Charity begins with a dress

Every March I wear a dress every day.

I am answering a challenge from the Milk Matters organisation, which provides donor breastmilk to premature babies. I wear a dress every day, and people sponsor me, much as they might sponsor a runner for every kilometre they run for a good cause.

It’s not a huge hardship to wear a dress, but it is a break from the routine outfit we all wear most of the time (jeans, shirt, jacket or jersey). From Milk Matters’s point of view, it is something that raises awareness easily, because it provides a photographable and shareable daily event.

It can sometimes mean appearing in public looking a little peculiar – walking the dog means a dress and walking shoes and socks. A chilly day (March is after all the month we transition to the southern hemisphere autumn) means a dress with a long-sleeved top and leggings under it.

But having my clothing choices limited in this way is liberating. I don’t have to think about clothes, I just take the next dress off the rail and adapt myself to circumstances. And I have re-learned something – on a hot day, there is nothing cooler than a dress.

This is now simply something I do every year – if its March, take out the dresses and spend some time on social media encouraging people to sponsor me (I post a picture of myself in a dress every day as a record of meeting the sponsorship challenge).

Every year, though, I do reflect on why I am doing it.

Three reasons

One – friendship. My good friend Jenny Wright is CEO of Milk Matters. She and I were part of a playgroup that started when our children were toddlers, in 2003. We were all still meeting in 2015 when Jenny told us that Milk Matters was launching the Dresses For Lives challenge. I decided to join at that point as a simple gesture of solidarity with a friend, and because it sounded like fun.

Two – prem babies. At least two members of that same playgroup had been premature babies and we all knew the challenges that poses to new parents. So I am always happy to do something that can help those babies and parents at a truly trying time in their lives.

Three – how I think about the world. As I have said in my statement of values, I am not a religious person. And our family is not religious either. That said, when my son asked me to explain the reasoning behind obeying the broad moral code that says don’t kill, don’t hurt other people, especially if  you don’t follow a religious path, I had an answer. (He was doing the teenage thing of challenging everything he knows about the world).

My answer is that the fundamental thing that makes us human is our ability to cooperate with each other, and our ability to form social groups in which we help one another. In that framework, it is humanity’s best instinct that we do not leave people behind – even if they are clinging to the fringes of life as a small and deeply helpless premature baby. So this is a cause that aligns with a deeply held mantra of mine: I believe in not giving up.

People donate or give their time and energy to good causes for all sorts of reasons. I’d wager, though, that if you dig deep enough, you’ll find that this instinct to include rather than exclude is at the heart of it. And making that a conscious part of our lives can only be a good thing.

In that spirit, I’d love you to sponsor my March 2021 dress endeavour (or use your resources to help a cause that resonates with you).

I share pictures of my dresses in a public Facebook album.

Donations are made here, using my code: DFL#005.

Thank you!

Main picture: CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash

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