True Appreciation

As most of you know, I've spent the lion's share of my free time for the past few months organizing the charity fundraiser for the Serenity fan table at ComicCon, to benefit Equality Now. My journal-silence since the event is definitely not due to a lack of things to say. No, I'm still hard at work, tracking down all the prize winners, mailing out tons of packages, updating the website, and trying to make my living room look less like a shipping/receiving dock before Sarah gets here this weekend.

I can honestly say that I have not worked this hard on any personal project, ever before. It has been a hell of a ride, getting to know so many generous browncoats and fans, as well as a few of the Big Damn Heroes, and working my ass off to make sure we could raise as much as possible for Equality Now. It was a uniquely exhausting experience, but also one that was more personally fulfilling than anything I've done in the past ten years (except maybe Noelle & Lewis' wedding). Every day I go to work and slave away at the code mines, working on projects that I have varying degrees of faith in. But it really felt good to go back to my roots and get my hands dirty with some grass roots charity work, like my mother used to do. It was truly a labor of love.

I had a real sense of accomplishment on the drive back from ComicCon. And when I called Mandy at Equality Now to tell her that we had raised over $12,000 for them, the stunned silence was heart-warming. It wasn't just a drop in the bucket like the $2000 we raised for Red Cross at WonderCon - these folks were blown away by what we accomplished on their behalf, and were grateful beyond words. So regardless of any bits of drama that might have taken place at the con, or the bags under my eyes from so much hard work, I'm really glad that I volunteered to run this fundraiser!

But wait, it gets better! Now that I have the website (mostly) updated, including the amount we raised, someone posted a link to it on Whedonesque (a community blog for all-things-Joss). And who should respond but the Big Damn Hero himself!

Joss Whedon's comment on our Equality Now fundraiser!

There's no way I'm not weighing in on this one.

I am SO proud and grateful that this is where the energy of the Browncoats is going. Buffy and Angel fans have always distinguished themselves through their altruism, but this hits close to home in a way probably none of you know.

My mother started what I believe was the first high school chapter of Amnesty International. She was a history teacher, and started a feminism course as well (she also directed plays -- not so much the slacker). Probably her favorite student (and she had many that she loved) was Jessica Neuwirth. Jessica went on to work as a lawyer for Amnesty International and then started Equality Now, which used the Amnesty model to combat gender-based offenses. Jessica is as kind, intelligent and dedicated as anyone I've ever known (and would probably cringe to read any of this.) The idea that my work is on a wavelength with Equality Now's agenda is as gratifying as anything I could wish for. But for the fans to take an active role in helping out this under-recognized cause, and on such a grand scale... it means more than I can say. I have said, in point of fact, much more than I usually would in this forum, but I can't contain my appreciation. My mother would have been so pleased.

There are two ways to fight a battle like ours. One is to whisper in the ear of the masses, try subtly and gradually to change the gender expectations and mythic structures of our culture. That's me. The other is to step up and confront the thousands of atrocities that are taking place around the world on an immediate, one-by-one basis. That's a great deal harder, and that's Equality Now. It's not about politics; it's about basic human decency. And it's more important than... well, than that movie I keep telling everyone to see.

Thank you to the tireless Browncoats and everyone who donated, bid or lifted a finger to raise this money, for making my work mean more than it ever did, even to me.

-joss.

As you can imagine, reading this totally made my day! (And got me a little misty-eyed, I must admit.) But like Joss, I have to give credit where credit is due. Without one very important person, volunteering to run a charity fundraiser never would have occurred to me, and I wouldn't have had any idea how to do it in the first place. That person is my mother: Shirl Markus.

When I was in Junior High, I told my mom that my friend Katy Surritt (my first crush, actually) was no longer at school, because she had been diagnosed with Leukemia. Several years before, my older brother's best friend had died of Leukemia, so this really caught my mom's attention. Immediately, she got in touch with Katy's mom Patty and began organizing a surprise party for Katy. A few weeks later, Katy was picked up in a limo and brought to a Lion's Hall packed with all her school friends that she hadn't seen in months.

But that was just the beginning. My mom has always been big on organizing charity drives. When my brother was in the military during the first Gulf War, she organized a mass-baking circle, and had at least one dozen cookies sent to every single sailor on my brother's ship. So she switched into high gear and started hitting up all sorts of local merchants and businesses for prize donations, and then blanketed the town with fliers and went door-to-door to every business in town, getting people to buy raffle tickets. Not long after, she had a nice fat check (in the neighborhood of $4,000, I think) for Katy and her family, to help defray the medical expenses, as well as a second, smaller-but-still-sizable check that was strictly to be used for going out and doing something fun.

I've learned a lot from my mom over the years. Chief among them is that when you see someone in need, you need to step up and do your part to help. She taught me everything I know about evangelizing Good Works, convincing people to part with their money for a worthy cause, and how the small sacrifices of many can add up to an amazingly beneficial outcome in the end. One of my favorite things about this whole experience is that it has reminded me just how proud I am (and have always been) of my mother, and how grateful I am to have her as a role model.

I love you, mom.


[By the way, Katy has been in 100% remission for close to two decades now, and is the proud mother of a beautiful, healthy baby girl. I'm convinced that she was just too damned stubborn to die. But I think it's safe to say that the love and support she got from my mom and the rest of the community as a result probably didn't hurt, either.]

16 Comments:

  1. Congratulations, Ray, on what you accomplished and all your hard work!!! I’m so glad it was an overall positive experience for you. Fundraising can be very difficult, emotional work.

    It’s amazing, sometimes, when we realize how inspirational our parents have been during our own development. Unfortunately, it’s also something that may not always be shared with them. Your recognition of your mother’s influence is touching. She does sound like a very special human being!

  2. Now this is the kind of post that reading it first thing in the morning just MAKES my whole day…

    Thank you for sharing all of that – especially the part about your Mom, she sounds like an *amazing* lady!

    :)

  3. Wow.. I have never been more proud to be a browncoat, knowing that my favorite fandom is so positive and can achieve so much. Thanks again to you and everyone who put this together, it’s all very amazing. And you guys made my Con experience that much more shiny. :)

  4. What a wonderful comment from Joss. Truly, yes…congratulations on the herculean effort you’ve put into this. This was a great post to read, not just because of The Man’s commentary, but your own about your reasons for involvement, and about your mom. The heroes in our lives come in both genders, all ages, all relationships to us. It was a privilege to hear about some of yours–and some of Joss’s. And all in the same post!

    I wish I’d done more shifts at the table, but I’m so glad I did the shift I did. As someone who (as you know) works at a non-profit whose function is aiding and empowering women, the Equality Now drive was very close to my heart as well. It’s really amazing when fandom and higher motives can mesh so productively, isn’t it?

    *hugs*

    You done good. Take your bows. :)

  5. *hugs* am very, VERY glad that it went so well, and that so many people contributed so much. You put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into this one and it paid off in a big way.

    Congratulations.

  6. I am feeling all warm fuzzy right now. And just in case I haven’t told you lately – I feel truly lucky to have you as a friend – you are a wonderful, amazing person. love you!

  7. :D

    In case I’ve never said it, I’ve always thought you were one of the niftiest people I know.

    I need to add to that, one of the sweetest, kindest, and most inspirational.

    **hugs** and congrats on a great fundraiser…

    but gorramit, I wanted that dress!! XD

  8. Your mom sounds amazing. Like mother, like son. You are truly wonderful! (And Joss ain’t bad, either.) I’m so proud to count you as one of my dearest friends & favorite people.

  9. Pingback: Mother’s Day Without Mom | Ray Hill

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *