Putting their money where their mouths are

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Recent disasters and subsequent relief and rescue efforts have opened up a controversial Pandora’s box of unexpected and inadvertent complications, particularly when celebrities are involved in those efforts.

At first glance, stars and starlets who put out a helping hand in times of adversity would appear to deserve nothing less than perfervid commendation and gratitude—but, a number of observers worry that some celebrity-volunteers may be using the attendant media exposure for less than purely altruistic purposes.

It gives them added visibility and enhances their image as socially-conscious individuals, thus adding to their over-all cachet.

Some stars are shocked to see their generous acts being misinterpreted in this cynical wise—but, others concede that some of their colleagues may be playing the “generosity” card too publicly, thus inviting the misrepresentation.

We’ve even heard a priest bringing up the topic in a sermon during Sunday Mass, in which he reminded us that, when engaging in charitable works, we must do it utterly self-effacingly, following the biblical injunction that “the left hand shouldn’t know what the right hand is doing.”

That’s difficult to pull off when you’re a celebrity-volunteer and TV cameras are trained on you as you’re manning a phone-in helpline, or distributing relief goods, right? So, where should the line be drawn?

Some stars swear that they have only the purest motives, but they agree to being shown on TV doing relief work, because they hope that the very public example they set will inspire many others to be similarly generous and supportive of disaster victims. If they humbly make their charitable acts the best-kept secrets in town, how will the “inspiration factor” kick in?

On the other hand, realists (whom others may describe as cynics) point out that it’s precisely this media coverage aspect that exposes some celebrity-volunteers’ acts to question and criticism. So, that could be the bone of contention in this entire debate.

Stars should opt to be generous completely away from the glare of media, just to make sure that their motives won’t be misinterpreted—and, if that means giving up the “inspiration” factor, they may just have to do without it.

As for stars and starlets who allow or invite TV cameras to record their generous acts, they shouldn’t be surprised if their generosity is held suspect. After all, some starlets have patently been known to use the attendant media exposure to “remind” viewers of their existence, so the cynicism is sometimes not without basis.

On the other hand, star-volunteers are perfectly right when they heatedly observe that many of their detractors and critics snittily question the purity of their motives—and yet do absolutely nothing to help disaster victims!

Thus, the aggrieved stars strongly suggest this additional caveat: By all means, question our motives all you want—but only after you yourself has donated substantial time and money to helping others. In other words, put your wallet or bag where your mouth is!

Will that shut the cynical detractors up? In the final analysis, what’s important is for everybody—celebrities and cynics alike—to help others.

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