Jane and I saw the new Batman movie over the weekend. Don't worry, there won't be any spoilers here. Like most dyed-in-the-wool comic book fans, I had been anticipating this film since the last one. Batman has always been my favorite super-hero and the Christopher Nolan trilogy brought just the right amount of realism to make you think that "something" like Batman is possible. He also made you believe the villains were real enough to make Batman necessary.
I loved the movie. I loved the subtle political themes (no, I don't think the main villain's name [Bain] had anything to do with the 2012 election). I loved the story arch. It was probably my favorite Batman movie yet.
When I was little, this was my idea of how people brought good into the world. The American mythology of hyper-individualism is manifest in comic books. One person with supernatural abilities saves the world. Another person with supernatural abilities tries to destroy it. You and I are in the middle. But when you're little, you don't think about the supernatural part. You just want to be the person in the cape (which is why it is a crime that we have "adultified" so many of our comic book heroes, but in light of how much I liked last night's movie, I can't preach too much on that point). You want to wear the cape because that is the only way you can save the world. Otherwise, you're just ordinary.
As I've become older, I've seen that super-heroic acts of goodwill are only possible through collective action. When you spend any time really thinking about it, reaching our $5,000 mark, 200% of the original goal, is extra-ordinary. Seventy-five people, from all walks of life and different levels of income, donated money that otherwise could have bought them a nice dinner out with their loved ones, a new book, a gift, or even a payment on their car. I cherished and appreciated each one of those donations (all notified via e-mail) because I knew that money could otherwise have gone somewhere that brought you more immediate gratification than seeing your name pixelated on this page or on the Crowdrise site. We heard that $2,500 is "not that much" and we will probably also hear that $5,100 is "not that much", but the amount is really secondary. There is something truly heroic about what we've done together.
I never had to tell you a sob story about who were were going to help.
I never had to guilt anyone into donating money.
You never heard from anyone who will receive these funds.
But yet, you donated. To strangers.
As a society, we need to come to terms with the fact that we are the custodians of our community. I often lament how we have been encouraged to abdicate financial support for nonprofits to government. And maybe its the right move. On average, Americans donate about 3.4% of their income to charity, and that term spans all sectors of non-profits from educational institutions (where some later benefit for Junior may accrue) to homeless shelters to religious organizations. The "why" is always different, but the need remains. And unfortunately, it's not enough.
Our nonprofit community needs sponsors. They need regular dependable income. And they need it now more than ever. It is through this venue that we don the cape. We become heroes. There is no exaggeration in that statement. Contributions to Living in Recovery will undoubtedly save lives. An organization that barely existed a year ago now has funds to open a third house and is considering the need of going from all-volunteer to paid staff. That's due, in great part, to what you have done.
More importantly, I hope it is what you continue to do. Philanthropy is a habit, not an act. Just as our collective action provides the hero in this narrative, the villain also exists. Collective inaction. Indifference. Apathy. It's much more terrifying than a bad man in a mask. The idea that we have this capacity within us to do so much good, but we choose not to. Bruce Wayne sitting on his billions. Clark Kent quietly heating his coffee cup at his desk.
Tell me you didn't feel like a homeless-ending-hero-person when you clicked that "Donate" button. You felt it all day. Super-charged. Excited. Alive. Isn't that what it would be like to be a superhero?
We're not done. Over the next few weeks, we will be having a Happy Hour to celebrate. I've already spoken to Matt Milani at The Rumor Mill and he is excited to host. But this is not just a time to breathe easy now that "it's done". It is also time to think of what's next. School supplies for our youth? (PDF) A new fund at the Columbia Foundation? Sustained effort on those projects you've held in your heart? Where are you, personally, going to rededicate your efforts now that this one is done?
How much of those comic books do you want to be fake?
Final Thank You's:
Guy and Pam Guzzone
Vaillancourt Family (Again! Thank you)
Rob and Mindy Glantz
Have a great Monday doing what you love.