A version of my posting below is on my AIDS LifeCycle page. I struggle with fund-raising because I'm acutely aware of what the topic of money does to people. I've seen people's faces change in front of my eyes when I bring the topic up. And let's face it, we all really don't like rejection. Salespeople have the thickest skin of anyone I know, yet I'm sure the numbers of "no's" gets to them at some point. You know what the irony is? As part of my job, I'm asking for people to return money to my clients. The obvious difference is that the people I talk to professionally don't know me. Fundraising involves reaching out to friends...whom I want to keep as friends! The ideal situation for me, of course, would be to ride and have someone else raise the money! Ah, in a perfect world!
The thing that comes to mind is "message fatigue." We're hit from all sides and honestly there are so many needs that beg, no scream for our attention. But we have to find the causes that really speak to us. For me, HIV/AIDS isn't something that has affected me directly and I hadn't even known anyone that was affected by the disease until I wrote an article for a magazine about a charity event in Minnesota. I was shocked to find out that I did, in fact, know people, some of which were friends and even one family member. It's not the only cause I contribute to or get involved with, but riding 545 miles on a bicycle makes it pretty significant.
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Rarely does a day go by where I don’t receive some sort of direct mailing asking me to contribute to a charitable organization. There are enough genuinely worthy causes amid the misery, famine, disease, poverty, hatred, inequity, political gerrymandering, culture, business proposals, and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that I regrettably find myself jaded by the hooks, regardless of how really well-crafted they are. The voice in my head keeps saying, “I’ve heard it all before,” yet in my heart, I am at the same time grieved to the core and shaking with rage that humanity can sink to such levels.
Perhaps that’s why I decided to do more than write a check when it came to HIV and AIDS. No, I’m not living with HIV; no, I’ve never seen the abject suffering first-hand; and no, I’ve never lost anyone I loved to AIDS. But neither can I stand idly by. I chose to get involved and ride in the AIDS LifeCycle. I don’t care about gender, orientation, or race; and I don’t really care how someone got it. My response is simply to reach out in compassion and this is my way to do it. For those who have reached out and donated money on my behalf, I’m sincerely grateful.
I’ve made my travel arrangements to get my bicycle and myself up to San Francisco the weekend this shin-dig starts and I have the time off work approved. This must be happening! The many, many miles on my bicycle, the fundraising, and the mental preparation are all coming together. I can’t tell you how much it means to have such a number of dedicated supporters backing me on this endeavor. Physically, it’s the toughest thing I’ll undertake outside of my flight training, which was nearly 20 years ago! Emotionally and mentally, I think I’m there. The last two long-distance charity rides I did (incidentally, also for HIV/AIDS) had me in the middle of nowhere facing the elements in solitude and that experience broke me down to my core. It’s both exhilarating and sobering and it really is a spiritual experience because at some point during this trek, one comes to the physical, emotional, and intellectual end. It’s just you and the bike against the elements…and here there’s no room for self. It reinforces the basic tenet of this ride: It’s not about me.
I’ve said this many times, but it bears repeating: I can’t do this without my supporters. Big thanks to my latest group of heroes who have stepped up and made contributions on my behalf: fellow members of Tapestry Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Mission Viejo, Marilyn Schroeder, Susan Jagielko, and Beverly Huff, as well as our minister, Jennifer Owen-O’Quill; Naval Academy classmate, Curtis Pearson; and a member of the Midtown Writers’ Group in Minneapolis, Malyssa Woodward. You all are indeed heroes!
This posting was originally published May 15, 2012. I've split my writing into different blogs: Opinion, The Leukemia Chronicles, and other Freelance Writing