People are strange creatures. This week in Toronto, a racoon body on a city street became a lightening rod for compassion. A memorial grew up around the tiny carcass. Passersby left flowers, signed cards, and lit candles. The Toronto Wildlife Centre put a donation box at the scene. #DeadRaccoonTO went viral. It became a thing.
So what was it about that racoon? Was the sight of a single dead creature on the sidewalk all it took to make an entire city empathetic to the plight of urban wildlife? Or did a few Facebook posts and a catchy hashtag just make it suddenly cool to care?
There are thousands of homeless people in Toronto. According to 2013 figures, over 500 of these sad folk live on the city streets. Torontonians walk past them every day. They do not give these breathing souls flowers, or kind words, or gifts, or money. Well… they might give them a bit of money but only because they are begging for money and sometimes forking over a bit of change makes it easier to get past them.
Homeless organizations should be seriously analyzing The Dead Racoon Phenomenon. Surely, the retail cost of dead raccoons cannot be that high. Placing a carcass every few blocks would be infinitely less time-consuming than having volunteers combing the streets for days, knocking on doors, trying to drum up support.
Charitable groups could get inventive… branch out to squirrels or chipmunks… or maybe bunnies. People love bunnies. I bet a dead bunny on the sidewalk would draw a crowd really quickly. We could make Facebook posts of ourselves putting money in the dead bunny donation box. Maybe we could hold the dead bunny while pouring a bucket of ice cold water over our heads, then challenge our friends to do the same! Note: The Ice Bucket Challenge fad from last summer raised over $100 million a month for the ALS Association.
People are strange creatures. It would be great if kindness and compassion poured out of us all the time but that doesn’t seem to be how we are built. The invisible empathy faucet within our guts turns on and off randomly. This week in Toronto, it got turned on by a dead racoon on the street, which is sort of weird and disturbing but none the less…
If I worked in the not-for-profit sector, I would be looking for wholesale pricing on dead bunnies right now and trying to come up with a catchy hashtag.
FYI: If you want to learn more about the Dead Raccoon Phenomenon… http://news.nationalpost.com/toronto/dead-toronto-raccoon-trends-online-after-residents-create-memorial-with-candles-photos-and-a-cigarette