Anyone ever wonder why this is the only holiday with the name initials as an STD? Ponder that for a while.
First of all let’s kick off this holiday with presents! After compiling a list of everyone who commented on this blog here and on my various social media outlets we pulled a winner out of a randomized list and that winner is Ona Marae! And while we’re at it I never heard from last week’s winner Declan Smith. So Ona and Declan shoot me an email or hit me up on social media so I can get you your books.
And now for a present for the rest of you…Valentines Day Sales abound! Bywater is running 25% off all romances with the code BeMine. You can see their full list of romance titles here http://www.bywaterbooks.com/product-category/genre/romance/
I am all about romantic love. I have written 10+ books on the subject. But that being said, I like a holiday that celebrates love in the broadest sense. And there are so many kinds of love worth celebrating.
I celebrated my love for my son with pink, heart pancakes and Legos and extra Pokémon hunting.
I celebrated my love for my wife with steak and cherry pie.
I celebrated my love for my fellow humans in need by reaching out to several of them, offering help with meals and transportation and hugs.
Now I want to celebrate my love for some awesome people who helped restore some of my faith this week by their showing love to some kids they will never meet. I think that’s my favorite kind of love.
Over a month ago, a movie called Hidden Figures came out, featuring some amazing African-American women who changed the course of history via the space program. I was so excited to see it, but after a couple weeks of waiting, I began to fear that our local theater wouldn’t show the film. My initial instinct was to go to Buffalo, because that’s where we often have to go to see high-quality films, but instead I just shot the theater a quick note on Facebook asking if they intended to show Hidden Figures. They immediately wrote back, saying they had no intention of doing so. Instead of letting it go (I’ve been more politically persistent lately) I told them I always try to support local businesses, but if they didn’t show qualify films, they would force us to go elsewhere.
Then several of my friends (many of them in pink hats) began to pepper the theater with similar comments, talking about how important the film was and how much money it was making. The theater reps said it wasn’t up to them. Their corporate office made the call on which movies to show. We asked them to please put a little pressure on them, and much to my surprise, they came back three days later and said after a lengthy discussion with their headquarters, they had been granted the right to show Hidden Figures for one week.
That was my victory. I was happy. I made a Facebook event for all my friends to go see it, and then in sort of a last-ditch bit of goodwill, I mentioned that if anyone knew of a kid or two who would benefit from learning about these amazing women they should bring them along, and I’d cover their tickets.
The response was overwhelming, and not in the ways I could have predicted. Within minutes I was getting messages from amazing readers and friends wanting to donate money to the cause. I was kind of taken aback. I didn’t think I had a cause, but within 48 hours, people had pledged several hundreds of dollars for students I hadn’t even located. By the next week the fund was over $1,000, and I was frantically contacting teachers I knew at local schools, trying to find someone to use the money for their kids.
Three days before the movie opened, I didn’t have a single kid in line and I was kind of freaking out, because I hadn’t really intended to try to organize a mass lesson plan. Then a friend from a local middle school called and said his school had agreed to pay for a bus if the theater could do a matinee showing. I checked with the theater, and they not only agreed, they offered to let all the students in for the kid’s price, the lowest one their system could handle. Then they one-upped that and said they would even extend the offer to any high school and middle school students for the entire run of the film, no matter if they came with a class or not.
By that afternoon the school I’d talked to said so many kids wanted to go that they were sending TWO busses. Another local middle school called to say they had approved a bus for some of their most vulnerable kids. Then I ran into a teacher at the store who said she was bringing her special ed class as well. The next day a middle school teacher from Jackson’s school emailed to say she was going to send out fliers to all her students, offering to meet them at the theater on Saturday to chaperone them through the screening. Then a high school teacher did the same thing for an evening showing.
Whew, all I wanted to do was see an important movie, but by the time it was all said and done, 180 kids had seen the show. What’s more impressive to me, though, is that I never asked for a penny! These readers and friends of mine were so generous, they had a fundraiser of their own good will for kids they have never met, at schools they didn’t go to, and in a town they will likely never visit. Without a single call for funds or any sort of public panhandling or coordinated effort, people quietly gave $1370. In fact, I had so many offers to cover tickets I turned away a few because we had so much more than we needed, but people kept coming out of the woodwork, wanting to help.
So here’s a quick accounting of the money, because aside from being blown away by everyone’s generosity, I’m also very humbled that you all would entrust me with this much cash!
$1370 raised. I was able to buy tickets for $180 students at $6.50 apiece, leaving $199 left over.
After talking to the teachers I worked with, we have decided to spend the leftover money buying copies of Hidden Figures, both in movie and book form for all of the local schools and libraries so students can keeping engaging the story for years to come.
First of all I want to thank you, all of you who donated money or offered to donate money or helped to spread the world or nudged me toward a much greater action than I’d initially wanted to take on. Your acts of love inspired me to believe in the goodness of people again. At a time when I was really down and angry, you all showed me the amazing love flowing through this community, and I am so humbled to be counted among you.
But I’m just one person and you all touched so much more than me and my friends. You helped 180 kids in so much more than just seeing a film. You let them see themselves in a positive light, you let them see that they can be anything, you helped them see beyond their own small-town perspective, you let them see what can be accomplished when good people come together. Most of all, though, you made sure they know that people care about them and want them to succeed. And you don’t have to to take my word for it, because the students themselves have reached out to tell you.
You guys were the change for these kids this month. I love you all, and that’s a big thing for me to celebrate this VD!