Just being at #icorphan was a privilege. Sitting on a panel with five other amazing bloggers to discuss online activism was an absolute honor.

Our topic: Online Activism and the Weary Reader

The panel: (l-r in the image) Kristen Howerton, Elora Ramirez, me, Amber Haines, Kristen Welch, and Lindsey Nobles.

Our goal: To wrestle with ideas about how bloggers talk about orphan care. It’s easy to fall into the trap of posting ‘fly in the eye’ images and stories designed to tug at heartstrings and (hopefully) rally support. But is that the right thing to do? Readers can easily grow weary when bombarded by sad stories where the only goal is to get them to pull out the checkbook. Where do we find balance?

Some of the others on the panel have shared some great perspectives on their blogs. Like when Kristen Howerton pondered, “How can I hook people in with funny stories, and then sneak-attack them into caring about social justice?

But during the discussion at #icorphan the panel and other attendees tossed around ideas regarding how to effectively tell the story of the orphan without causing the dreaded ‘compassion fatigue’ with our readers.

Some talked about how they think we should only tell they joyful stories of hope and redemption. But that seemed somehow out of balance..

So others shared that they want to hear about the pain and suffering, because that’s the reality of their situation. But that brought us back to the other side of the pendulum.

Then one participant said something that struck a chord with me. She talked about what hope really means.

Defining Hope

In the verb form, hope is literally defined like this…

  • to look forward to with desire and reasonable confidence
  • to believe, desire, or trust
  • to feel that something desired may happen

Source: dictionary.com

When we think of hope, we often only focus on the sunny side of the definition. We think about the desired outcome, and how things could be. But the reality of ‘hope’ is that the one desiring something different still lives in the undesirable situation.

The participant at the panel discussion described hope as be raw, gritty, and even nasty sometimes. The reality of hope is that pain and suffering exist, but that there is a way out… there is a ‘could be’.

Rethinking the Story

Maybe the right approach isn’t to avoid one side of the pendulum or the other. Maybe the best story tells the truth about the evil and the good that exists in this world. Maybe getting into the story… the very personal story of the orphan is what matters the most.

I know a boy in Haiti that wants to be a doctor when he grows up so that he can help other people get better when they’re sick. But that boy’s reality is that he’ll likely never get the education that he needs in order to live his dreams. He’s a vibrant young man full of hopes and dreams, but one who still lives in a situation that’ll continue to drag him down unless something changes. The kind of change that comes when people like us step into the story.

These are the stories that I want to tell.

For more perspectives on adoption/orphan care check out what I’m sharing related to #icorphan.

online activism and the weary reader [panel notes]

by Dan King time to read: 3 min