9/11 and America’s Short Term Memory

Mckenna Bailey

With 9/11 coming up on Friday, it seemed appropriate to write about some of the interesting aspects of human nature that were noticeable in the weeks and months after the nations tradegy.

American’s have short term memories. We quickly forget about some of the best and worst moments in our lives. And sometimes, short term memory can be a really useful thing.  Some areas that benefit from us having a short term memory are:

  • When scheduling your next colonoscopy, mammogram, or dentist appointment
  • Buying a new un-housebroken puppy
  • Moving or committing to help someone else move into a new place
  • Inviting the relatives to your house for Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or pretty much anything
  • Running a marathon, or a 5k…in Aspen….less than 12 hours after landing.  (Ok, this one applies only to me I think, but you get the point)
  • Voting for a President – either party – since they are both counting on the fact that we do
  • Anything that you did before you were 22 years old, especially if it involved alcohol or the opposite sex
  • Childbirth
  • How terrifying it can be to feel powerless when attacked

Having a short term memory allows us to do all sorts of things that we have experienced before and found to be painful.  But we keep on trying because that is the human spirit.  If we had long term memories about these things, we would never have enough children to repopulate the world, make the necessary appointments to keep us healthy, and who knows if we would ever elect any politicians into office.

I remember how the days and weeks after September 11th,  we all committed to change.  We promised to appreciate our loved ones more, we went to the place we practice our faith in record numbers, and we donated more money to help the survivors of that tragedy and others more than ever before.  And we did it for a while.  But then our short term memories took over and most of us morphed back into the people we were before 9/11.

So my challenge for myself until the end of this year is to actually change.  To not just remember 9/11, but remember the motivation to change that went along with the tragedy.  And fourteen years later, I am actually going to do it.  I am going to make a habit of being a better person.  I am going to try to remember that I don’t know what is going on in any other person’s life, and give them some grace if they aren’t trying to be a better person back.  I will donate some of my time and money to a cause that I feel strongly about.  I might even try to go to church on a regular basis.

Ok…that last one might fall into the short term memory bucket sooner than I would like.  Check back with me.

My challenge for all the charitable organizations I work with is to find a way to reinspire your constituents. Light a fire inside them that they felt the first time they heard about the inspiring work you are doing.  By focusing on short terms tactics you loose site of your powerful mission. And if your vision begins to “leak” over time so will your constituents.

You have a great message that needs to be shared often to build the relationships needed to sustain philanthropy.  Commit to doing it!  And if you need some help with managing those relationships, Virtuous can help, so let us.

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