I was struck by a random observation Thursday afternoon while sitting in the council chambers of the Mount Airy Municipal Building during a meeting of the city board of commissioners.
That realization involved the fact that just about every day, week and month on the calendar is now designated for some special cause, observance or what-have-you.
On Thursday during a special presentation period held during nearly every city commissioners meeting, Mayor Deborah Cochran introduced two worthy proclamations. One was in honor of November being Lung Cancer Awareness Month, while the other recognized National Hospice and Palliative Care Month.
And I recalled that in October, the mayor had issued similar proclamations for the Care Enough to Wear Pink Campaign and Red Ribbon Week, which came on the heels of other declarations for additional causes in previous months.
I agree that there certainly needs to be awareness about lung cancer or the value of hospice programs, and, yes, I did wear a pink shirt one day last month in support of breast cancer victims.
But after looking further into all the other observances that are held during November, I began to wonder if there is enough awareness and concern on the part of myself and others to go around. Not to mention different-colored shirts.
I’ll bet you didn’t know that November also is dedicated as Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, National Stomach Cancer Awareness Month, American Diabetes Month, COPD Awareness Month, Epilepsy Awareness Month, Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis Awareness Month, Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and National Prematurity Awareness Month.
And those are just the observances for medical conditions. November’s importance further is enhanced by being Native American Heritage Month and National Novel-Writing Month, to name just two others.
Keep in mind that this is just one month out of the year, and for the sake of space I didn’t bother to list all the special days and weekly observances held during November.
Now it’s a good thing to remind the public that there are issues out there deserving of its attention. Yet having so many things to be aware of creates confusion, in my mind at least, and there is a chance some of the worthy causes being highlighted might get lost in the shuffle.
I mean, should I care about diabetes sufferers one day and victims of epilepsy the next? How do I ensure equal consideration for all?
From the newspaper’s standpoint, we don’t publicize the fact that proclamations are issued in honor of a special month or week, although we do provide coverage if there’s a fundraiser or some other tangible event attached to them.
And if we did choose to publish photos of proclamation signings for all these observances, there wouldn’t be enough space in the newspaper to accommodate them all.
Also, there is the welfare of Mayor Cochran to consider. She most certainly would get writer’s cramp from signing all the proclamations, as well as grow hoarse from reading them during the council meetings.
In examining the sheer volume of observances, you have to wonder who gives approval for the different days, weeks and months being named for these causes in the first place.
History shows that some of our special days resulted from presidential decrees, such as when Lyndon Johnson declared in 1966 that the third Sunday of June would officially be known as Fathers Day. In a similar gesture, President Harry Truman decreed in 1949 that June 14 would be Flag Day.
However, who decided that March, for example, will be National Nutrition Month or, my personal favorite, Irish-American Heritage Month?
Does Congress do this or is that responsibility delegated to some guy who sits on Mount Olympus like Zeus and hereby declares that April will forever be known as Ingrown Toenail Awareness Month? (I just made that up.)
I certainly don’t want to say that it’s a bad thing to raise awareness of different diseases and other situations, which ensures that no one forgets these problems exist and folks hopefully will also support efforts to help victims.
In a perfect world, special consideration would be afforded to all those who are suffering 365 days of the year and not just one time.
Since fairness is a concern with all the different causes out there, I would argue this also should include giving a break to those of us who get dizzy just trying to keep up with what week or month is presently being celebrated.
In this vein, I would propose an observance called National Nothing Month, when the objective would be to simply rest up from all the other designated periods and have no awareness about anything at all. This would be similar, in name at least, to the Know-Nothing Party that came on the American political scene during the 1800s.
Of course, I don’t know when National Nothing Month could be scheduled, since all 12 months seem to be taken in terms of special periods designated for everything under the sun.
Tom Joyce is a staff reporter for The Mount Airy News. He can be reached at 719-1924 or email@example.com.