Happy International Day for Biological Diversity!
While pondering biodiversity issues like endangered species, climate and ecosystem change, have some vanilla pudding, then go pick up a new guitar, because it's also Buy-a-Musical-Instrument Day and National Vanilla Pudding Day!
We celebrate these days in May, otherwise known as National Asthma Awareness Month, as well as PediXric Stroke Awareness Month, Cystic Fibrosis Month and Medic Alert Month, among others. Of course, we're fresh off National Nursing Week, and we're still recovering from the month's earlier celebrations for National Chocolate Chip Day, National Red Squirrel Awareness Day and International No Diet Day.
So how does a day become a Day— or a week become a Week or a month become a Month, for that matter — and what's the point?
For decades, official national days, weeks and months in the U.S. required congressional action. Constituents brought an issue to their representative, who created legislation and took it to the House floor, where members voted on it. Such votes are now banned, and the only commemorative resolutions acted upon are those that require federal response such as naming federal buildings, issuing commemorative coins and construction of national monuments or memorials.
To have a commemorative day earn official national day status now requires a presidential proclamation. In April, President Obama issued a proclamation for 14 commemorative days, weeks or months, including National Equal Pay Day, National Park Week and National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Official international days need United Nations recognition. Those Days typically come from recommendations by a U.N. working group or conference.
(If you're looking for an official Day in New Jersey, you must first contact your local representative.)
These commemorative days can serve a purpose — educating and raising awareness about a disease or group's plight, sparking action against injustice, boosting business or just giving people an official reason (instead of the usual rationalization) to escape with a slice of pie or a margarita.
Sometimes, though, the sheer number of them and quirkier nature of these "holidays" takes away from the more serious issues.
"To the extent that there are hundreds of these days, it does start to water it down, makes it less important," says Kathy Walsh, president and CEO of The Arc of Bergen and Passaic County, a non-profit organization dedicated to advocating for and assisting individuals with developmental disabilities and their families.
World Autism Awareness Day is a huge help in providing education, according to Walsh. Talking about issues affecting people with developmental disabilities in a public forum is good for her organization and those it serves, she says.
Even the less serious Days could benefit local businesses, if anyone paid attention.
"No one listens to that stuff," says Bernard Levine, owner of Lark Street Music in Teaneck, who would love it if people did take today to heart and head to his store to buy an instrument. "I think there should be a Play-a-Musical-Instrument Day almost every day of the year."
In reality, Levine can start it on his own if he wants. Creating a Day only requires getting the word out. Decide on the subject, date, purpose and some ways to mark the occasion. Then start that Facebook and Twitter campaign. Maybe even go old school and get a story in the local newspaper.
With that in mind, we hereby decree May 23 to be Better Living Writers Day. Anyone who wants to celebrate us (as we will) should eat, drink, hit the mall, go to the movies or a concert, get a little exercise, tweet or post links to your favorite Better Living stories and send a complimentary email about us to our editors.
Ten years from now, when your friend is off to buy a card for the person behind his favorite Better Living byline, you can proudly say you were a part of the inaugural celebration.
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