Being a Both/And Society and Not An Either/Or

I was sitting in a counselor’s office talking about work related stress when I noticed the counselor hadn’t said anything for a solid 5 minutes. It seemed like I was talking for an eternity before I noticed that she was looking at me waiting for me to pause so she could ask a question she clearly had been waiting to ask. “Does it have to be either/or? Why can’t it be both/and?” That sentence changed my life.

As you (hopefully) already know from following Fourth and Gold, September is childhood cancer awareness month. Childhood cancer is represented by the color gold and there are many advocates passionate about getting children’s voices heard and their faces seen, especially during September. September has always been one of my favorite months of the year- it’s childhood cancer awareness month, I was born on the 4th and football season STARTS (and if you’re a Jags fan likes me- usually ends!).

October is breast cancer awareness month and I’m confident that you know that breast cancer is represented by the color pink. Just as childhood cancer advocates are passionate about gold being represented, breast cancer advocates are passionate about pink being represented. Rightfully so.

Yesterday, after months of preparation, Fourth and Gold hosted an event to get 36,000 gold ribbons handed out to fans as they entered the stadium for childhood cancer awareness month. The idea is to get the NFL to recognize gold like they recognize pink in October. No more, no less. We want children to receive the same awareness, funding and recognition that breast cancer gets. We don’t want the NFL to go gold or pink, we want the NFL to go gold AND pink.

The ribbon handout was EXTREMELY successful and I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. Despite the almost unbearable heat without a cloud in the sky, 25 volunteers were represented at each gate handing out gold ribbons to fans, some who had no idea childhood cancer existed. It was truly an incredible event that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. With all of that being said, I want to bring to your attention two encounters that stood out to me.

1.) A woman was walking into gate 1 with her NFL fan gear on and a pink ribbon on her hat that she received last year at a game. The woman was accompanied by a friend and on their approach we said “It’s childhood cancer awareness month, would you mind wearing this gold ribbon in honor of children fighting against cancer?” Her friend cheerfully took the ribbon, thanked us and waited for her to grab one. The woman with the pink ribbon pointed to her hat and said “Nope, save the ta-tas” I laughed and said, yes, please do so, but this is for childhood cancer awareness, it’s free and you can represent both.” “I said nope” And she pointed to her hat and walked away. Her friend was mortified.

2.) As I was BAKING in the sun, I looked to my left and saw a very passionate Jaguar fan wearing a hat with a pink ribbon and our gold ribbon we handed out pinned side by side. Both ribbons were right next to each other, both ribbons were raising awareness and this man was showing that we don’t have to be an either/or, but we can be a both/and society. That was one of the best moments of the day.

I write this today, to encourage all of us to consider a both/and approach to life rather than an either/or. We can be passionate about childhood cancer awareness AND support breast cancer awareness. We can pass out gold ribbons in September and still be excited for pink ribbons in October. Breast cancer families can support our efforts in September, and still go all out for their mission in October. We can do both and be just as passionate about one over the other.

As my counselor said, “Next time someone presents you with a both/and opportunity, will you take it, just to see what happens?”

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