that they have a tender side; and so the teams wear pink to show their support of the cause ... which is what precisely gets my goat. Wearing/seeing pink doesn’t really raise the consciousness of most individuals to think about, or even better, give to an organization that funds breast cancer research or patient support. It’s become just another slick campaign that isn’t offensive to anyone — but does it really help?
I propose something radically different: “Think Pink” — but don’t buy it. Instead of buying more pink, give more green. Put your money in an envelope and send it to one of the many breast cancer support or research foundations locally, nationally or internationally. Do you really need that glitzy pink pin, pink cell phone jacket or pink puppy sweater? Seriously, they are adorable, but the money collected with the intent of the profits going to charity, is negligible. If the NFL teams gave the same amount of money they used to buy pink uniforms to a cancer support organization in their home communities, it would probably amount to more than that organization’s annual budget! Imagine how many men and women’s lives would be actually touched and improved.
Instead of just wearing pink, perhaps it could better be used as an acronym for Patients In Need of Kindness. Wouldn’t you rather be a part of that movement? Or do you just want that adorable pink shirt you bought to raise awareness? The one that you won’t wear more than the one day the office divas all decided to wear pink. The one that would have been much more powerful if you had taken the 25 bucks and given it straight to your local cancer patient-support organization.
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My friend, who is a double-mastectomy, breast cancer survivor and activist for finding a cure, isn’t so sure what it is that makes others think wearing pink is going to do for her. The most valuable support comes from the professionals who guide you with information, or help when you are in the throes of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and readjusting to your new cancer-aware life. The money spent on glitzy wrist bands, book bags and scarves she’d rather be spent on research lab space, state-of-the-art treatment facilities and highly trained compassionate staff. Fund research, not awareness.
Buying a pink designer bag will certainly make you look great when you go out this weekend, and the matching scarf and shoes (all displaying the pink ribbon logo) will add a dash to the fading colors of fall. But they actually won’t do a thing for your neighbor who came home last week after her mastectomy. Instead, think P.I.N.K. and go fix her a meal. Take her some flowers. Talk to him, listen to her, and assure them that you will be in their corner ready to help. Not out shopping for that next pink item to prove to others that you are aware. Because you aren’t just aware, you’re involved.