Tuesday, August 9, 2011

If They Can Do This To Jerry...

The headline my college friend wrote for the WMAL website said Muscular Dystrophy Association Kicks Jerry Lewis to the Curb.


It seems that after 45 years of hosting the annual telethons, and over 50 years of being its national chairman, the Muscular Dystrophy Association has decided that they no longer need Jerry’s services.


You saw that right. He was planning on retiring from the telethon after this year anyway, but rather than letting him go out with a bang, the non-profit organization announced that he won’t be appearing on this year’s revamped telethon, and they won’t be replacing him as national chairman either.

You have absolutely got to be kidding me. If the information at the WMAL website is correct, Jerry Lewis helped to raise over $1 billion for this organization. And this is the thanks he gets? He doesn’t even get to have one last on-air appearance?

Maybe MDA decided that it was time to “go in a different direction,” or to try to “reach out to a different audience.” And there’s some validity to those concerns. They make perfect business sense, and MDA is a business, after all. But it’s a business whose public face is all about compassion. They’re not looking very compassionate right now, and in a horrible mistake, they don’t understand that the amount of compassion they appear to show in their “business decisions” may affect how much compassion people are willing to show through their support.

Now, as far as I can recall, Jerry Lewis wasn't taking any kind of salary for this, so if they can do this to someone who works for free, then what hope is there for those of us who actually get paid?

Well, now that you mention it, here in Central New York, there’s a big fuss about how the Diocese of Syracuse is streamlining the operations of the 13 cemeteries it owns by dissolving the individual non-profit corporations, coming up with something new, and then allowing the gravediggers who have been faithfully toiling at those jobs for many years to apply for new positions in the new corporation, with no guarantee that they’ll be rehired or keep the same salary and benefits.

You’d think that after the PR fiasco the Catholic Church has had with the mishandling of pedophile priests, they would’ve known better. You’d think that an organization that has gone on record as fighting for social justice would do better than this.

One can only hope that this “business decision” made by some bean-counter in the Chancery Office is a mistake that will be corrected when it’s brought to the attention of Bishop Cunningham, who will remind this person of the church’s commitment to compassion and social justice, and point out that this does not reflect either one.

But still…what if Bishop Cunningham doesn’t step in to fix this? If the Diocese of Syracuse shows us that the face of its inner workings are much different than its public face of compassion and social justice, then what hope do we have for the inner workings of other organizations whose public faces are based on compassion?

Or cooperation. Or courtesy. Or even concern?

Is it unrealistic of us to expect organizations who say that they stand for these values to reflect those same values in their inner workings and the way they treat people who have given so much to them? Is it unrealistic of us to demand that organizations that claim that they stand for these values, and that we support because we believe in them, reflect those same values internally, remembering that every “business decision” is a person?

No. Not only do I not think it’s unrealistic, but I believe that we have an obligation to hold them accountable. I know that I will be writing to the Muscular Dystrophy Association and the Diocese of Syracuse to express my profound disappointment with them.

Jerry deserves better. The gravediggers deserve better. And surely, you know others who have been kicked to the curb by organizations whose public faces make it appear that they should know better.

Who will you be writing to?

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