lh_mothIf you’re a Facebook user or anyone tuned into popular culture, you likely heard about last week’s grass roots effort on Facebook to raise awareness on the issue of breast cancer. In the event that you spent last week on a deserted island, you can bring yourself up to speed by reading this article at CNN.

The long and short of the story is that the following message (or a version of it) floated around Facebook for a few days:

Hi everyone,  Some fun is going on.... just write the color of your bra in your status. Just the color, nothing else. And send this on to ONLY girls no men .... It will be neat to see if this will spread the wings of cancer awareness. It will be fun to see how long it takes before the men will wonder why all the girls have a color in their status... Haha

Being rather quick with the delete finger, I got rid of at least twenty copies of this message quickly before really tuning in to what was going on.  Let me say up front that I’m a pretty tidy Facebook user – I post status updates about my work and family, share photos, and keep up with friends and contacts.  I’m not a big group signer-upper, I don’t care for farm animals, and I’m not a gamer.  So when things like this come around, I usually delete and move on.

I honestly didn’t even give this issue much thought until Friday morning, when I tuned into my favorite Catholic radio show, The Catholics Next Door with Greg and Jennifer Willits.  On the show, Greg was sharing with callers his reaction to the phenomenon of women posting their undergarment colors for all to see.  He had commented upon this on his own Facebook page with the simple remark, "There’s a little too much info on Facebook today." What ensued was a two daylong debate in the comments of Greg’s page (and likely on countless other sites too) with a thoughtful discussion of the facts at hand.  Greg’s position was that for some men, knowing this type of intimate information about women could be problematic.  Greg thoughtfully referenced teaching points from the Catechism of the Catholic Church to support his efforts to defend modesty.

Listening to the radio show and reading the comments on Facebook led me to ponder my own reaction to the Facebook trend.  In my mind, modesty issues aside, there is some minimal value in "raising awareness" about healthcare issues.  But let’s do so in a way that can be taken seriously by both genders, with factual information and a respectful tone.  Breast cancer has affected both men and women, and cancers of all types continue to be a universal health care issue.

What I’d truly prefer to see rather than awareness raising measures are real actions of support and compassion.  My fear is that we tend to take the easy way out with trends like these, thinking that we "gave at the office" because we tied a pink ribbon on our shirts or engaged in a trend on our favorite social networking site.  How about, if we truly want to make a change, contributing $5 to cancer research, driving a bedridden patient to her radiation appointment, or making dinner for a family whose mom is undergoing chemotherapy?

Raising awareness is fine, but next time I’d prefer that we raise compassion.  A caring attitude and a helping hand look good in any color.