St. Jude, the "Forgotten Saint," is the "patron saint of desperate cases," apropos for the hospital dedicated to helping children with terminal illnesses. St. Jude's is certainly not lacking for support and publicity. Their cast rivals any movie ever filmed (perhaps with the exceptions of Ocean's 11 et al. and The Departed). Their homepage boasts the faces of Jennifer Aniston, Robin Williams, Antonio Banderas, Bernie Mac, Ray Romano, and Reggie Bush.
Yahoo! is advertising St. Jude today in a brief, almost missed note in the upper-right-hand corner of the front page today, the day before Thanksgiving: "Help save a child's life. Donate to St. Jude."
It seems that the visibility of good causes rises during the holiday season. The likes of The Salvation Army outside local big box stores represents that fact. Apparently the thinking behind this is that in this season of giving, where generosity is hailed as the noble spirit of the season, consumers are more willing to give selflessly, more likely to donate in that spirit.
This may be true, although I wonder if giving as "the spirit of the season" is just the culture's raison d'etre for the holidays while taking is the true spirit that we stifle when we speak of the season. I know I can lose that weaker noble impulse in the stronger base one. I wonder if the increased donations are due more to the visibility of good causes around the holidays than to the generous spirit of consumers.
The other virtue that is apparent here is protecting the children. I wondered aloud at this to some friends when I recalled for them the 35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis this summer. There was a school bus on the bridge, and the newscasters were quick to report that the children had been rescued and helped to safety, none seriously hurt. A friend observed, "That's a virtue because kids can't help themselves. They need to be rescued, taken care of, looked after."
The same seems to be true for St. Jude's patrons. These children can't help themselves in their terminal status. Often, neither can adults who have the same illnesses. Yet, children also do not have a voice to be heard, to make known their needs, to recieve the help they need. Someone must become their advocate. Even Jesus said this, "Let them come to me," when his disciples would not allow them to be heard. His own followers stifled the voices of the desperate cases. In the same way, many other things in the "spirit of the season" vie for and distract our attention, including our own selfishness. Even St. Jude's, the megaphone for those without voices, only had two sentences tucked away in the corner of a webpage.