Although the U.S. government continues to limp along in partial shutdown mode as I write, that doesn’t mean we’re not at the height of our patriotism.
It’s October, after all, and perhaps you didn’t realize these red-and gold-flocked weeks are the reigning “National Month of….” champion.
This phenomenon has gradually occurred to me over the past 10 days, as I’ve worked and navigated daily life along with everyone else. For instance, while writing a recent article about three courageous breast cancer fundraisers in Windom, I was reminded it is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Terrific! Supporting more funding for breast cancer research, and advocacy for breast cancer prevention and/or for those suffering from the dreadful disease, are most worthy pursuits.
But then I picked up another assignment–this one in connection with National Disability Employment Awareness Month–and also hatched an idea centered on its being National Bullying Prevention Month–and I started to second-guess myself. Wait! Isn’t it National Breast Cancer Awareness Month?
Yes, but it’s also a month dedicated to the other deserving causes mentioned above.
This prompted me to follow the contemporary route to problem-solving, and I promptly Googled “October is National what month.” Whoa! According to Wikipedia’s “list of commemorative months” site, the more accurate question would be of what ISN’T October the national month?
Besides the aforementioned, October turns out to be National Cyber Security Awareness Month (is that still a priority with the government shutdown–or maybe it ranks even more highly?), as well as the “National Months of” the following: Spina Bifida Awareness, Liver Cancer, Dyslexia Awareness, Substance Abuse Prevention, Hispanic Heritage, Filipino American History, Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender History, Domestic Violence Awareness and Dr. McGillicuddy.
Three of my personal October “National Month of…” favorites are National Dental Hygiene Month (its slogan is “Brush. Floss. Rinse. Chew.”–not that I’ve ever forgotten to chew on a monthly, much less daily, basis), National Pizza Month (I thought that was every month) and National Popcorn Poppin’ Month (apparently because October is the most popular time for Midwest popcorn harvesting, according to popcorn.org).
A quick count of annual “National Month of…” listings shows that October, with 20 causes and organizations vying for attention, simply sizzles with awareness, while December and January are characteristically cold and lonely (only a couple chalked up in each month). Similarly, July and August have just a few awareness commands each; perhaps it is assumed we are all too sunburned, mosquito-bitten and beach-focused to pay attention to much of anything at that time.
I grew up with the firm knowledge that February was Black History Month and June was National Dairy Month (the best excuse ever to over-indulge in ice cream seven days a week!), but while many of October’s awareness causes are highly deserving, it’s admittedly getting difficult to keep track of them all.
Maybe too many people didn’t research thoroughly enough before suggesting to their boss or volunteer leader that “October would be a great (fill in the blank) awareness month,” or maybe it was assumed the general public is more alert and operating at full speed in October so they would process everything better in this season.
Or maybe it was when stores started regularly displaying Halloween decorations and candy in late August that we began forgetting October used to be more about autumnal colors, squash, apples, harvest, black cats and pumpkins than about a time to compensate for all the things we should attend to on a year-round basis.
The problem is this: When we’re asked to be aware of everything at once, our attention in fact becomes diluted and we are less able to give any single cause its due.
But I still think I might take a hint from National Pizza Month and make sure I’ve got an adequate number of pizza places listed in my cell phone directory. Last time I checked, I was up to six–not nearly enough when October is 31 days long.